*blows dust off this fic*
When Identities intermingle
"Uhm…sure," Harry said, fidgeting in his seat.
He had evaded Lupin for days now, but the school's new counsellor had proven persistent. He wasn't one to take a simple no for an answer and at some point Harry had run out of plausible excuses.
Lupin smiled at him and set out to get another cup.
It was of course understandable that Lupin would focus on him as much as he did. Not only was Harry dancing the lead role, but also his circumstances how he had gotten the part were highly unusual. Not to mention the fact that he had already landed himself in the hospital wing because of an apparent mental breakdown.
Hence Harry's attempt at evading the psychologist. He was well aware that he was starting to look crazy to normal people, let alone a professional.
Lupin handed him a steaming cup of tea and sat down in the opposite armchair. His office was cozy and inviting, which only heightened Harry's anxiousness.
Harry cleared his throat uncomfortably. "I,uh, I'm supposed to be in class now."
"I'm sure your teacher will understand."
Harry furrowed his brows sceptically. "I have Snape for the next period…"
"You learned my schedule?"
Lupin sipped his own tea. "I might or might not have selected this time specifically to piss him off."
A short laugh escaped Harry before he could stop it. "You really don't like him huh?"
"On the contrary, I'm trying to help him," Lupin answered, making Harry choke on his tea.
"But you just said…"
"He decided to hate me long ago," Lupin shrugged. "The least I can do is give him enough reasons to continue doing so. I believe he likes the feeling."
"I don't…" Harry began, then switched. "You've known him before?"
Lupin chuckled amused. "I was his counsellor for a while."
Harry stared at him incredulously. "He agreed to that?"
"It was Dumbledore's condition for hiring him after his…withdrawal…from active dancing. I don't think he ever forgave me for seeing him at his lowest."
Lupin set his tea away and leaned forwards. "But enough about dear Severus, how are you?"
"I'm good," Harry said, just barely managing to not look away.
Lupin's kind smile didn't falter. "Anything worrying you?"
"Anyone worrying you?"
That brought him up short. "Uhm…"
He must have looked particularly startled, for Lupin switched to a less direct approach.
"I understand your circumstances haven't always been easy and you lived on your own for the most part. It must be strange suddenly living in a dorm and spending all of your time around people."
"Oh, no it's…nice," Harry stammered lamely, then pulled himself together. "I mean, a lot of the Weasley's are here, which is really great, and also there's Hermione and Luna and James and Sirius-"
"And Tom?" Lupin finished.
Harry gulped. "Yeah, sure. And Tom."
"You're getting along then? With your, ah, mortal enemy? I heard he refused to dance until they allowed you in the production, even though you two didn't know each other before."
"He can be…intense," Harry admitted. "But I mean he has to be, right? To become Voldemort."
Something seemed to flash in Lupin's eyes and Harry was sure that if the man had some paper he would start making notes.
"Become Voldemort," Lupin repeated slowly. "Interesting choice of words."
Harry shifted uneasy. "Is it?"
"I've heard the exact same over and over, but only ever when talking to people involved in 'A Prophecy'. When asked about their roles, every other dancer uses interpret, play, dance, be. What is it about Lord Voldemort that one needs to become?"
Harry remembered red eyes, a cold voice, and movements far beyond what's humanly possible.
"I-I don't know. You should ask Tom."
"I would, but so far he proves to be even more elusive than you."
There was no accusation in his tone, but Harry flushed with embarrassment nonetheless.
Lupin's smile returned. "I understand you are all very busy. I just wish with everything that already happened you'd invest some time to take care of yourselves."
Harry didn't know what to say to that. For as long as he could remember, dancing had been his way of taking care of himself. To lose himself in the movements, to forget about his worries. Now? Every time it happened he seemed to step into a world that had more problems than his real one.
"I heard Tom fell from the stage during a rehearsal while another dancer had a diabetic shock. They also told me you appeared to have a panic attack. Would you mind telling me what caused it?"
"I don't know what happened," Harry said immediately, probably sounding a bit too defensive.
"Is it that you don't know or that you don't understand?"
"I don't know- I mean, I don't know what you mean by that, uhm…" Harry stammered.
Lupin remained patiently calm. "Alright, let's forget about the action for a moment. Maybe you could tell me how you felt?"
"I felt… I thought I felt like…" Harry shook his head. "It's stupid."
"Definitely not. All your feelings are valid, Harry."
"Uh-huh," Harry made uncertainly. "I just… I thought I killed him."
He was relieved to see that Lupin remained unfazed. Maybe Harry had been making this into a bigger deal than it actually was.
"Because that's what happens to Voldemort when the diary is destroyed," he mumbled.
"It is perfectly normal to project the character you're playing onto yourself," Lupin assured him.
Harry chewed his lip anxiously. "Yeah, but, that's not what happened is it?"
"What do you mean?"
"The Hero isn't supposed to feel anguished when he destroys Voldemort."
Lupin shrugged. "Maybe your Hero does."
"So… It's the other way around? I'm projecting myself onto the character?"
"I guess that's one way to put it. There's nothing wrong with that, Harry. In fact I'm sure it's unavoidable. It only becomes a problem when you let yourself get confused. You cannot let it overwhelm you. It might sound hard, but there are simple exercises you can go through to ground yourself."
Harry held back a sigh. Lupin meant well, but there was no way a few grounding exercises would help in Harry's case. How could he possibly describe to him the sheer realness of what he experienced so vividly - not once, but several times?
"I, uh, I'll remember that," he answered dully.
Lupin beamed at him. "And it is just as important to remember that you have friends you can rely on. Especially if someone is giving you a hard time."
"No one's really giving me a hard time," he said.
"Are you sure? I think the recent tragedy in the school has shown us that we should never underestimate the damage a difficult social environment can have."
"Is that why they called you here? Because of Myrtle?"
"I am mostly here to prevent it from happening again, yes."
"Well I hope you, uhm, succeed in that," Harry said awkwardly.
Lupin smiled warmly. "Thank you, I hope so too."
He wouldn't though, if Myrtle's cause of death wasn't actually suicide.
Harry shook his head, angry at himself for once again letting himself think this way. Lupin might think that all his feelings are valid, but Harry knew better. Just because he was feeling paranoid didn't give him an excuse to think he knew more than everyone else. If the majority was experiencing something in a certain way, then surely this weighted more than Harry's own vague feelings.
"So there's no one bothering you?" Lupin asked again. "Everyone is treating you alright despite being an outsider?"
Harry shrugged. "They're coming around…"
"Welll," Harry sighed. "I thought he might. But now… You wouldn't happen to know how to apologize to him?"
Lupin laughed at his dejected tone. "Apologize to Severus Snape? Are you sure it was your fault?"
"It wasn't," Harry protested. "But I still feel bad."
"Honestly I don't think forgiveness is something Snape is familiar with," Lupin said. Upon seeing Harry's crestfallen expression he continued earnestly. "However, I do believe he genuinely wants little more than for his students to succeed. So if you were to ask me how to get through to him…Well, I would say the easiest way is to exceed his expectations."
Harry snorted. "Yeah right, that's impossible then."
"You managed to impress some of the most important people in the exclusive world of ballet. Surely you'd have at least a chance at meeting Snape's approval."
Harry was pretty sure nothing would ever meet Snape's approval, least of all him, but he kept that to himself and simply shrugged silently.
"Has he ever actually seen you dance?" Lupin asked.
Harry glanced at him confused. "Of course he has."
"Not for practice. How many times did you dance?"
Harry knew exactly what he meant. There was something that clicked into place every time he fully immersed himself into a dance. His movements during lessons were nothing compared to those moments.
He thought about the question and made a mental list of all the times it had happened in front of Snape. There had been the audition and then once during class. The fateful rehearsal of act 2 as well, but apparently Snape hadn't actually been watching then.
"No. I have very few solos actually."
Lupin tilted his head. "So he's only seen you dance with others."
"Others make me better," Harry pointed out.
"But not who you are."
Harry blinked. Lupin had a way of rendering him perplexed. Lupin gathered their empty tea cups and Harry was relieved when a glance to the clock revealed it to be time for lunch.
"Find who you are," Lupin advised while Harry slowly got up. "Show it to him, to yourself and to the world."
Harry nodded mutely, shuffling past Lupin as he held the door open for him.
"Oh and Harry?" Lupin called as he was already out in the corridor. "Finding is the easy part. The tricky bit is not losing it."
Harry had almost been certain that Draco wouldn't be there. He hadn't shown up in classes for the past few days, to no one's surprise. The incident with Narcissa had been odd to say the least and Harry, like everyone else, had assumed Draco had gone home until things settled.
Instead, an annoyed voice rang through the dorm's door.
"No I am still not answering any questions, go away."
Despite the dismissal, the door opened anyways, a disgruntled Draco peeking warily outside.
"Uh, I could use some help?" Harry said.
"Potter," Draco greeted and opened the door a bit wider, his face returning to his usual haughty expression. "What do you want?"
"Like I said I need-… Is that jazz?"
Draco's cheeks reddened and he quickly disappeared inside his room, cursing under his breath.
Harry slowly followed him inside. Draco was fiddling with a stereo system and eventually the music stopped. All that was left was awkward silence.
"You know it's okay to like something else than classical music, right?" Harry said eventually.
Draco crossed his arms in front of him defensively. "I don't like- I mean- Don't be stupid."
Harry sent him an unimpressed look and Draco deflated. "…Sometimes."
"Can you dance it?" Harry asked curiously.
"I'm a ballet dancer," Draco exclaimed indignantly.
Harry decided to drop the issue. "Right. So. I need someone to give me feedback on my first scene in act one."
"Your opening solo? Why?"
"I just…want it to be perfect."
Draco looked at him sceptically. "You know, that's what teachers are for. And I already helped you with that dance once."
"I need it to be perfect before Snape sees it."
And while he still believed impressing Snape was not an option, a perfect version of the dance should at least render him…reluctantly satisfied.
"Fair enough," Draco said. "Why don't you ask Riddle? "
"W-why should I?"
The thought of dancing, not with but for Tom, was unthinkable to him. He already felt raw and vulnerable whenever they were dancing together. He did not want to imagine what it would be like to open himself up for that kind of scrutiny. He still shuddered every time he thought about Tom watching him in the park.
Draco shrugged. "You're roommates and he threw a hissy fit when they considered anyone else for your role?"
"He also seems to have been born with the perfect technique, I doubt he could help me."
"Are you implying I wasn't?" Draco asked affronted.
Harry gave him another blank look. "Are you playing Voldemort?"
"He is older you know," Draco grumbled. "Just you wait."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Will you help me or not?"
"Fine. Not like I have any better things to do," Draco muttered.
Afternoon rehearsals had once again been suspended for an unknown amount of days. It was only understandable, after all teachers couldn't just ignore the death of a student and the parents were concerned.
In the past few days the students themselves had gotten over the initial shock of it. This was a top ballet school. The students were willing to sacrifice a lot for their ambition and lately Harry had asked himself if that included some of their sympathy.
Especially amongst the seventh division, a growing unease was festering at the delay. All their dreams hinged upon their end of year performance, being seen by the world and landing contracts in dance companies.
For the first time in the prestigious school, the production was well behind schedule. It was not something that agreed with the perfectionistic attitudes of the carefully groomed dancers.
"Great, thanks," Harry said relieved. "Let's search for an empty training room."
They walked in silence through the deserted corridors. Sometimes they would cross larger classrooms where the lower divisions' regular afternoon classes were continuing normally, but otherwise the school was eerily empty.
"So uh, you haven't been in class lately," Harry began, trying to break the uneasy silence.
"I said I'm not answering any questions."
"It wasn't a question," Harry murmured, but was prepared to let it go.
But Draco surprised him by continuing. "She's pretty fine as long as she stays home. I mean, she believes weird stuff, but otherwise she was doing okay." He sighed. "I guess she must have heard my father and I talk about the new production. We should have been more careful."
"Did you tell her who was playing the Hero?"
"She might have heard an argument we were having that it wasn't me," Draco admitted pensively. "But I don't think your name ever came up. Why?"
"Oh, it's nothing," Harry deflected quickly.
It had been bothering him and Draco's answer did nothing to reassure him. Because back then, Narcissa had gone straight to him. As if she had known exactly which role he was playing.
But no. The recognition in her eyes had been even stronger than that.
It was as if she had known exactly who he was.
A few days later, to the collective relief of the seventh division, it was announced that rehearsals would start again that afternoon.
Harry knew that if he wanted his plan to succeed, now was the last chance he would get.
Draco had never asked why Harry was so obsessed with making this one scene perfect without any input from the teachers, but he certainly hadn't held back in criticising his dancing.
Harry felt like they had made good progress, but it had never clicked. He was worried that it never would and he knew he wouldn't be able to win Snape over with his technique alone.
Which was why he was a bundle of nervous energy by the time their last morning lesson came to an end. The clock on the wall read 12:00 sharp. While everyone else was filtering out of the room, Harry was hanging back.
Snape had been ignoring him completely during the past days and even now he showed no signs that he realized Harry was there, even when they were the last two people in the room.
It wasn't until he tried to walk out the door and Harry literally blocked his path that Snape was forced to admit his presence.
Snape sighed and fixed him with an annoyed look. "What do you want?"
"An actual teacher would be nice."
Snape's expression darkened. "Now look here you insolent-"
"I'm going to dance now," Harry interrupted. "You can leave if you want. Just stay for the beginning. Please?"
He went to the stereo and selected the very first number on their recorded music, before taking his position in the middle of the room. Snape, who had looked like he was about to argue some more, froze as he recognized the first few notes.
It was the only scene Harry didn't like in 'A Prophecy'. The one scene before the magic.
Friendless, poor, abused, overlooked, alone. It hit much too close to his own childhood.
Dance was his magic, his letter to freedom, to life. And Harry knew, had seen it immediately as Snape had started to dance, that it was the same for him.
And if Snape continued to not dance, if he renounced his magic, then he would have to return to that hopeless fate.
Harry assumed that somewhere deep down Snape was aware of that. But sometimes things had to be spoken aloud to fully sink in. Harry wasn't good with words, but maybe he could show it instead.
He closed his eyes and the world disappeared.
When he opened them again he was breathing hard and sweating heavily. He was also crying.
He hastily wiped the tears away, glancing around in confusion. The clock on the wall indicated 12:14. Barely a quarter hour had gone by and yet - it had gone by, apparently.
His body was tired, but he did not remember moving. He had always been prone to spacing out, but this bad?
Snape was staring at him.
Oh gods, what if Harry had done something weird again?
"Uh, sorry," he said, chuckling nervously. "You were the one who was supposed to cry, actually."
He chewed his lower lip in worry. He had no way of knowing what he danced, let alone how well he'd done it. Had he managed to convey anything at all?
Snape ran a hand over his face. He looked tired.
"Potter," he began, voice slightly trembling. "Where did you learn how to dance?"
Harry furrowed his brows. "I told you that at the auditions. I'm self-taught." Snape remained silent so Harry cautiously continued. "Was it…good then?"
"Are you mocking me?"
"I'm not!" Harry protested. "I'm, jeez, I'm trying to- whatever."
"No one should be able to dance that well. You- do you even begin to understand what you just did?"
He sounded angry, despite the apparent compliment.
"Thanks? I'm sorry?" Harry offered, bewildered.
Snape let out a long sigh. "I have a dead student, one more injured in intensive care, a headmaster running amok, the rest of the school depressed and a lead who's either indescribable brilliant or barely adequate. Unreliable. Unpredictable. I do not like these words, Potter."
It was probably not the best time to tell him that he had just lost time.
"I don't know how to help with the other stuff, but I won't get better if you don't teach me."
"Get better?" Snape snorted drily. "Silly boy. There is no better than that." He gestured vaguely in Harry's direction. "The only question is, why don't you always dance like this?"
"I don't know," Harry admitted, his face heating up slightly from the unexpected praise. "For a while now I thought… I thought it was Tom. He's such a good dancer that it forced me to improve to keep up."
"Mr. Riddle isn't here," Snape pointed out.
"No. I wanted to prove that I can be just as good alone. That I'm…"
That I'm worth it.
He'd also wanted to find who he was. And wasn't it a strange sort of irony that apparently he had found it, but despite Lupin's advice had already forgotten it?
"You are not just as good, you are better."
"But- but we really dance well together!"
"Yes. But if you were to dance like that, then even Mr. Riddle would struggle to keep up with you."
Tom struggling? Impossible.
"Now you are mocking me," Harry glared.
"I'm not. But you don't seem to be aware of how important your role is," Snape insisted. "I need you to find the presence to counter Tom. Consistently. I need you to beat him."
Harry frowned. Snape's formulation sounded odd to him. "But sir, everyone knows the Hero will win in the end. It has nothing to do with my skills. The choreography is written." He paused uncomfortably. "Isn't it?"
"Of course. I don't know why I said that," Snape said distraught. "I guess what I mean is that it has to feel real." He shook his head as if to clear it, his scowl deepening. "I need to think. You and your bloody dancing confuse me."
Harry reared back slightly at the sudden accusation.
Snap's expression softened. "That wasn't a reprimand. Art is meant to evoke emotions, yours simply…overwhelms a bit."
Trust Severus Snape to simultaneously compliment and blame someone.
Snape jerkily waved him away. "Now get out! You're missing lunch and we still need to put something else than skin on those bones."
Harry huffed. "Your concern for me is truly touching."
"I could say the same about yours," Snape remarked.
Harry met his meaningful look sheepishly. He had danced that scene mostly because he wanted to prove himself and get back into his teacher's good graces, but he also had hoped to show it to Snape as a sort of warning. Which, come to think of it, might have overstepped some boundaries. Again.
Snape seemed frustrated. "That wasn't a reprimand either. I'm trying to say…"
"Emotions don't come very easy to you, do they sir?" Harry asked into the awkward silence.
"Who are you, Remus Lupin?" Snape exclaimed indignantly, though Harry could see his lips twitch upwards. "Off with you!"
Harry hastily ducked out, laughing quietly to himself.
He felt loads better than in the morning, or the previous days for that matter. This tense situation with Snape had caused him a lot of anxiety, which did not sit well on top of everything else.
In fact he was so relieved that he could almost forget the uneasy feeling which had grown at something Snape had said before.
There was no doubt that 'A Prophecy'had always felt more real to him than any other ballet. But even before he had gotten personally involved, some things had always nagged him. Certain points had just always felt…off.
The rival dies in flames.
The champion survives.
The hero wins.
He remembered how Tom had completely ignored the choreography while rehearsing act 2. And while it didn't change the story, the small alterations in the steps had made it feel real. Had made it feel right.
Dancing with Tom had made him realize what he previously couldn't name.
The choreography was written - And it was wrong.
In the evening, after a thankfully uneventful but exhausting rehearsal, Harry was sitting on the floor of his dorm room. He was dutifully going through his stretch exercises, but his mind kept wandering back to the morning and the missing piece of time where his dance should have been.
It couldn't have gone better really. Snape seemed impressed, they had a surprisingly civil conversation and they just might be able to move on. He'd done it. He'd proven himself to Snape.
But the fact that he hadn't exactly been present during the dance rubbed him the wrong way, mostly because he had also tried to prove himself to himself. That he could dance the Hero. That he could handle this, whatever this was. That he knew who he was.
Still stretching his legs, Harry turned his head to look at Tom, who was sitting on his bed, deeply absorbed in a book.
Find who you are. Lupin had said. Find the presence to counter Tom. Snape had demanded.
What if it was one and the same? What if the meaning of his whole existence from here on in would be defined by standing opposite of Tom? Did his solo dance slip from his mind because Tom wasn't there and thus there was no reason for him to be?
"You're staring," Tom said, not looking up from his book.
"Why are you dancing?" Harry asked, giving up on his stretching and folding his legs instead.
"I promised I would if you'd agree, remember?"
"No I mean, generally," Harry stressed.
Tom shrugged. "Because I can."
"Seriously?" Harry snorted.
"I'm good at it."
"I'm sure you'd be good at many things. Why settle for dancing?"
Tom finally looked up from his book. "My, Harry, I believe that was a compliment. I'm flattered, really."
"Oh shut up," Harry grumbled, ears turning red.
He half expected Tom to leave it at that, but to his surprise the other returned to the question. "It combines art and sports, plus the fame will catapult you into high society. What more could I want?"
Harry frowned. "So, what, you don't even like it more than other stuff? There's no…feeling when you dance?"
"You know." Harry gestured vaguely. "Passion."
Tom took his time to consider the question. "There wasn't," he answered eventually.
The answer seemed strange. "And now?" Harry pressed on.
"I don't know about passion, but there's… purpose."
"Because of the end of year performance?" Harry guessed.
"No." Tom sounded slightly amused.
Toms smiled at him. He had seen Tom charm people easily with just his smile. But he had never seen one such as this. It was almost fond.
"Because of you."
A/N: There is really no single reason why this took me so long. I would promise to never let you wait this long again but... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
There's something I might not have realized that I should tell you (this is also a response to the guest Yann, though I understand you're not reading this anymore): This story is not going to get any better angst-wise. If you've read this far and (though you might have enjoyed it) the plot makes you uneasy with all the hints of mental illness and suicide and whatnot - I just want you to know that this might be a good spot to stop reading. I don't want anyone to stop reading mind you ;). But I've started to realize that this story is hitting some people a lot harder than I expected. If it made you quite uneasy thus far, then consider this your last warning before shit really starts hitting the fan. The next few chapters might still be okay and we're always going to have light moments but... this isn't going to be pretty guys. Take care.
See you in the next life or whatever, ahem, I mean soon haha...*sigh*