What Lies Beneath

Fear and Feared

– CHAPTER EIGHT –

Fear and Feared

The next morning, there was the usual bustle of students frantically trying to pack as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, their laziness during the earlier parts of the year meant they had to do it magically. I would have been disappointed in the number of students who could not manage a summoning charm had I been a teacher. Luckily for me, I could perform it and was packed within fifteen minutes.

I entered the Great Hall, which was relatively empty considering it was breakfast. I spotted Hermione eating alone, looking rather morose. Wondering what had happened, I sat opposite her and helped myself to some toast.

"Morning," she said.

"Yeah, morning," I replied. "Tough night?" I looked pointedly at her hair, which was not bushy, as it usually was, but unkempt.

She looked at me unsmilingly. "Haven't you heard?" she said.

"Someone lost Gryffindor a hundred and fifty points. The whole house was in an uproar all night, I couldn't sleep!" I felt a little guilty. Not only was her lack of sleep my fault, but the silencing charms around my bed meant I had as sound a night as Riddle would allow.

"Any idea who it is?" I asked, taking a swig of pumpkin juice.

"Well someone had the bright idea that it was you," she said, biting her lip. "And since no-one's owned up and you didn't deny it…well, you know what they're like. Just ignore them."

I snorted into my drink and Hermione smiled weakly. Just when I thought they weren't idiots and that my distance from my housemates was Riddle's influence, they did something like this. If anyone was at all different, they look down on them and shun them. If anything goes wrong, they blame them. In many ways, Gryffindor house is just as responsible for the pathetic house rivalry as Slytherin was. My only shock was that they managed to catch the true perpetrator.

"There's something else bothering you," I said. Hermione was always straight with me and I felt I owed her the same treatment in return. In any case, anything eating at her was far more important than a group of imbeciles crying over a competition which does not reward them personally. At least McGonagall got to keep the trophy.

"It's nothing," she said briskly, not looking me in the eye.

"Did they say anything to you?" I asked dangerously. Hermione shook her head, I could tell it was the truth. I did not know why or how, but I could tell if somebody was lying or not without using Legilimency. Only Dumbledore was impossible to read, leading me to believe it had something to do with body language. Since the Headmaster gave absolutely nothing away, I had nothing to work with. Even after hours of searching, I could not find a single paragraph in any book about what this ability was.

"No, no, it's nothing to do with that," she said quickly. "It's just something we were talking about last night, that's all. Seriously, don't worry about it, I'm being silly." I shot her an appraising look. It took all my control not to use Legilimency on her. Unfortunately, I had long since promised myself not to use it on my friends.

"Maybe you just need to get it off your chest," I said.

She bit her nails nervously, I ignored the dark looks I was getting from the Gryffindors who were slowly pouring into the Great Hall. She took a deep breath and said, "remember last night when you were joking about Terry and Tracey being rich and all three of you not having to work?" I nodded, not really understanding where this was going. "Well, sometimes I worry that it's true. You know, you and Tracey are great duellers and Terry's really popular and smart as well. Sometimes I think I'm a bit of an outsider, you know? I know what you're thinking; this is really stupid. But sometimes I believe what people say when –"

"What do people say?" I snapped, shooting a toxic look at Seamus Finnegan. Hermione's eyes widened, perhaps she realised that she had let too much information slip.

"Oh, this is what I was afraid of –"

"Was it Finnegan?" I asked, my teeth gritted. I hated the fact that Hermione was picked on by bitches like Lavendar Brown. It was partly anger that they would even contemplate offending one of my friends and it was partly guilt. I had practically robbed Hermione of any normal relationship with them, not that she wanted it.

"Please, Harry," she pleaded. "Just this once, don't go out hunting for revenge." I took a few calming breaths then nodded. While I had banned myself from performing Legilimency on friends, this did not mean I could not raid Finnegan's mind and find who was responsible that way.

"You have to stand up to them. You're so much more powerful than –"

"You know how I feel about using magic as a weapon."

"As for what they say, they have no idea. I would have thought that the cleverest witch of our age would have figured out that this is jealousy. You're definitely one of the cleverest people I know and anyone who says you're a third wheel has no idea what they're talking about. Just because my parents died to save me, or the Boots and Davis' are rich, doesn't mean that you're any less than us." I placed my hand on hers and forced her to look at me. "And you're definitely not an outsider."

"Thanks, Harry."

The rest of the morning passed uneventfully. While there were plenty of glaring and muttering behind hands, nobody felt it necessary to confront me about losing the house points. The weather was particularly pleasant, so we decided to enjoy it before the feast. I was glad to see that Hermione had cheered up considerably, even though she was receiving the same treatment I was. We chose a spot in the enticing shade of an oak tree, which doubled as a fantastic view of the lake. The water shimmered and sparkled like a river of crystal.

"What are you kids going to get up to this summer?" asked Terry. He was playing with the snitch I had caught in the final game of the season. We had trounced Slytherin; I pulled a Wronski Feint and ruled Malfoy out of the game.

"Well, I'm signing my death warrant," I said. "What about you, Hermione?" Tracey huffed and flicked my ear. "What? The man wanted to know the truth."

"He's meeting my father," said Tracey, her eyes narrowed.

I played with her hair lovingly and said, "if that's what you want to call it, then fine." Terry caught the snitch again and shot Tracey a questioning look.

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" he asked, quite serious now.

"What's wrong with it?" retorted Tracey defensively.

"The small matter of his name being Harry Potter," said Terry. "Are you expecting them to get along handsomely?"

"Why wouldn't they?" It was Hermione who had asked this question. I would hate to be the one who told her she had befriended the daughter of a Death Eater. Knowing Hermione, though, she probably knew but asked so she wouldn't draw Tracey's suspicions.

"The fact that he's best friends with Lucius Malfoy," said Terry incredulously. "I hardly think he's going to dote on Harry. And I'm not sure Harry's gonna take any abuse lightly. All I have to say is that I wish I was there for the introductions."

"They're going to get on," said Tracey confidently. "Aren't you?" I shrugged.

"If he behaves, so will I."

"You must want to make a good impression, though," said Hermione. I smiled and stared out at the lake. Did I want to make a good impression? Not particularly. Had it not been the fact that he was in Voldemort's Inner Circle, I never would have agreed to the idea. In the unlikely event that he accepts me, I would snub him. Once I found out what I wanted to, I will either stay at Hermione's or Terry's, most likely bringing Tracey with me.

"This is Harry," said Terry. "Have you met him?"

"Oh, shut up," said Hermione, still giggling.

"So while these two are trying to find the best places to get it on without a certain traditional father finding out," said Terry, jabbing a finger at us, "what will you be doing, Hermione?"

"I'll be in France for a while, of course. After that, who knows?"

"Maybe a quick trip to Bulgaria?" said Tracey innocently. We laughed at Hermione's expense. Her face had turned redder than Weasley's.

"For the last time, we're not an item," said Hermione, exasperated. "Viktor's just a pen friend."

"There's only one pen involved in that relationship," said Terry. I laughed so hard I slipped from the support of the tree and lay on the grass. Hermione slapped Terry around the head.

"Ah, look who's come out to play," said Terry, his eyes lighting up. I followed his line of vision, noticing Ron Weasley and his merry band of followers walking towards us. Both Hermione and I tried not to insult him unprovoked, since Hermione clung to the hope that Ron would see how wrong he was. Terry and Tracey felt no obligation to abide by this.

"Enjoying the day, Weasley?" asked Tracey, her eyes gleaming mercilessly.

"W-What?" said Ron, slightly put off track by Tracey's apparent interest.

"Don't worry, Tracey," said Terry, "I don't think he's used to girls talking to him. He'll be dreaming about this tonight." Ron turned a deep shade of red and his hands balled up into fists.

"You're one to talk, Boot," yelled Seamus. "I heard you cried when Greengrass rejected you." I was surprised that Finnegan had been so accurate. While he did not cry, Terry had moped for a week when Daphne ruled out any chance of a relationship earlier in the year.

"At least he has the balls to do it," said Tracey waspishly. "Now how long are you going to hang around? It's just that we're discussing the best ways to attack your homes over the summer. Do you have any Anti-Apparition wards around your hovel, Weasley?"

"Actually, you don't need to tell him," said Terry off-handedly. "You can just read their minds, can't you, Lord?" He turned to me and bowed. Since Ron had ruined Terry's chances with Parvati Patil late last year, the Ravenclaw had launched a vendetta against Ron. Between them, Tracey and Terry had worked with the Gryffindor's suspicions of me, constantly referring to me as a Dark Lord. It had annoyed me at first, but gradually I began to enjoy the charade, particularly since it eliminated the threat of younger students asking me what Voldemort looked like.

Since Seamus had insulted Terry, I felt I could join in. I stared Ron straight in the eyes and willed him to reveal his memories to me. They revealed themselves to me with absurd ease. I found out that it was Lavendar Brown who had insulted Hermione. As I had expected, his current thoughts revolved around asking me whether or not I had lost Gryffindor House all the points.

I placed my hands on my temples and rubbed the area with my eyes closed. I hummed to add effect. "He's thinking…he's thinking…" I snapped my eyes open suddenly. "Aha! He has a question to ask me. One hundred and fifty points were lost from Gryffindor. He wants to know if it was my fault." The three Gryffindor boys paled. I ignored Hermione's exasperated sigh.

"Didn't you know?" said Tracey incredulously. "Dumbledore found him torturing a Mug- Mudblood, so he took the points off. Don't tell anyone, though, it's been kept quiet. Not only has he sent out his message, but he's helped the great house of Salazar Slytherin to the House Cup. Was it the Cruciatus you used, honey?"

"No, you know I'm more inventive than that, babe," I replied. Tracey pulled me into a deep kiss, knowing it would annoy Ron. I was always self-conscious about public displays of affection and pulled away quickly.

"Master," said Terry, bowing low, "did you not promise to teach us the art of the Cruciatus? We're all going to turn seventeen very soon, after all." I nodded at Terry.

"The time will come," I said. "And I know just the people to test it on." By this time, Ron and Finnegan were half-way to the castle, probably telling McGonagall. I never understood why they wouldn't pick another professor – after all, Hermione and I were her favourite students. Thomas stood still for a moment, looking at me curiously. He opened his mouth, as if to say something, before changing his mind and following in the footsteps of his two friends.

Tracey and Terry waited until the trio had successfully entered the castle before laughing rapturously. "Merlin, I love torturing Gryffs," said Tracey breathlessly. "As if you could be a Dark Lord. You're one of the most light-sided wizards I know!" I smiled meekly. If only she knew the truth. If only she knew that we had acted out Riddle's fantasy. She would not be laughing then.

Hermione failed to join in the laughter. She was giving all of us disapproving looks. "What?" giggled Terry. "Lighten up Hermione, it's the holidays in a few hours!"

"Sorry if I don't find pretending to be Death Eaters funny," she said acidly. "You do realise that they believe you every time you do that? Pretty soon the whole school will believe it."

"Not the whole school," I said quietly.

"Yeah," said Tracey, "Harry's right. It'll only be the Gryffs and the pathetic 'Puffs that believe it. Maybe a couple of Ravenclaws. Anyone who can't think for themselves more or less."

"Speaking of Death Eaters," said Terry suddenly, "how do you suppose those Death Eaters broke out of Azkaban?" I turned my head towards Terry so quickly, my neck cricked.

"How many broke out?" I said, rubbing my neck. "When did they break out?"

Terry looked at me strangely. "Didn't you see the Daily Prophet?" he said. "Apparently ten of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's most trusted Death Eaters broke out of Azkaban last night. The Ministry tried to cover it up as usual but they had their hands full with something else apparently."

"Why would they suddenly break out?" I asked. "It's not like Voldemort's even in the country."

"That's the thing," said Tracey coolly, "Skeeter's been spinning stories about the Dark Lord returning to power. It's mainly paper-selling speculation, of course." Hermione's eyes narrowed, as it usually did when she was piecing together a particularly difficult puzzle.

"Sirius Black manage to escape a few years ago," she said. "Couldn't it have been him that freed them? I mean, he is You-Know-Who's second in command."

"He hasn't been seen for years, though," said Tracey pensively. "It's thought that he's dead, or left the country at least. From what I've heard, he was always a bit of an attention-seeker; he'd have turned up somewhere if he was still around."

"How do you know that?" asked Hermione.

"All the pureblood families are interlinked," explained Terry patiently over Tracey's tutting. "In this case, Tracey's dad and Malfoy's dad work together. Malfoy's mum is a Black, a cousin of Sirius Black. Therefore, Tracey knows what Sirius Black was like before he was locked up."

"It must be time for the feast," said Hermione, breaking a few moments of silence. She got up gingerly and stretched and Terry followed suit.

"My Lord, will you and the Dark Lady be joining us for dinner?" asked Terry, bowing low, a mischievous glint in his eyes.

"I have some business to take care of," I said, assuming a tone of royalty. "We shall be along soon enough." Even Hermione failed to suppress a chuckle.

Terry and Hermione followed in the footsteps of the tormented Gryffindors, chatting animatedly. I sighed and ran a hand through my hair. I had wanted to speak to Tracey alone ever since I foolishly admitted breaking into the Department of Mysteries. Ever since I remembered something Snape had said to me in the Department.

Your friend's mind is an open book. I saw the lies you fed her. You are not as subtle as you think, Potter

There was no doubt in my mind that she needed Occlumency. I could not have her unknowingly betray my secrets. I also had the distinct feeling that Lucius Malfoy may have dipped into Legilimency. If he ever found out that it was me at the Ministry, I would be in Azkaban quicker than a convicted Death Eater.

Unfortunately, I had no idea how to teach the art. I had read a few books on the subject but it all seemed to come naturally. I had a feeling it was passed on from Voldemort, just as parseltongue was. Tracey was remarkably quick, though, so I hoped that this would spill over into Occlumency.

"What business are we dealing with, Master?" said Tracey seductively. She was tracing her hand down my chest. While I liked where this was leading, there were more important things to deal with.

"No, this is serious business," I said tonelessly, my way of signalling that there was time for amusement. The impact this had on Tracey was instantaneous. She withdrew her hand as if it had been stung and straightened up.

"Is it about what we talked about last night?" I noted a hint of hope in her voice – it was difficult to distinguish her moods but after a year, I was quite proficient.

"It's linked. Have you heard of the subtle art of Occlumency?" Tracey's eyes widened slightly and her lips parted in surprise.

"I've overheard someone talking about it, but it was during exam time so I didn't have enough time to research it."

I smiled humourlessly. "You could've searched day and night and you wouldn't find anything in the Hogwarts library since it's too easy to progress to Legilimency once you've mastered it. Basically, Occlumency let's you block Legilimens from entering your mind. In effect, it protects your thoughts and memories."

"Would I be right to assume that Legilimency is mind reading, then?"

"In essence, yes. You cannot lie to a Legilimens. Dumbledore uses them both all the time in order to run this school as well as he does. Voldemort used mainly Legilimency to find out whether his followers were lying to him. But what I want to teach you is Occlumency –"

"Wait a minute," said Tracey coolly. "Are you telling me that you can read what I'm thinking right now? That you've been reading all our minds since Merlin knows when?" I raised an eyebrow.

"Unlike Dumbledore and Voldemort, I have morals when it comes to these things. I never have and never will use Legilimency on you, Hermione or Terry. That's irrelevant anyway, since I'm going to attempt to teach you Occlumency anyway."

"This is why you don't tell me anything," said Tracey slowly.

"Snape came after me yesterday," I said, trying not to get angry just thinking of him stopping me hear the prophecy.

"How did he –"

"You told him." Tracey looked as though she wanted to argue but I raised a hand. "He used Legilimency on you and found out what I was up to. Frankly, not teaching you Occlumency would be the most stupid thing I could ever do."

"Give me the books and I'll teach myself."

"How can you test yourself?" She remained silent and nodded for me to continue. "Occlumency is probably the hardest branch of magic to master since you've got to change the way you see magic. I hope you understand how important this is."

Tracey frowned and thought on it a moment. Did she think I was asking her opinion? Luckily, I was saved from the potentially awkward revelation that she had no choice in this with a nod. Hopefully, she would manage the basics within a few weeks, before she came into contact with Lucius Malfoy or any other Legilimens.

"So when am I going to start these private lessons?" she asked, still unenthusiastic. I understood that she wanted to be able to achieve this without assistance. Hopefully, this would play into my hands since she would undoubtedly attempt to learn as much as she could on her own.

"Probably when we go to your house," I said, reluctantly rising to my feet. I stretched and yawned. My legs were stiff through disuse for most of the afternoon.

We walked into the Great Hall and found it more or less filled. I felt uneasy as at least a hundred eyes flicked towards us, most of them lingering. The most common expression was fear. I tried to ignore the rising feeling of satisfaction. It seemed that we had missed the main course. Indeed, most people were finishing off their desert.

"See you on the train," murmured Tracey before strutting to the Slytherin table, her head held high. I slouched off in the opposite direction towards the Gryffindor Table. I caught shreds of the hushed conversations from the Hufflepuff Table as I passed it.

"He reads minds, that's what I heard –"

"He's got an army of vampires –"

"He works under Sirius Black –"

"What're you talking about? He controls Black –"

"He's You-Know-Who in disguise –"

"That scar's got dark magic written all over it –"

I glared at the Fourth Year Hufflepuff girl who had said this. She paled instantly and looked as though she wanted the ground to open up and swallow her. I had very little sympathy for Hufflepuffs. Most of them were untalented half-wits who merely made up the numbers. From what I had read in various books, Helga Hufflepuff was the most powerful of the four founders. If she could see what had become of her house, I'm sure she would have wished she never created it.

Wondering if the girl had actually wet herself, I moved quickly to the Gryffindor Table. I ignored the dirt looks I was receiving and scanned the table for Hermione. I found her sitting alone at the top of the table, with only a group of terrified first years in her vicinity. As I sat down, I realised that she was rather melancholy about the whole situation.

"I told you it was a bad idea," said Hermione.

"How is this different from any other day?" I asked, helping myself to some treacle tart. "Instead of ignoring you or insulting you, they're looking angrily at you. I don't know why you get so upset about this kind of crap."

Before Hermione could reply, Dumbledore stood up. The buzzing conversation died down and the remaining scraps of deserts completely dissipated. As usual, he administered his end of year speech with skill only he could. I found it difficult to concentrate on his congratulation of Slytherin for winning the House Cup.

Slytherin's ring. That was my main objective this summer. I had to get rid of Riddle's influence now that Voldemort was rumoured to be in the country. I could only shudder to think what the Dark Lord would do if he found out I had somehow managed to absorb his childhood memories. Nothing would stop me from accomplishing this goal. Nothing.

I was sure Davis knew something. While there was no way Voldemort trusted anyone explicitly, it was Lucius Malfoy who had slipped Ginny Weasley the diary. Since Davis was a fairly high ranking Inner Circle member, he would have information at the very least. All I had to do was secretly brew Veritaserum and get Tracey out of the way while I questioned him.

I was forced out of my musings by the rumble of students heading towards the Entrance Hall. I spotted Terry chatting merrily to Michael Corner and a group of his Ravenclaw friends. From his actions, it seemed he was telling the story of Ron's embarrassment. His antics had drawn a chorus of laughter from those listening. He caught me looking and winked.

Half an hour after the feast, I was in a horseless carriage with Hermione, Tracey and Terry, wondering when Dumbledore would insist I go back to the Dursleys. Since he had not confronted me already, I could only assume that he would find out far too late. By then, I would be in the Davis household which I could only assume was protected from unwanted visitors.

"He is dead, my Lord."

I looked at Terry and said, "what?"

Terry furrowed his brow. "What?" he repeated. Hermione looked up from the book she was reading over and Tracey made a small movement which told me she was interested.

"What do you mean 'what'?" I said slowly. There was something wrong here. Terry's voice was quite loud and clear when he had made that bizarre statement.

"You're the one who said 'what' first, mate," said Terry, his expression betraying nothing but confusion. Was this a joke? I glanced at Hermione, who seemed just as bewildered.

"Are you pulling my leg? You said something about someone being dead."

"No I didn't," said Terry. His mouth hung slightly ajar as it usually did when I told them about a particularly advanced spell. His eyes flitted between Tracey and Hermione, as if asking for help.

"Are you alright, Harry?" asked Hermione, worry lining her face.

Was I hearing voices? Was it really Terry's voice which I had heard? I tried to remember what it sounded like. It was definitely a male voice, but now that I thought about it, it was deeper than Terry could have ever managed. Was it Tom's memory? I suppressed the chilling thought and attempted to find a way to cover it up. Luckily, Tracey was on her toes.

"Maybe it was a snake," she said reasonably.

"That makes sense," said Hermione reassuringly. "You thought the basilisk was a human voice in second year, remember?"

"Yeah," I said distantly.

The rest of the carriage ride passed without incident, though I did catch the others shooting me furtive glances. As much as I would have loved to think that it was a snake, it sounded far too human. Nobody spoke as we boarded the gleaming Hogwarts Express. Tracey was stroking my arm reassuringly but this did very little to placate me.

Terry led us into a carriage filled with his Ravenclaw friends, as he always did. Despite their slight lack of maturity, I found the sixth year Ravenclaws quite pleasant. Indeed, I regularly wished the Sorting Hat had placed me there since they were smarter than the Gryffindors and less political than the Slytherins.

I stayed mostly silent as the innuendos flew around during the ride. It seemed that Corner had finally managed to ask out Cho Chang. The poor boy's only relief was when the woman selling refreshments came past.

The glorious sunshine had finally disappeared, replaced with the mild blanket of night when the train finally pulled up at King's Cross station. Tracey and I said our goodbyes to the Ravenclaws. Hermione embraced Terry, Tracey and I in turn and promised to write as much as she could. Terry said the same, and promised to drop by at some point.

Finally, only Tracey and I were left. "How are we getting there?" I asked.

"By floo," said Tracey, as we stepped out onto the platform. "Father will be waiting for us in the lounge." She appeared genuinely worried as she said this.

The platform was full of parents embracing their children and questioning them on their year. I felt a small knot in my stomach, as I often did on these occasions. Ignoring the feeling, I craned my neck towards the row of floo fires.

"Do you know the area at the edge of the wards?" I asked, hoping for an alternate method of travel. One which did not involve queuing up with heavy luggage and sprawling at the feet of a Death Eater.

"Yes, of course," said Tracey. "Why?" With one hand, I gripped onto my trunk and with the other, I grabbed Tracey's free hand.

"Picture it. Hold onto your luggage and think hard about what it looks like exactly. Do it now."

She closed her eyes. With a small 'pop' we had disappeared from the platform.


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