What Lies Beneath

The Madness of Harry Potter

– CHAPTER TEN –

The Madness of Harry Potter

July rose and fell without ever touching the manor. The river continued to whistle, the grass continued to flourish ever greener and the house continued to sit nonchalantly at the brow of the hill.

I had decided not to mention the incident of Tom's memory and, thankfully, Tracey did not press the issue. It was almost as though it had never happened. Almost. I could not rid myself of the feeling of being followed. Whenever I entered a room, I examined it thoroughly, flinching at every sudden movement. Was I going mad? Or was it Mr. Davis somehow bending the house to his bidding?

The voices were worse. Every few days, I would hear the sound of screaming. The sound of torture. The sound of Tom's victims. I usually managed to use Occlumency, but it took time – it was almost as though they were no longer figments of my imagination. They were becoming real. I refused to believe this to be true. The thought was too frightening. It caused my heart to sear with pain and even kept me up some nights. This could never have anything to do with Mr. Davis.

Mr. Davis was scarcely seen out of his room. Over the course of the month, I had seen him only a handful of times – a blessing for us both. There were always voices coming from the room, voices that did not resemble that of the portrait's. It usually involved the velvety tones of Lucius Malfoy and other suspected Death Eaters. During the times I had managed to eavesdrop, there was no useful information. Mundane conversations about the Ministry, dull rants at Dumbledore and plans to push through Pureblood propaganda constituted almost every meeting. So routine were the exchanges, I suspected they were speaking in code. It was then that I decided to brew some Veritaserum.

The potion was extraordinarily difficult. Not least because I had to keep it hidden from all the occupants of the house – even Tracey. I was forced to deprive myself of some sleep in order to raid Davis' stock and brew it precisely. Mistakes would render the potion useless, maybe poisonous. While Davis' death was of no concern to me, it would end everything between Tracey and I. Towards my birthday, it was very near completion. This gave me only a few days at most to get rid of Tracey and catch Mr. Davis alone.

Thankfully, his wife was, according to Tracey, on holiday with her family. She had left the night we arrived. She did this every year, Tracey assured me. I found that hard to believe.

When not hearing voices, eavesdropping and brewing illegal potions, Tracey and I wasted our days relaxing in the confines of our privileged surroundings. We explored the hectares of land, unwound beside the pool and visited a variety of wizarding landmarks around the country – from Rowena Ravenclaw's suspected home village to the newly built Magical War Museum in London.

I slipped out of bed and stretched my arms. As usual, Tracey was still lying in bed, sound asleep. I rubbed my bleary eyes and slipped on my glasses. As the room came into focus, I stifled a yawn and made for the door. The dining room was empty, as it usually was, but breakfast was already laid out on the table. Suddenly, I stopped and looked around. But this had nothing to do with Tom.

In the far corner of the room were a small pile of presents. Who were they for? Then I remembered. It was my birthday. Wondering how I could have forgotten, I strode over and picked up the smallest present. I gasped. Inside a black box embroidered with gold, was a small, silver locket attached to a discreet chain. Engraved on the front in beautiful calligraphy were the letters 'HT'. It contained a picture of Tracey and I at the museum, Ravenclaw's golden feather quill in the background. A warm, vaguely familiar feeling rushed through me like a swig of hot chocolate on a bleak winter's day. Before it could reach my eyes, I placed it around my neck and moved on to the next present.

Attached to a rectangular gift was a note in small, neat handwriting. It read:

Dear Harry,

Happy birthday! Sixteen is an important year for Muggles. I won't rabbit on about France like I did in my last letter, don't worry. I hope you like the present. Say hi to Tracey for me.

Love,

Hermione

I smiled, remembering the foot-long letter I had received a few days ago. The present was, as I guessed, a book with the title 'Muggle Eye for the Wizard Guy'. I snorted and made a note to read it as soon as possible.

I spent at least ten minutes unwrapping presents and reading birthday greetings from a number of friends, including a strange wizarding sex toy from Terry, a wizard's hat from Daphne, a wand holster from Blaise and a selection of books from various Ravenclaw friends. Finally, only one present remained. The largest of them all.

Stuck to the midnight wrapping paper was a scrap of parchment. Scrawled on it were the words: 'Your need is greater than mine.' I frowned and looked at the present for any indication of who sent it. There was none. Was it dangerous? No, it would not have made it into the manor if it were. Maybe it was sanctioned by Davis? No, if he wanted me dead, he would have done it already.

I suddenly became aware of how loud I was breathing.

I slowly unwrapped the paper. It peeled away without resistance. Staring at me was my reflection. But it was not a mirror. In the background of the image of my face was a silvery light shining from its contents, which were bright, whitish silver, and cloud-like, moving ceaselessly. I had a distinct feeling that it was like light made liquid - or like wind made solid. Holding the strange liquid was a shallow stone basin with odd runes and symbols carved around the edge. It seemed distinctly familiar, I had read about it somewhere.

"It's a Pensieve." I almost jumped out of my skin. The silvery light rocked from side to side, threatening to overspill. Tracey was standing beside me, wearing a purple dressing gown, peering over my shoulder into the Pensieve.

"Morning, by the way," I said crabbily.

"Happy birthday," she said softly, wrapping her arms around my midriff. "Did you like what I got you?" She ran a finger along the length of the chain.

"Yeah, it's really beautiful, but two expensive gifts is too much."

"What are you talking about? I only got you the locket." Truth. Who on earth would buy me something as expensive and dangerous as a Pensieve? I could not think of anyone.

"There wasn't a name…"

"Do you think it was maybe one of the teachers?"

"No, they don't get paid enough to just splash out on a student."

"What about Dumbledore?"

I considered this. There was a possibility – he had the money for it, certainly. But why me? Not only is it highly unprofessional, but he isn't stupid enough to give someone he suspects such a powerful weapon. He gave me the invisibility cloak in my first year, though. But that wasn't his in the first place.

"No," I said, "he's not that stupid."

"Just because you don't know who it's from, doesn't mean you can't use it. Put it on the dining table, your arms must be aching." Strangely, the bowl weighed very little, but I placed it on the table nonetheless.

I stared into its depths and followed the patterns of the silvery light, transfixed. While I did not know how it worked, I could appreciate the aura of power surrounding it. "Do you know how this thing works?"

Tracey, who was also staring into the bowl, nodded. "Father has one. I've seen him using it once or twice." I felt my eyebrows raise slightly. My heart started racing. Davis had a Pensieve! This was the best news I had heard all holiday. "He puts his wand next to his temple, closes his eyes and takes out a silvery thing. It doesn't look that hard."

A wonderful thought hit me. This meant I could rid myself of Riddle's memories once and for all! All the nights reliving his life would be a thing of the past. I'd be me again. I would stop hearing feral voices. It was perfect. Hand shaking with repressed excitement, I raised my wand to my temple. I pictured the memory of Riddle creating his first Horcrux. The murder of the poor old woman in the Forbidden Forest. I slowly pulled the wand away.

I winced as searing pain like the thudding of a migraine concentrated on the spot my wand had left. The anguish remained until I had completely removed the memory. I extended my arm and stared at the strand of silver. I tried to recall the memory, but all I could see were blurry figures. I smiled. This was almost too perfect.

I carefully lowered the memory into the Pensieve. It moved closer and closer to the glowing surface. Then I stopped.

Did I really want to do this? Of course I did. Anything to get rid of Riddle.

I made you what you are.

What would life be like without Riddle? Better off. But would it? I don't need Tom Riddle. Who will do the schoolwork? I didn't need Riddle in my first year and I don't need him now. I'll keep doing well without him.

What about Tracey?

I looked up at Tracey. Did she like Harry Potter? My blood ran cold. Was she in love with Riddle? It was not possible.

Of course it's possible.

My breathing quickened. Tracey was gone. Standing by the door, twirling his wand quite lazily was a tall, handsome boy with long fingers and dark eyes. It was not possible. No. It could not be happening. But there he was, right down to the sleek, jet-black hair; Tom Riddle.

"This isn't happening," I said quietly. "You're a figment of my imagination, that's all."

Who are you talking to, Harry?

I tried calming down and blocking him out, but it did not work. I tried to think of something else and faze him out. Again, it failed. I tried the most powerful mental shield I could manage. It was as though I had not invented him.

"You need me, Potter," said Riddle coldly, smiling broadly.

"You're wrong," I said shrilly. His eyes never left my face, it unnerved me.

Harry, are you alright?

"Am I?" he asked pleasantly. "But why? I have given you so much…"

"You've given me nothing!" I shouted, trying to convince myself more than anyone.

You're really starting to scare me now.

"Intelligence is precious," said Riddle calmly. "You owe me so much, Potter, so very much."

"I owe you nothing!" I said, my mouth going very dry.

Harry, please listen to me.

"You have a beautiful girlfriend I see," he said. "A Slytherin, too. Does she love you? Would she love you if she knew it was I who made you attractive to her? That it was the noble blood of Slytherin which had enticed her?" I stared at him.

"I'm going to kill you," I said, shaking from the anger coursing through my body. My wand was out. My heart was pounding. He was lying. He had to be lying.

Put your wand back in its holster, honey.

"Kill whom? Tom Riddle, or Harry Potter? How far will you go?"

I had never felt such hatred. All I could see was Tom Riddle's face in a sea of red. The blood was pounding in my head. I had to get rid of him. I had to prove myself. Me. Harry.

"Avada Kedavra!" A pale jet of light, tentatively green, rushed out of my wand. It struck him in the heart.

"Resistance is futile," he said, smiling.

With that, he vanished.

The red anger rolled away. I blinked and refocused. My heart stopped.

Lying spread-eagled on the ground where Riddle had been seconds before was Tracey.


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