"Amanda mentioned you had a dark side."
"That's what drew her to me."
"Your dark side?"
"Sure. Why? Don't you have a dark side? I know, you're probably one of those cheerful people who dot their 'i's' with little hearts."
"I have just as much of a dark side as the next person."
"Oh, really? When I buy a book, I read the last page first. That way, in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends. That, my friend, is a dark side."
- When Harry Met Sally
"Harry," it was Hermione, reaching out towards her, bleeding profusely, her arm dangling from her shoulder and only attached by threads of tendons, her eyes glazed over in the spell light of the department of mysteries, "Harry, why?"
And then, like every morning, Harry woke up.
She sat there, gasping for breath, practically panting as she took in the darkness of the room (so similar yet so different to the darkened halls and rooms of the department of mysteries) as well as the sleeping figures of her fellow fifth year Slytherins.
Eventually, with the taste of bile and dread in her mouth, she stumbled over towards the bathroom and into the stalls, leaning against the wall next to the porcelain bowl as she waited to see if she was going to vomit or not this morning.
Mornings… Mornings were the hardest.
They always had been, even when it was just dreams of Voldemort running through her head, or the old recurring nightmares of Quirrell, Sirius dying, Cedric, the chamber, dementors, and any of the old horrors she'd witnessed. Still, after the department, they'd gotten worse.
It'd never been Harry's fault before.
Every time her friends had been pulled into danger, Cedric in the graveyard, it had never truly been her fault at the heart of it. Cedric had haunted her, all that summer the sight of him crumpling like a doll and dying had haunted her, and some part of her had blamed herself for allowing him to touch that cup but this was so much worse.
Ron, Hermione, Neville, Luna… They'd had no reason to come with her, but they'd trusted her, they'd trusted Harry's judgement and her visions to save a man that many of them had only heard of let alone met.
And in return she could very well have killed each and every one of them.
Every morning, after the nightmares, as she sat dead eyed in the bathroom, Harry would once again try and fail to come to terms with the fact that she would be living with this for the rest of her life. Every morning, she would face the fact that she had singlehandedly killed all her friends and then abandoned them, and every morning it would be just as awful as the last.
And no one would ever, could ever, know.
"How long," Harry asked herself, voice hoarse and wry, "Can I really keep this up?"
She didn't know, just that it seemed worse somehow, if she gave up now. Like truly giving up now, giving in, would be to make all their deaths even more in vain than they already were. So, she tried, somehow, to be a normal student and take the gift she'd always wanted and live her normal life to its fullest.
She tried except…
Quidditch tryouts had come and gone. They'd been in that first week, and for a moment she'd loitered there without a broomstick, ready to show these assholes just what she was made of. Except, she'd looked at them, all pureblood men on the Slytherin team, and she'd seen herself on the team, always an outsider. She'd asked herself then who she thought she was kidding. Like she could go back to the old days and pretend it all had never happened, relive her glory days as Gryffindor seeker.
How pathetic would she be, to tryout and play, and try to pretend it had never happened?
It was better anyway, a good chunk of her time in the old days had been spent practicing quidditch, now she could use that time to find a way home and to see just what had happened to everyone at the end of things.
After all, if Harry were to be an optimist, then there was the slim chance she could still somehow fix everything.
From the other room she could hear the other girls' alarms going off, Harry's signal that it was time to stop sitting on the floor feeling sorry for herself and get a move on. With a groan she stood, stretched, stepped out and looked at her reflection in the mirror.
Well, she'd had better days. There were dark rings under her eyes, her hair as usual was a chaotic mess of dark corkscrew curls, her face looked paler than Malfoy's and twice as sickly, but she supposed she was still alive which counted for something.
Though it said a lot that the mirror didn't even comment on Harry's appearance anymore, not after that first horrified remark exclaim of, "Merlin, girl, I don't even know where to start!"
As she pulled her hair back and brushed her teeth she tried to remember exactly what she was doing today, Saturday, which in Harry's case meant a lot of getting nowhere trying to impersonate Hermione and study time travel rather than hanging out with any friends or having a social life. Except, wasn't there something else? Something was nagging at her, some appointment…
"Oh, shit," Harry said, her own green eyes wide in the mirror as it all came rushing back.
She was partners with Tom Riddle for their Defense term project, and, if that wasn't horrifying and horrible enough, Harry Potter, perfect jackass, had decided it'd be a great idea to suggest teaching him the patronus.
"What the hell was I thinking?!" she asked herself, as if her own reflection could tell her why she was so damn stupid sometimes.
"Language!" the mirror chided, but Harry paid it no mind, instead raking a hand through her hair and trying not to panic.
What had she been thinking?
Well, first she'd been thinking that of all the people to get saddled with she'd been stuck with Tom Riddle. Then she'd had the comforting if horrifying and insulting thought that at least he was just as unenthused about it as she was. Which, what the hell? Sure, Harry might not have any friends here and might be posing as muggle born, but at least she wasn't a murderous sociopath conniving for immortality and glory!
Harry had far more of a right to be offended than Tom bloody Riddle.
Then they'd met later in the library and Harry had had the thought that as Defense was her best project and that while Tom Riddle might be an evil genius, Harry had more practical experience than anyone her age had any right to, so chances were they both knew some advanced spell that meant they'd never have to speak to each other again.
Expelliarmus had been her first idea, as it usually was her go-to spell and had served her very well in her career as the girl-who-lived thus far. Of course, he'd gone and shot that one down, like an arrogant asshole, and then she didn't know but the patronus idea had come out.
Maybe, at first, it'd been the thought that people always found that very impressive. The idea that she could produce a fully corporeal patronus at such a young age. True, it'd been hard to learn, it'd taken her a year and desperate situations to get it, but Dumbledore's Army had taught her well enough that virtually anyone could be taught it.
Everyone had that same spark of light, happiness, inside their soul somewhere.
Maybe it'd been that thought, that vague idea and question, if Tom Riddle, Lord Voldemort himself, could ever be capable of casting something like the patronus? If he could, what kind of an animal would his soul take the shape of? Maybe, if he could learn that, then maybe he wouldn't become…
It'd just been a thought, lurking in the back of her head, then a musing possibility as it was something Merrythought probably would find impressive. Then they'd gone outside and suddenly there was no turning back, full steam ahead, she had agreed to teach Tom Marvolo Riddle the patronus.
"Good show, Harry," she muttered to herself with a sigh as she took in her reflection one last time before heading out to get changed, "Good show."
The other girls ignored her as they slipped past her and into the bathroom, preparing to do their hair, a task which took a Lavender-worthy amount of time for them to accomplish. Although Harry did have to say, their hair was always fabulous by the time they walked out, much the same as Lavender's had been. Harry and Hermione had always been tied for the worst hair award in Gryffindor, at least until Hermione's had gone and become somewhat reasonable in their fourth year.
Still, as Harry rolled on her stockings and put on her poor-quality skirt, sweater, and shoes that she'd barely been able to afford after working for pittance pay during the summer, she thought to this afternoon and her appointment with baby Lord Voldemort in all his tall, dark, and handsome glory.
She'd fail, undoubtedly, they'd try a few times and then pick some more reasonable project that they could both complete. Lord Voldemort, she highly doubted, was capable of something like producing a patronus. How could he be? There was barely anything human left in him when he'd resurrected himself in the grave yard.
On the other hand, what was it that she'd been thinking of that morning, when she'd proposed this? Paradoxes and their consequences. What if, beyond all comprehension, they succeeded?
After all, for now, at least, he was human. A right monster, true, a boy who had been capable of draining the life from an eleven-year-old girl, setting a basilisk loose on an unsuspecting school, murdering Myrtle, framing Hagrid, and so much more without a hint of regret. However, he'd been different from that thing attached to Quirrell's head, different even than the resurrected Lord Voldemort.
It wasn't kindness, certainly not compassion, but none the less he'd been far more human than Lord Voldemort could ever hope to be.
So, what if he succeeded?
Did that mean that Lord Voldemort had always been capable of the patronus, but simply found it too embarrassing to show his followers, or else had shrouded that fact in secrecy to maintain his dark image? Or did it mean something else?
Did it mean that, in whatever small manner, Harry Potter was capable of rewriting history?
She paused at the doorway, at once nervous and frightened at her own limitless potential, because yes, that was power a terrible frightening power which she barely dared to even think about. What would Hermione or Ron say to that?
Or even to this?
Was this patronus, she thought as she walked up the stairs towards the great hall and breakfast, was this a sort of test she'd created without thinking about it? If she could do this, if she could teach Tom Riddle the patronus, then did she have a duty to change other things as well? Was even this much dangerous or was it just her toeing the line and seeing exactly what she could get away with?
Hermione would tell her it was beyond stupid, dangerous, to play with things like time, fate, and history. Ron, however, would tell her that Harry above all other people had the responsibility to try.
That's what being a Gryffindor was, she thought as she slid into her seat at the edge of the Slytherin table, a good three feet away from Tom Riddle already seated there and reading through the Prophet with a focus that could be adorable if it wasn't from someone so bloody terrifying. It wasn't about throwing herself into danger, or even rising to the occasion, it was doing what you knew was right even when everything screamed at you about what this could do.
Harry owed it to herself, her parents, the world, to try this much, at the very least.
Still, she thought as she, for a moment, caught the entirely unamused Tom Riddle's eye, this was going to be hard.
As Saturday afternoon rolled around Harry Evans seemed strangely nervous.
Well, Tom thought to himself as he took her in, no more than usual in his presence, but still, she always seemed so terribly at edge in his presence. She always kept him in her line of sight, not even the corner of her eye, as if he bared watching at all moments.
They were seated outside, by the lake. Harry had insisted, claiming that the scenic Hogwarts landscaping might help Tom get in the right mood. He wondered if she was regretting that, her clothes were in poor repair and hardly stood up to even the early autumn breeze. Whatever else she was, he thought, Harry Evans was as poor a mudblood as he himself was.
She just didn't have the shame and pride to strive and move beyond her circumstances as Tom himself had.
Still, she hadn't said a word about that, had just told him to meet her by the shores of Black Lake after lunch, around one o'clock, and here they now were. Her staring out into the distance and him sitting beside her, both waiting for some sign to start.
At least, he thought, there was no one here to see him and judge him for even associating with her, no matter the fact that he was being forced to by Merrythought. A quidditch game was coming up in an hour or so, as a result most of Tom's peers were pestering the Slytherin team and preparing themselves for the game.
Not that Tom had ever given a damn about quidditch, the whole thing played like an even worse version of rugby, and generally was a waste of any Saturday afternoon. Still, he'd be expected to go and cheer on the home team, even a project with the laughing stock of Slytherin Harry Evans was not an excuse to get out of it.
With that thought he took a moment to regard her again, wondering how this bizarre creature had been capable of the patronus of all things. He'd even wondered for a moment, after he'd gotten back that night, if he had in fact dreamed it. However, he thought not, for all her strangeness some part of him was willing to take her seriously.
Even now, as she stared out at the water, beyond looking on edge she looked pensive, quite serious. As if this moment more than any other might change the course of history. Who knew, he thought to himself with an amused smile, perhaps she was right. After all, today could be the day when Lord Voldemort learned to cast a corporeal patronus.
The lightest magic there was from a man who would one day become the darkest of dark lords… Yes, he liked the sound of that.
Finally, with a sigh, she spoke, "I suppose we should just start with the wand movements and the spell itself."
He felt his eyebrows raise as he took in her rather comically dejected posture, what a strange expressive girl this was, you could almost always read exactly what she was thinking right there on his face, "You think it will be that easy?"
"I think, with you, and with everyone, it's a good place to start," she retorted, then, pausing, that hesitance from a few days ago returning, she noted, "You know, Riddle, we really can do something else."
He frowned, somewhat nonplussed by her lack of faith in his abilities, and drily responded, "Evans, I'm hardly giving up before I try."
"I'm just saying," Evans cut in, holding up a hand to stop his rant, "There's no shame in not being able to do something, you know."
Which was her way of saying that she didn't think he was capable at all. For a moment he was reminded of his own thoughts while she'd cast it, that he himself would never be capable of that, just as he'd never been capable of so many emotions that seemed to plague his peers. Some things, he'd always known, were both beyond and beneath him.
All the same, he felt himself grow affronted, as she had no reason to think anything like that about him. Less reason than even Albus Dumbledore, who had judged him from the very beginning and not once relented in his opinion.
"Please, Evans," Tom said as he stood and readied his wand, "Spare me your attempts to spare me my future heartbreak."
She stood with him, sighing and brushing off her cotton skirt, then with her wand out she slowly went through the motions as she had almost instinctively the night before. There was, he thought to himself, a certain grace in her wand movements that bespoke of experience and dueling. An almost instinctive and unthinking motion that lent itself to spell casting likely even in the most desperate of situations.
What had she said that night? That there had been a horde of dementors surrounding her? Some part of him wanted to scoff outright, actually, most of him wanted to scoff outright, but the other part of him couldn't help but wonder just who this strange Harry Evans girl was and where on earth she had come from.
As she finished she said, "Now, expect failure this first time around, I just want to see the motions and the incantation itself, nothing more than that. And for now, just try to think of the first happy memory that comes to mind, afterwards we'll talk and narrow it down."
"Happy memory?" he asked, eyebrows raising once again, but she looked very serious. Too serious in fact, as if everything hinged upon this moment, on Tom Riddle's own happiness as it were.
"That's what makes the spell hard," she explained, "The wand movements and incantation are easy, but it's the memory that fuels the spell and makes it what it is. If you don't have the happy memory, you don't have the spell."
He'd read as much in books, so he nodded, even as he considered her words.
Happy memory, he thought back, digging through his mind for the nearest happy memory he could think of. Happiness, what was happiness though? Most of the time he was just vaguely content or impatiently waiting for his own future. Days bled together sometimes in Hogwarts, and while he loved Hogwarts, had found his true home here, that didn't mean he often felt happy even here. Happiness tended to elude him on the best of days.
In the end there was only one choice to pick, it'd been somewhat marred by Dumbledore lighting his wardrobe on fire, but those first few moments of receiving his Hogwarts letter. No, he thought to himself, later, seeing the castle itself as he sat in the boat, glowing in the distance across the lake. Yes, that was his moment.
From his wand there was the barest hint of an ethereal silver fog, shimmering faintly in the sunlight.
"Holy shit," Harry cried out, looking genuinely amazed as she clapped in delight, green eyes sparkling in the sunlight even while Tom just stared at his own wand as if it had betrayed him, "I can't believe you did it!"
"Did it?" Tom asked, turning towards her fully, any pretense he had at charm or even tolerance of her overwritten by his sudden rage at her pandering delight, "I did nothing!"
Harry, however, didn't seem in the least bit concerned by his baleful anger or the change in his persona (indeed, not even phased, as if she'd subconsciously always known that this angry creature lurked beneath Tom's skin) as her grin widened, "You got some mist, I mean, sure it's not the full spell but holy shit, don't you know what that means?"
What the hell was wrong with this girl? Looking at his mediocre results and surprised at them, as if she truly had expected nothing from him? Him, Tom Riddle, top of their class in every subject by a mile!
Suddenly he wanted nothing more than to kill her one day, no, now, to drain the life from those pretty green eyes and watch her corpse flop down onto the rocks and into the lake itself. Yes, she'd make a very pretty corpse, a far prettier corpse than she ever had a girl.
"No," he sneered, at once feeling dreadfully like Abraxus Malfoy as he looked down at her with cold hard eyes that every orphan knew to fear, "Enlighten me, Evans."
She looked at him as if seeing him for the first time, as if until now he'd been someone entirely different, seeing past his rage and wrath as she noted almost with awe, "It means you're capable of happiness."
Suddenly she was sitting back down on the log, looking quite dazed, "Oh my god, I have to sit down. I was… not expecting that."
There were no words as he stared down at her, sitting there on that log staring out into the distance as if she'd just been stunned, "You weren't expecting me to be capable of happiness?"
Suddenly he was wishing he was at that quidditch game right now, and he couldn't believe he was thinking that. At once he felt somewhat exhausted, as if those words alone had just drained all the energy and anger from him.
What was he doing here? Was this seriously how he was going to be spending an entire term? With this walking mess of a human being? Suddenly, he wanted, no needed, to sit down as well, no matter how out of character it might be for the prefect Tom Riddle.
Well, it wasn't as if he had an image to maintain with Evans, she'd clearly think ill of him regardless of what he did. Whether he smiled or raged, she never even seemed to notice the difference. With that thought he sat down next to her with a sigh, noting, "I hope you know, that I found you both unbelievably aggravating and exhausting."
She furrowed her brow at that, as if those very words confused her, or like they might mean something else entirely. She edged slightly away from him but now that he had her attention continued to stare. Green eyes picked him apart piece by piece. What did she see, when she looked at him?
Clearly, she did not see what Lucretia Black or any of the other girls in Hogwarts saw. Somehow, Harry Evans saw something entirely different, mostly unflattering, yet somehow more fascinating for it. As if Tom Riddle himself was a riddle in his own right, taking years upon years to solve.
What did the midday light cast upon his cheekbones and hair tell her?
Finally, she asked, "What did you think of?"
He scoffed, turned away from her towards the lake and the sea, chastising himself for staring at her for such a long period of time. Not that she appeared to notice or care either way, still, he had some image to maintain if only for himself, "Isn't that private?"
"Not if you want to produce a patronus," she said wryly before continuing with more seriousness, "Happy memories can be harder than you think. If you don't tell me what you picked, I can't help you think of something better."
Well, she had something of a point there, as much as he wished she didn't.
"Will I get to hear yours?" he asked, a somewhat amused smile dancing on his lips at the idea, an idea which he now found himself truly interested in. Just what kind of happiness could fuel the projection of Harry Evans' stag of a soul?
She flushed for a moment, before going pale, eyeing him in suspicion as if even that was far too much information about her to share, but then she shrugged and said, "Oh probably, I suppose it's only fair."
"Embarrassing?" Tom couldn't help but ask but she shook her head vehemently at his prompting.
"No way, you have to go first."
"I thought about the first time I saw Hogwarts," he said before expanding on that thought softly, "On the lake from the boat, you likely missed seeing them from the station, but the first years are rowed across the lake that first night. It was… the happiest I could ever truly remember being in my life."
At once he felt entirely too vulnerable, too exposed beneath those too green eyes of hers, and he directed her focus away as he drily commented, "Clearly, I was not happy enough."
Harry though wasn't to be distracted as she considered him, placing her chin in a hand and tilting her head as she looked at him, "Not receiving your Hogwarts letter?"
He scoffed, "Oh, no, well parts of that were certainly exciting but…" he trailed off, looked at her, and said, "It's no secret that Professor Dumbledore and I don't exactly get on."
She looked, rightfully for once, somewhat confused by that but Tom was hardly going to elaborate on that incident. Oh no, that one would go down in the history books forgotten by everyone except Tom. No, when the day came, Albus Dumbledore would pay for that humiliation and all the ones since then.
Realizing she'd get nothing else she nodded, turned back towards the lake then thought for a moment, then said, "I know that you think that's the happiest moment you've ever had, and it might be, but the patronus requires a certain kind of happiness. That was a moment. For better or worse it was there, then it was gone. When I first tried I thought about… learning I was a witch, then my first real Christmas, my family… Everything I thought should be more than enough wasn't, because they were just single moments in time, brief flashes of light."
She looked at him, her eyes burning as she reached towards her heart with a pale long fingered hand, "It has to come from your very soul, Riddle."
How could she have eyes like that? How could anyone have eyes like that? Eyes that could be soft and filled with light in one moment and hard as steel in the next? It was a pity, he thought, that her eyes couldn't belong to someone else.
"And your happy moment?" he asked.
She hesitated, drew back, then glanced over towards the quidditch stadium with a frown on her face, "The quidditch game will be starting soon, right?"
Damn, he thought, she was right, "Yes, I expect it will."
He found himself unusually disappointed, they were ending later than he'd expected but he'd been looking forward to what she had to say. Wasn't that strange, looking forward to hearing something about and from Harry Evans? It'd probably be as bizarre and vexing as her though, so he doubted it'd meet his own strange expectations. Perhaps it was for the best that they were cutting it off here.
Still, he considered her as he turned towards the quidditch pitch, took in the strange longing in her expression as she gazed at the stadium even as her body turned away from it and back towards the castle.
"Are you coming, Evans?"
She blinked, looked at him, pointed to herself in comical confusion, "Me?"
"Of course, you," he said with a roll of his eyes, honestly, sometimes he thought she'd been dropped on her head as an infant, "Well, don't you want to support the home team?"
"Well, I…" she trailed off, cringed almost instinctively, as if the idea of supporting Slytherin of all things was an anathema to her.
"Come on, Evans," he said with mock impatience, already beginning to walk towards the stadium, "You must suffer as I suffer."
That got her going, marching up right next to him, ignoring his smirk, "Suffer?! Are you saying you don't even like quidditch?"
His smirk grew broader, "Now, Evans, that's a dirty little secret between the two of us. For the rest of the world, I am as much a fan of this inane sport as anyone else."
"Quidditch is not bloody inane!" she shouted, far too loudly considering he was standing right next to her, "And wait a minute, why did you even tell me that?! Won't it ruin your perfect image!"
"The great thing, Evans," he said as he strolled along, suddenly far more at ease with their relationship, the potential of their relationship, than he'd been a few days prior, "About you being such a bizarre wreck of a human being and a muggle born in Slytherin to boot, is that no one gives a damn about anything you say."
For a moment she looked affronted, flushing, but even then they both knew that she could hardly deny it, "Screw you, Riddle!"
"Yes," he mused, "I do believe this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
Author's Note: And Tom finds the one person who he can be a complete and utter dick around, and it makes absolutely no difference to anyone. Yes, what a beautiful friendship this is. Also, who knew so many people wanted Tom/Harry and time travelling rom com? Seriously, were we missing that or something?
Thanks to readers and reviewers, reviews are much appreciated.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.