What Lies Beneath

A Knight's Tale, by Maximum Potter

– CHAPTER FIFTEEN –

A Knight's Tale, by Maximus Potter

The smallest bedroom of Number Four Privet Drive. I never thought I would be here again. Yet I had just woken up in that familiar bed fully dressed. The very same bed I had spent those long summers in. The Dursleys had not touched the room, it seemed. Perhaps they were trying to contain the 'freakishness' in this room? That would explain why Petunia had moved my trunk back up here. I swung my legs out of bed, and the rest of my body soon followed.

This time yesterday, I had woken up after a night with Tracey. What a difference a day makes. Tracey. Now that I had had a night to sleep, I realised what a big mistake leaving her was. She was hysterical; she didn't mean what she'd said. I should have stayed, I should have reasoned with her. What could I do now? Surely it was too late?

I couldn't go and see her myself. The Ministry would be expecting that. I wouldn't risk Hedwig in case they used her as a hostage. I only had two options: send Terry or Hermione. While Terry and Tracey were friends, he would be a liability in such a sensitive matter. It had to be Hermione; she had a way of saying the right things at the right time when she really had to.

I opened my trunk and searched for her telephone number; who knew when Hedwig would come back to Privet Drive? As I did so, my mind turned to the destroyed Ring. It had affected me; that much was certain. It had triggered a memory of Riddle's adulthood, something I had never experienced. So far the oldest he had been was in his Seventh Year. What did this mean?

Then, of course, there was the murder of all those Death Eaters. I had done that. Me. I had killed some of the most powerful and feared wizards in Britain. I could feel my power; power I didn't have two days ago. An absurd thought crossed my mind; it was tied to the Horcrux. I dismissed the thought almost instantly; the Horcruxes affected Voldemort, not me. But the signs were there. After the Ring was destroyed, Voldemort somehow entered my mind, and I felt so...powerful.

Then there was Knockturn Alley. The hirsute Auror. I wanted to kill him; I enjoyed torturing him. What was I turning into? Perhaps the Prophet was right; maybe I should be locked up. In one day, I had tortured three people, and killed many more. I wasn't turning into Riddle, I was turning into Voldemort.

But what is the difference?

I jumped and banged my head against the foot of the bed. Suppressing a cry of agony, I clutched the back of my head. How? How had he wormed his way past the wards? How could I get rid of him?

The wards remove all unwanted guests, all that wish to do you harm, Harry.

Then the wards had failed. The Ministry would be here soon. It was over. I would rot in Azkaban with my parents' murderer plaguing my thoughts.

On the contrary, the wards are stronger than ever. No, Harry, it seems like I am no longer an unwelcome guest.

Lies. All his words were intoxicating lies. Perhaps it wasn't Voldemort? Perhaps my mind was playing tricks on me? Yes, that made sense. There was no way the wards would let Voldemort in. I was making him up.

Embrace the truth, Harry, your real enemy is now the Ministry.

There was only one way to get rid of this voice; to get rid of everything. I had to destroy all the Horcruxes. Only then could all of this stop.

You seek to kill Death himself. Or do you? Do not deny that you enjoy the delicious taste of power. I see it in you as I saw it in Maximus.

This voice isn't real, I thought, I have to ignore it. I found the number tucked at the back of 'Hogwarts: A History'. Resolute in my vow to ignore this imitation of Voldemort, I went to the door and pulled the handle. Locked. So they had tried to lock all magic in this room. I drew my wand, and muttered,"Alohamora."

With a click, the door was unlocked. Since I had the wand in my hand, I thought I may as well summon the handset. There was also a part of me that wanted to see the Dursleys expression at seeing a floating telephone. Unfortunately, there were no screams of shock and anger as the phone flew into my grip. Perhaps they were away. I could always hope.

When I stepped back in my room, I found Hedwig perched on the windowsill, a rolled up copy of the Daily Prophet tied to her leg. I shot her a puzzled look which she returned with an impatient hoot. I placed the phone on the bed and untied the Prophet. She nipped my finger affectionately and flew out of the window again.

Deciding to deal with the phone call first, I placed the Prophet next to my grandfather's box and dialled her number. The phone rang and rang and rang. I tapped my foot impatiently as I waited. As soon as I had decided to give up, a man answered.

"Hello?" he said, his voice a little nasal.

"Erm, hi," I replied, "can I talk to Hermione, please?"

There was a pause. "Who is this?"

"A friend of hers from school."

"A friend of hers from school?"

"Yeah..."

"You'resure you haven't got the wrong number?"

"Quite sure, yeah."

"I'll get her, then." There was a dull 'thunk,' and I thought I could hear the man, who must have been her father, call her name.

"Hello?" Her voice seemed a little higher than it did face to face, but it was definitely Hermione.

"Hi, Hermione, it's me."

I heard her gasp. "Oh my God...Harry?"

"Yeah. How are you?"

"How am I? How am I? I've been wondering what on earth has happened to you! I mean, obviously the Daily Prophet must be misinformed. I've been trying to get through to you for two days now! Hedwig even came to my house, and I thought...God, Harry, I thought something terrible must have..."

"It's alright, Hermione. I'm alright. We need to meet as soon as possible. This isn't the kind of conversation you have over the telephone..."

"Ha! That's an understatement if ever I heard one. Where on earth are you? I mean the Ministry-"

"I know, Hermione. I'm at Privet Drive. How soon can you get here?"

"Privet Drive? Privet Drive? Harry, you must be joking..."

"I wish I was."

"Gosh...this is so surreal. Well, erm, if I can get my dad to drive me, I'll be there in under an hour."

"Ok, see you soon."

"Yeah, very soon."

I hung the phone up and sighed. I had to think of a way of explaining things to her that didn't give much away. I moved to the table and considered opening the box. No, I wasn't ready for it yet; my mind had to be clearer to deal with its contents. Instead, I picked up theDaily Prophet and read the headline:

Potter Strikes Again

By special correspondent Rita Skeeter

In the evening after murdering beloved Wizengamot official Theodore Davis, Harry Potter continued his trail of destruction in the Diagon Alley area, where he decapitated two Aurors and murdered innocent bartender Zacharias Noble.

Potter was first spotted in Diagon Alley by a classmate of his, whom he threatened. While the classmate in question was too traumatised by the experience to speak to the Prophet, a reliable eye-witness said: "I saw Potter threatening the poor boy. He cast a curse I didn't recognise. I thought it might have been You-Know-Who back from the dead at first, but I saw his scar."

When apprehended by Aurors, "Dark Lord" Potter made for the sordid Knockturn Alley, where he would be surrounded by those sympathetic to his murderous cause. The Ministry confirmed that two Aurors, who cannot be named, confronted Potter. They were no match for Potter, who is rumoured to have been tutored in the Dark Arts by Sirius Black before his death.

"He used the Cruciatus Curse more casually than the Death Eaters did," said one of the Aurors. "I pleaded with him, but that didn't stop him. He would have killed me had we not had back-up on its way."

In one final act of terrorism, Potter murdered long-time barman Zacharias Noble, 68, out of cold blood. Investigators later confirmed that magical residue found at the scene matched Potter's.

"Potter has become a menace to our society," said Minister Fudge in an emergency conference late last night. "We will be employing the same team of specialised Aurors who orchestrated the neutralisation of Sirius Black. I anticipate the capture and imprisonment of Harry Potter in the coming days."

I slammed the Prophet on the table. So Fudge was behind this. The Minister for Magic was behind these…these lies! And now they were comparing me to mass murderers like Sirius Black. Agitated, I paced up and down the room.

We saw it first, all those years ago.

Surelysomeone saw how absurd this was? Surely there was someone at the Ministry who saw that a schoolkid couldn't possibly be a Dark Lord?

You understand now that the Knights were not the wrong side.

My grandfather saw it. He knew that the wizarding world was all wrong. He knew that one day they would turn on one of his own; that's why he gave the box to the barman. But who had killed the barman? Was there someone out there trying to frame me?

Dumbledore, perhaps.

No, Dumbledore wouldn't have anything to gain. I looked down at the article again. The urge to reform the Knights was overwhelming. The wizarding world would deserve it; it was about time the old ways were changed. Instead of Voldemort's crazy Muggle-hating reforms, there could changes for the good. All I had to do was research the old members and reunite them. I could get Hermione and Terry to join.

Your grandfather would have been proud.

Our first port of call would be to find Voldemort's Horcruxes. The more I thought about it, the more enticing the idea seemed. What would it matter if the Ministry wanted to put me in Azkaban? There would be no Ministry.

The Knights will ride again.

The doorbell rang.

I peered out of the window, but could not see who it was. Quite sure the Dursleys were away, I bounded down the stairs two at a time and opened door. Before I could even take in who it was, I was enveloped in a hug, bushy brown hair blocking my vision.

"Oh, Harry," she said, releasing me, "the stories I've heard you wouldn't believe…"

"I wouldn't have believed them yesterday," I retorted. "Come, let's go into the kitchen, I'm starving."

Hermione looked around the hallway uncomfortably. "Wouldn't your relatives…"

"They're not in," I said, leading her into the kitchen. The contents of the fridge told me that the Dursleys were on holiday. They only ever put the bread in the fridge if they were away for longer than a week. Judging by the fact that the remaining milk had not yet gone off, it seemed that the Dursleys had only recently left. "You want something to eat?"

"No, I just had breakfast. I took that emergency Portkey you gave me ages ago."

I grunted as I made myself some cornflakes. I could tell Hermione was agitated. "I can see the headlines tomorrow: Hermione Granger visits the Dark Lord."

"Do you think this is funny, Harry?" she snapped. "They're defaming you! It's slander…it's a slur…you should sue!"

"What if I told you it was true?"

Hermione looked at me incredulously. "This isn't a joke! They want to send you to Azkaban, Harry! You have to leave the country. I have an uncle who lives in Canada; he can keep you hidden. You could go to normal school and get a job afterwards. They wouldn't think to search in the Muggle world. You could change your hair colour, get contact lenses; you'd be unrecognisable! Once everyone comes back to their senses, you can come back…"

"And why should I come back and pretend nothing ever happened?"

Hermione stared at me. "I know everyone's going mad because of that vile Skeeter hag, but it's only because they don't know you..."

"What's the Ministry's excuse?"

Hermione gave me the same inquisitive look she did when a Professor set her a particularly difficult assignment. "Let's go up to my room," I muttered.

We went up to my room in silence. Hermione sat on my bed, I chose to stand. There was a silence, long and awkward, one neither of us wanted to break. Finally, Hermione said, "what actually happened yesterday?"

I sighed, and tried not to meet her eyes. "I broke up with Tracey."

"Oh, Harry..."

She rose, as if to hug me. "I don't need your sympathy."

I turned away from her and, from my peripheral vision, saw her recoil. I went to the window and looked out at Privet Drive. The morning sun gleamed off Number Seven's brand new Toyota. I did not want to turn around and see the hurt on Hermione's face. Why should I tell her what happened yesterday? It's not as if she'd understand. She'd have probably done the same as Tracey.

Trust no one and you will never feel hurt.

"Please, Harry, what happened yesterday?"

"You know who Tracey's dad is. I did what I had to do." A black Audi drove past; it was clearly over the speed limit.

"You can't mean that the Prophet is right? Do you expect me to believe that?"

She dares to question you...

"I didn't expect you to understand." A black cat stalked across the road.

"Harry, look at me..." Her voice was strained with distress. I stared inflexibly at Number Nine's newly mown front lawn. Who is she to demand answers from me?

"Harry, I understand that..."

"Understand? What do you understand?"

"Well..." Her voice was small and distant.

Her tiny mind couldn't possibly comprehend your situation.

"You're telling me you've been in this position before? When the wizarding world's turned against you, come back to me and tell me what you understand."

"That's hardly fair, Harry..."

"Fair? You're telling me about what's fair? Is this fair? That I've been forced into hiding? Is that fair?" I wanted her to come here as a simple messenger, and now she thought she could lecture me? I felt the familiar itch in my right hand.

"Listen. Please look at me..."

"They want to force me into a corner? Fine. But they'll rue the day they ever betrayed me."

"Harry..." Her voice seemed closer. I regretted ever inviting her over. I needed to do this alone, I saw that much now.

What better company is there than yourself?

"Harry..."

I felt her hand on my shoulder. I jumped and drew my wand. I grabbed her with the other hand. Her eyes flicked towards my wand. It was pointing at her throat. Her eyes were wide, full of fear. Her breathing was heavy.

Embrace the power.

"Harry..." she breathed, her voice small.

Suddenly, it was a tall, familiar black man I held in my grip.

"Voldemort..." There was fear in his eyes, delicious fear.

"You are a disgrace, Thomas."

"Please...I have a family..."

"What can be done with disgraces?"

"I'll do anything...anything..." Fear now sat with desperation and submission.

"Your father did me a great service. You have renounced his ways. Will you go back on your vows?"

"Anything...anything..."

"You will appear dead to the world, Thomas. Protection for your...family will be arranged. In return, you will enter my service."

"I-It's me, Harry. I-It's Hermione."

There was no black man. It was Hermione. It was a vision. I suddenly became aware that I held a wand to her throat. What was I doing? Immediately, I released her. My hand left a red mark. Had I held her so hard?

My eyes moved up towards her face. There were silent tears trickling down it. I stepped towards her, and she backed away. What was I becoming?

"Hermione...I'm sorry."

You fool.

"I don't know what came over me; I don't know what's becoming of me."

"I think you need to talk to someone," she said quietly. She wore no fear now, only pain.

"No. You don't know what's happening to me; I can't stop it. No one can. You're...you're better off going now before it gets worse." My head began pounding, as if rebelling against the words I was uttering. She had to understand. She had to leave. I could feel Riddle.

"Talk to me, Harry. Please, I beg you, talk to me like you used to. Talk to me like we used to talk in our First and Second Years. Because there's no way you're getting rid of me. Whatever your problem is, it's my problem too."

I looked at Hermione and remembered. I remembered the hours we used to spend talking and laughing in the common room: her, Ron and I. I remembered solving the secret behind the Philosopher's Stone together. I remembered suspecting Malfoy and brewing Polyjuice potion to test him. I remembered the happiness I felt just being away from the Dursleys. I thought I could hear faint hisses of pain.

I looked down at my hands. I felt ashamed. I felt weak. I hadn't fought Riddle's influence. I had let him take me over, slowly but surely. I had let him destroy any emotion other than anger. I had let him run loose over my conscience and instead of fighting him, used the so-called power he gave me. I wasn't even strong enough to fight for myself.

"I've betrayed you, Hermione," I said weakly. "I've betrayed my dad. I've betrayed my mum. I've betrayed my grandfather." I looked up from my hands. "I've betrayed myself."

"I don't understand, Harry..."

"Don't you see? I'm becoming him. I'm becoming Voldemort."

Hermione stared at me with little more than shock. "Harry..."

"It started at the end of Second Year," I said, the words rolling off my tongue before I could stop them. "The diary affected me. I started getting memories of Voldemort's childhood at night. After the shock, I started looking forward to them; they were teaching me more about magic than Hogwarts ever did. Didn't you ever wonder why I suddenly got good?" Hermione, though, couldn't seem to find the words.

"For the longest time, it was alright. I was picking up some of his mannerisms, but I never thought that was a bad thing. As the months went on, I started acting more and more like him; enough to get Dumbledore suspicious. That's why we haven't been close since the Chamber." Hermione was torn between shock and incredulity, but now that I had started, I couldn't stop.

"I started to get visions in the daytime this summer. My grandfather and Moody were friends with Voldemort. I kept seeing small visions of them creating this group, the Knights of Walpurgis."

"Your grandfather made that group?" gasped Hermione.

"Yeah, have you heard of it?"

"Heard of it? There's a whole chapter on them in 'Wizarding Movements of the Twentieth Century'. They were a terrorist group intent on destabilising the government and inducing anarchy. The wizards behind it were never caught."

"They weren't terrorists," I said defensively. "They were trying to move wizarding society out of the Dark Ages."

"Harry," she said incredulously, "they were almost as bad as the Death Eaters."

"Maybe you shouldn't believe everything you read!" I snapped. As Hermione's shoulders fell, I realised that I had done it again. Why was the anger coming so quickly? Why was it so hard to fight Riddle's influence?

"I'm sorry," I muttered. "Do you see what I mean? I can't fight him, Hermione. I can't fight him within my own mind. I killed the Death Eaters. Lucius Malfoy, Bellatrix Lestrange and all the rest of them. Dead. And you know what? I don't care. I wanted to kill an Auror yesterday. I tortured him and liked it. It won't be long before I'm killing innocent civilians. I've got this power and anger, and I can't control it. Please, just go."

Hermione took my hand in hers. I flinched at her touch. "Harry, I'm not going to abandon you. I don't care if you've got Riddle in you. I can help you. I want to help you." She went to hug me again. I looked into her eyes. There was nothing but sincerity and love there. Smiling weakly, I accepted her embrace.

I didn't know how long we stood; gripping to each other like death could take us at any moment. I felt as though a Phoenix was singing and warming the cold that had taken grip inside of me. She didn't care that I was a murderer. She didn't care that I was going mad. There was still enough of me, Harry, and that gave me strength. I could do this. I could beat Voldemort.

Finally, Hermione broke away. I told her everything. I told her about the Horcruxes, the Department of Mysteries, the dreams, and the events of yesterday. Resisting the urge to lie, I left nothing out. Her expression flitted from surprise to disapproval to sympathy and back to surprise, but still I kept talking. When I finally finished, it felt as if a dead weight had been lifted from my chest. I almost felt like laughing. Almost.

"Oh, Harry," said Hermione, "how could you go through all that on your own?"

"That's the way I do things," I said quietly.

"Have you opened your grandfather's box?"

"No, I was planning to do it later. Well, I might as well get it out of the way..." I picked up the box – I had forgotten how light it was.

"Do you, you know, want me to leave for this?"

I looked at Hermione. I could see the excitement and expectation she was trying to hide. "No. I want you to see that my grandfather wasn't a bad man. I want you to realise how misunderstood they were." I sat beside Hermione and opened the lid with ease. Inside, I was a little disappointed to find one scroll of parchment tied with a golden ribbon. Carefully, I untied it and unrolled the letter.

Dearest Harry,

I stared at the words. How? How could he have possibly known? Perhaps he had found some sort of obscure blood magic? He was a powerful wizard, after all.

I write this on the eve of my death in the hope that my dear friend Zacharias passes it on to you, for I am sure that it will be you, Harry, who finds this. You are only three months old and asleep next door as I write this, but I can see in your eyes that you will be a leader of men.

The world is changing. I look out of my window and see nothing but impending doom for wizardkind. Darkness has fallen. Once a brother to me, Tom has turned to madness.

You will be indoctrinated, of that I am sure. They will tell you that Tom is evil and all those who fight against him are of the 'light'. Your parents will teach you what magic to use and what magic not to use. Perhaps you are an adult reading this, a bastion of the 'light' and leader of the Order of the Phoenix. If so, my words of warning and advice will fall on deaf ears.

Tom was not always as he is. He was once a great leader, as you one day will be, and he was a revolutionary thinker. You will be told, I am sure, that I was once involved in a group similar to the Death Eaters. You will be told that I 'came to my senses' and renounced my 'evil' ways. This is not the truth.

They never understood what we were trying to achieve, Harry. If you show this letter to James, he will blame it on grief at my wife's death, or perhaps senility. But you must know the truth.

The Knights of Walpurgis were not originally created to defeat death, but this soon became our goal, I will not deny this. Tom, Alastor and I had been robbed of love by death and, seduced by our own talent, we vowed to kill man's greatest enemy. Alastor and I soon saw the error of our ways, for we had created this group in opposition to the hereditary-based system that had failed us.

You will be told all Potters belong in Gryffindor. This is not true. Tom, Al and I were sorted in Slytherin and suffered at the hands of those so-called 'Purebloods'. You will find, Harry, that seated at the top of society are the oldest Purebloods; our leaders, the Wizengamot, are chosen by the family one is born into. If you took a moment to read a list of its members, you will find the Blacks, the Malfoys, the Greengrasses, the Bones', the Lestranges and other ancient, blind, inbred swines. They do not care for ordinary wizards, only for themselves. How many non-Purebloods are there in the top Ministry jobs? None.

Hogwarts is no better. From the age of eleven, you are separated, often according to blood-type. How many Muggle-born Slytherins do you know of? From the day you are segregated, you are taught to hate each other. We saw this, Harry, and we rebelled against these antiquated ideals.

The Knights of Walpurgis are not terrorists. We merely sought to kill the Minotaur at the heart of the labyrinth.

But I am dying. I have tried, away from prying eyes, to keep the movement alive all my life. It was difficult, Harry, for my original co-conspirators were no longer interested in our original goals. I cannot blame Alastor – he was committed to his work and has become a fantastic Auror, but Tom turned his back on us.

You can succeed where I have failed. There are still those sympathetic to our cause. You can use these uncertain times to your advantage. The Ministry's incompetence will be exposed, and when it is, you can strike. Violence will not be necessary, for this is a political movement of peace. The key to the movement lies in this box.

As I welcome death with open arms, I bestow upon you all my love and trust. It pains me that we shall never speak together.

With all my heart and all my soul,

Your loving grandpapa.

I read it again and again and again, savouring every last word. My eyes were stinging. He was there when I was a baby. He trusted me with this. He loved me. While it may have been obvious that, as his grandson, he loved me, seeing it written on paper brought it home. Until now, he had seemed a legendary figure long before my time. But now...now I felt closer to him than I had done anyone in my life. He would have understood. He would have helped me. He knew that one day I would turn to him.

I read through the letter yet another time. As I welcome death with open arms... He wasn't like Voldemort; he was trying to make the world a better place. Those books Hermione had read were wrong... this is a political movement of peace. He knew what Dumbledore would say.

"The key to the movement lies in this box," recited Hermione, her brow furrowed. "What does that mean?"

"There must be a message somewhere in the letter," I said. Even to me, my voice sounded distant.

"Harry, look in the box..."

I followed Hermione's gaze and caught a glimpse of gold in the shadow that shrouded the metal box the letter had been stored in. I reached out and picked up a small, shiny key. It had been fashioned into the shape of a spear, though the head was ridged in such a way that told me it was made for a specific lock. There was a tiny inscription down the shaft of the spear. I had to squint to read it: 'The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.'

"Is this the key he meant?" I wondered aloud.

"It could mean so many things," muttered Hermione, scanning through the letter. "I wonder whether it ties into the Greek reference..."

"What?"

"We merely sought to kill the Minotaur at the heart of the labyrinth. Well, the 'Minotaur' is clearly a metaphor for the heart of the Ministry, but it seems like a very odd reference to make."

"I've heard them talk about a 'labyrinth', you know, in one my visions. It could all be linked."

"Possibly. Gosh, this is so much to take in. I mean, it's not like you haven't got enough on your plate without leading a long-dead underground movement."

"It's not long-dead," I snapped, "there are still living members. And he was right, he's right about everything."

"So you're going to abandon your hunt for Horcruxes?" said Hermione derisively.

"No," I said, with a hint of austerity. "I'm going to deal with Voldemort first..."

Hermione looked at her watch and gasped. "Is that the time? I didn't tell my parents I was going out, Harry, they might have called the police by now! Listen, I'm going to come back tomorrow and we can work through this letter properly and work out from your visions where You-Know-Who's Horcruxes are, alright?"

"Yeah," I said distantly, looking down at the letter again.

I barely heard Hermione leave the room.


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