The Spirit Room
by Gypsy Silverleaf


Rating: R

Summary: After going back to the Dursleys at the end of his fourth year and the Triwizard Tournament, Harry is abused by his uncle. He quickly falls into despondancy and despair. When he believes nothing can possibly get worse, three dark figures appear on the doorstep of 4 Privet Drive.

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J. K. Rowling. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. It's just fan fiction!

Author's Note: Thanks ever so much to my beta readers for this chapter, Caroline and Robyn. They caught my mistakes, helped me re-work several passages, and are brutally honest with what they think. It's grand. Also, thanks to everyone who has sent feedback on TSR. I appreciate it!
< >This fanfiction is posted at Schnoogle and FanFiction.net. Please feel free to leave your comments at either site, or write me an E-mail (gypsy @ HarryPotterRealm.com).

Warnings: This story includes ADULT CONTENT, including language, implied rape/abuse, and slash. Please return to the main page if you do not wish to view such material or are underage. There are sufficient warnings about this story and if you don't want to read very dark, emotional material which includes male/male relationships, please leave.


Chapter Six: Everywhere

< >An unusually solemn Draco Malfoy lingered that morning outside the chamber keeping the young Potter at bay. He had seen a look in Harry Potter's eyes that morning which reminded Draco how powerful this classmate of his sometimes was and had the potential to be.

< >When he isn't slowly letting himself deteriorate into the ever-inspiring infernos of hell, of course, Draco thought to himself mirthlessly.

< >It was rather frightening and depressing at the same time.

< >He began to pace, irritated with himself. Sensitivity toward the weak was not a Malfoy trait, but he couldn't help but marvel at the weariness within the magical body set before him that morning, or during the days before. He stopped and glared at The Boy Who Lived. Harry's eyes were fixed on the floor which was morphing, as it often did, from stone to wood - but the boy saw no more.

< >Innocent curiosity - and merely that - in such a small creature might not have been believed possible had he not seen it before his own eyes in Potter. The boy was such an infuriating contradiction of terms that Draco wanted to slap him, backhand him into the fiery pit below.

< >How could someone who had seen so much see so little?

< >Throwing a last angry look at The Boy Who Lived - for now, he mused - Draco stormed down the hallway and spilled his presence into the attached sitting room, which had several dark passages leading off from it and many pieces of dark, leather furniture. The two men waiting for him looked up from their newspapers, carefully avoiding the other's gaze. They looked expectantly at Draco.

< >"He is writing the letters," he announced in a neutral voice. "We will abridge them as necessary, though I'm sure there won't be anything incriminating." Receiving a nod of approval from the man sitting on the left side of the chamber, Draco seated himself beside him, brushing invisible dust off his robes. The second man, across the room, glared at them.

< >"Anything else? What did the boy-wonder get for his birthday?" The man next to Draco received a famous Malfoy smile for his question.

< >"Oh, a few pairs of socks, some candy, cards, a book, a few other things. Nothing of much importance." Draco waited until both men returned to their newspapers, magicked the amethyst and gold pendant from his pocket, and hissed angrily, "Except this."

< >The men stared at the necklace floating above their heads in the middle of the room. Draco Malfoy took little satisfaction as he watched what colour there was drain from their faces.

< >"What is that?" the man across the room demanded stiffly, tearing his gaze away to look at the boy.

< >"You, a trained wizard, think I would know?" Draco rolled his eyes. "I told you we should have looked through his things, but no, you thought everything sent to him would be too harmless to bother with," he sneered. "That brute of a groundskeeper gave it to him. Probably some giant charm that shoots darts or encases the fire of a dragon, knowing that man."

< >"Monstrous spiders, dragons, carnivorous flobberworms . . . what will he think of next?" mused the man beside Draco, who shot him an angry look.

< >"Bugger," muttered the man on the far side of the room. He dropped his newspaper on the dark cushions beside him and got to his feet, striding to the necklace suspended in the air. His dark eyes inspected it carefully, evaluating the amulet's potential power - its will to protect, its will to conquer more than obvious as it twinkled cheerily at the three.

< >A long silence passed as the two others in the room watched him. The man was a master of charms and neither of them was going to dispute this fact. He stared into the amethyst's hidden depths for several minutes and to their surprise, the man smiled.

< >"I believe, gentlemen," he said slowly, triumphantly, "this is exactly what we have been searching for all along."

< >Suddenly, the man snatched the necklace out of the air and brought it close to his face, as if daring the charm to show off its powers. After a moment of silence, he lowered the necklace, gripping the pendant tightly, and smirked at the stunned faces before him. Draco instantly knew - if he hadn't already known - why this man was one of the most feared and darkest men in the wizarding world.

< >He watched as the man let the pendant fall from his hand and float above the three's heads once more. "I think I can do something with this, my friends. Indeed, I certainly can . . ."

< >The pendant glittered in a sudden light and remained glittering when it grew dark once more.

* * *

< >Harry retreated to the bed a few minutes after Draco left. He'd picked up the orange and was numbly pulling the abandoned fruit apart, tossing the rinds onto the torn parcel paper when Draco returned, followed by two men. Again, their faces were concealed, but they didn't even give Harry a chance to search their darkness as they pushed a desk, seemingly too large to fit through the door, into the room.

< >Draco gave the men a few, muttered instructions but the instant he caught Harry's eye, his gaze never once wavered and he grinned maliciously. The raven-haired boy stared back until he couldn't any longer and watched silently as the two men shoved the desk against the wall.

< >"What is that?" Harry asked slowly.

< >"Well, it's what I call a desk, Potter," Draco replied crisply, shaking his head. He waved his wand lazily. The orange rinds and ripped paper disappeared. "I told you that you would be working and the bed is not a suitable place to do so."

< >"I see."

< >Draco raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Do you?"

< >Harry stared at him and the blond tapped his wand in his hand thoughtfully. One of the men disappeared through the strange doorway. He came back with and placed two chairs beside the desk, then both dark figures moved to stand near Malfoy.

< >"Please take off your robes, Harry," Malfoy said as the two men stopped behind him.

< >"Why?" Harry's eyes darted back and forth suspiciously between the men before him before finally settling on Draco.

< >"Don't make this harder than it already is," Draco replied. "Take off your robes - now. . . . We are going to examine you," he explained after a long moment of silence, sounding only slightly exasperated.

< >Uncertainly, Harry shrugged off the dress robe and unbuttoned the shirt, both of which Malfoy took and set aside. He averted his gaze, staring at the polished boot of one of the men, as he pulled the slacks off and dropped them unceremoniously on the floor, leaving him not naked - but nearly. Draco stepped forward and put a hand on Harry's shoulder threateningly.

< >"You listen carefully to me, Harry. Do exactly what we tell you to do and you will not be hurt." Harry nodded stiffly. Draco's other hand closed around his arm in a hard as steel grip. "Bend over."

< >Reluctantly, Harry let Draco pull him over until his fingers dangled near his toes. The effort stretched the healing gashes and scratches, and he whimpered under the unexpected pain, but a new hand pressed on the nape of his neck and held him down. The other captor stepped behind him and cool, thin fingers pressed against the small of his back, right at his tailbone. The man then began to walk his fingers up Harry's spine, while Draco and the other slowly straightened him.

< >"A slight curvature," a cold voice grunted.

< >"From leaning over his broomstick too much," Draco answered promptly.

< >"Something you obviously do not do, or you might actually catch the Snitch."

< >"It is easily corrected," Draco growled, his grip on Harry's arm tightening. Harry wasn't exactly sure what Draco was talking about - his Quidditch abilities, or their captive's back.

< >"We shall see," said the man.

< >With a scowl, Malfoy backed away and the other hands vanished, the ghosts of their touches still on Harry's back and neck. He glanced warily at the captor beside him who raised an arm. A pale finger, appearing from the depths of his robes, made a small circling motion. Harry turned and the man sidestepped him, taking him by the elbow.

< >He was led to the bed and the man silently helped him stretch out on his stomach. Harry gasped when he felt invisible manacles curl around his wrists and ankles. His face was pressed into the pillows and he when he opened his eyes, he found himself staring up into a smiling, pale face.

< >"Don't worry, Harry," Draco remarked idly.

< >Harry glared at him and Draco sank to his knees beside the bed, gazing back challengingly, mockingly. "Why?" Harry asked the blond savagely, shaking his hands. The magical bonds seemed to constrict around his wrists and he stopped moving instantly.

< >"We have our reasons," said a voice from behind him. It left no room for questions. "But they are not malicious at this time."

< >One of the two men climbed over Harry's legs and kneeled beside him on the bed. A strong hand landed heavily on his shoulder, another on his lower back. They pushed him more into the bed. The other man sat on the bed, next to his hip. He spoke quietly with the other man, their words making no sense to Harry's ears.

< >Malfoy offered his hand. Harry would have recoiled if he could.

< >"No," The Boy Who Lived growled.

< >"Why not?" Malfoy asked, smirking.

< >"I don't need it."

< >"You did before."

< >Harry yelped in surprise as a needle thrust into his left arm, feeling as if it crashed against his bone, and unconsciously seized Malfoy's hand. The man sitting on the bed had a vice-like grip on his bicep and was slowly administering a concoction of some sort into his arm. Harry whimpered as the potion seemed to clamp down on his veins and ripped his nerves painfully apart, then suddenly dissipated. He realized he was shaking when the needle was removed, but could do nothing to stop the trembling of his body.

< >"Hurts, doesn't it?" Draco said stiffly, glowering at Harry who was holding his hand tightly enough to break the bones.

< >Harry cursed and was laughed at, softly. "Dear, dear, Mr. Potter, what a foul mouth we have. Wouldn't want the rest of the world to know The Boy Who Lived has such an extensive vocabulary, would we?" Harry felt another needle stick his arm, the contents of the syringe snaking cruelly through his veins. Squaring his jaw, he concentrated on Malfoy's voice.

< >"I suppose," Harry grunted darkly, "not." He grimaced again and tried not to cry out as a he felt the sting of a third needle.

< >"You think you're in pain now, Harry?" Draco asked quietly, ruthlessly. "Don't you remember the Cruciatus Curse?" Harry blanched and barely felt the fourth needle pierce his other arm. "You do. . . . Good. I am not in the mood to help you remember, though I am certain one of these fine gentlemen would be more than willing to show you how the curse works."

< >The man leaning over Harry with the syringes, each cold and sharp, snorted. His hot breath traced across his captive's back, making him shudder. Draco's gaze never left Harry's, and it was all Harry could do to keep his eyes open and stare back at his adversary, whose face was mere centimetres from his own. The blond's soft, controlled voice was forceful and piercing.

< >"Lord Voldemort creates pain, gives pain, is pain, Harry - do you understand? The potion and concoctions flowing through your body, clenching your arteries and irritating your nerves are merely some of life's discomforts. A mere annoyance, almost like a fly buzzing around your head, compared to what the Dark Lord could do to you.

< >"I've felt it before - the pain, Harry," Draco murmured, lowering his voice so the men wouldn't hear. "I know how it feels." Harry's hand spasmed open as the last but longest needle entered his back, pushing through not forgotten scars, but Draco held fast. This needle was drawing blood and all he could - all he wanted - to see was black.

< >"Did you think this might have been a joke, Potter?" Draco smiled sinisterly. "It's not - oh, certainly not. I told you, no one who might save you knows anything, but I don't think you believe me. We have you, Harry, we do. I can see deep in your eyes - you have a glimmer of hope, hope that someone will come for you."

< >"Will -" Harry gasped, forcing his eyes open, "-will someone come for me?"

< >Draco's eyes sparkled and his perfect teeth gleamed in the bright, dazzling light coming from the bed frame. Suddenly, Harry's stomach seemed to drop, and he fainted.

~

< >He woke feeling lightheaded and sore. The magical bonds had been removed and he flexed his hands, trying to find circulation in the stiff joints. It wasn't surprising anymore to find himself laying in the bed, alive. A cold, dark hole somewhere, however, would have been preferable.

< >"Thank Merlin you're awake." Harry jumped. Malfoy was sitting in the pea-green chair again, legs swung over the arm closest to the wall, his back against the other. He was holding a red ball in his hands and, after a moment of staring, turned away from Harry and tossed it up toward the ceiling. It bounced back into his hands.

< >"How long -?" Harry asked, watching Draco's face carefully.

< >"Only an hour, thankfully." Draco threw the ball again and caught it. "I have to leave in a few minutes." He propelled the ball toward the ceiling and snapped his fingers; it disappeared with a small pop. Harry noticed he looked rather happy with himself.

< >"Get up," he said, jumping to his feet gracefully and smoothed out the creases in his robes. Harry crawled out of the bed, dressed in slacks of black silk and the black dressing gown draped around his shoulders.

< >"Why?" Harry asked with a groan, kneading his forehead with his fists.

< >"I have to give you some things before I go," Draco said impatiently, pointing to the desk against the wall.

< >Harry glared at him as he walked by and felt Draco follow close behind. One of the chairs, brought in earlier by the dark men, was positioned in front of the desk. The other and slightly shorter one was just to the right. There was a set of potions scales and a cauldron, which was filled with rolls of expensive parchment and quills, set to the side on the desktop all illuminated by a small lamp. Three ink bottles were set on the edge of the desk. All the items had obviously been placed after his collapse into darkness.

< >Draco put a hand on Harry's shoulder and forced him down into the chair in front of the desk. He opened his mouth to snap indignantly, but Draco stopped him.

< >"Shut your gob, Potter."

< >Harry obediently closed his mouth and looked away while Draco rolled his eyes. "Welcome to your new home, your new classroom and your new life, Harry Potter. I will be your guide through this journey. Are there any questions before we begin?" The flaxen-haired boy smiled when all he received in response was silence. The green eyes were pained and distant, all sense of any anger gone.

< >After a moment of silence, Malfoy waved his wand then dropped it carelessly when the largest drawer of the desk opened. It rolled toward Harry, who stared at it. Draco reached down and, with great difficulty, lifted out a stack of ancient-looking tomes. He didn't seem to notice Harry pick up his wand as he dumped them on the edge of the desk.

< >"Books, Potter, just for you. School and otherwise." He plucked one up, glanced at the title then waved it in front of Harry's face. "Edgar Allan Poe. Dark and dreary. I found it rather fitting." Draco threw the book in front of Harry, who flinched. The blond sifted through the stack, haphazardly tossing them back onto the desktop one by one.

< >"Miranda Goshawk, Standard Book of Spells, Grade Five. . . . Well, we won't need this until later. Grade Four is still in your trunk, I believe. Ah, the new potions text, this is very nice. . . ." He held up a very battered copy of Concoctions, Tonics, and Brews: The Student Potions Manual by Devaki Bleddyn, which must have been ten centimetres thick. It was definitely something Snape would choose.

< >"Are you finished with Binns' work yet?" Malfoy continued, drawling. He glanced at Harry skeptically. "Of course not, damn goblin rebellions. I can't believe he assigned another essay on the Row of 1834. Didn't we write one on that exact topic in first year? . . . Eh, you can read this later, too. Now, the new charms book -" Malfoy stopped dead, eyes snapping to meet the other boy's.

< >"Give me back my wand, Harry."

< >Harry looked at Draco passively, holding the wand in his hand and stroking it silently. After a tense moment, he set the wand on the table. Malfoy visibly relaxed, calmly picked the thing up, and set a book in its place.

< >"The new charms book is excellent, though I'm sure it was written for Hufflepuffs. Those duffers - they need an overview of the past few years. Well, so do you, so I really shouldn't complain. I want you to read the overview and the introduction tonight, then write a foot of parchment on charms you remember and might be able to perform, if you were to take your wand back."

< >Harry swallowed, as if the thought terrified him, but took the book off the desk and opened it. He leafed through it, glancing at the moving pictures as Malfoy spoke.

< >"Next, I expect you to have most of the History of Magic work completed in four days. I will quiz you on that and what we've learned so far, save the goblins, then. I trust you still have your notes. If they're even slightly better than Weasley's or Longbotton's, I'm sure you'll have no trouble recalling Uric the Oddball's obsession with ducks and Wendelin the Weird's foot fetish. Thirdly, you will read two or more of the non lesson-oriented books a week and -"

< >"Muggle work?" Harry asked disbelievingly, scanning the titles of the stacked books. He set the charms text back on the tabletop.

< >"Muggle?" Draco sneered, looking disgusted. "Hardly. You think Poe was a Muggle, Potter? He might have been an American, but he wasn't that low. I'm surprised you haven't learned, Harry - no Muggle can be that depressed. It's not in their nature. And no mere Muggle can be as creative with the written word as William Shakespeare." He snatched a book from the stack and thrust it into Harry's empty hands. "Read this, Harry. Hamlet. Kings and queens, a crazy prince with his knickers 'round his ankles, a nutter of a woman, espionage, daggers, poison, a ghost, random heavy burdens . . . and guess what? Everyone dies."

< >Harry sighed and opened the play. "Everyone dies," he echoed softly.

< >Draco didn't seem to hear him. His wand had disappeared into one of his endless pockets and he was rummaging around the others. "Before I forget, I've something else for you." He held out his hand and across his palm was splayed Hagrid's amethyst pendant. The amulet sparkled cheerily in the light.

< >"I don't want it," Harry said flatly, narrowing his eyes suspiciously at it.

< >"Not this either? Why not?"

< >"Because you touched it."

< >Draco's calm expression did not change, but he stalked across the room, yanked open the nightstand, shoved the pendant in, and slammed the drawer back into place. There was a fiery glint in his eye when he turned to face Harry again.

~

< >Malfoy didn't return for two days. In that time, Harry had nothing to but do his work and throw himself against the walls. The latter activity hurt too much, so he stopped that rather quickly, especially when one impact left his foot in an immense amount of pain and he couldn't walk for several hours.

< >That first night, after his foot had stopped throbbing and after his History of Magic work was complete, Harry had reluctantly seated himself on the leather chaise-lounge. He started a small list of charms and spells, adding several potions, then wondered what the point of this exercise was and laid a new piece of parchment in front of him.

< >He had to write to Ron, and in his heart was glad they were letting him, but he was forced to carefully consider what he was to write in the letter. He knew full well he was just helping them, but what else was he to do? If he didn't write it now, he would be forced into writing it later. He began to write.

< >Harry sighed after a few minutes and held up the completed letter so he could read it over.


Dear Ron,

< >Thank you for all the candy and food, and especially for the jumper. I wasn't expecting it and it's been very cold lately. The food will last me for a month.

< >I'm sorry to tell you this, Ron, but I can't come to the Burrow this summer. There have been some unexpected challenges and I will be staying here. I'm sending a similar letter to Hermione. I hope you're having a good summer. Say hello to everyone for me.

-Harry


< >"Very touching, Mr. Potter."

< >Before Harry could even react to the sudden voice in his ear, the letter was snatched from his grasp and a heavy hand came down on his shoulder to hold him in place. Harry dared not turn around but he knew who it was: the man he called the Robe. It frightened Harry to realize the man had come into the room without him noticing, especially when he was facing the door.

< >The Robe was rereading the letter and he chuckled softly. "If you would like, Mr. Potter, you may continue to compose letters to your friends. We may never send them or it will take us a while, but we must keep up appearances, mustn't we? As long as you do not mention Mr. Malfoy's name or wherever it is you think you are, I see no reason why you should not write."

< >Very slowly, Harry nodded and the hand gripping his shoulder like a vice was removed.

< >"Miss Granger's letter has not yet been written?"

< >"No," said Harry, very quietly. "Not yet."

< >The Robe came around the chair and stood in front of Harry, who refused to look at him. The Robe reached out and grabbed his chin. Harry focused on not crying out when nails dug into his flesh and his face was wrenched around so that he was staring into the total shadow of the man's face.

< >"You are far too pale for your own good, Mr. Potter. Is your favourite sport only played indoors?"

< >"I don't tan," Harry grounded out, trying not to move his lips.

< >The Robe ignored him. "Are you ill this evening? Any headaches?"

< >"No," Harry said stiffly, wondering where this way leading.

< >"Good," said the Robe, seeming sickeningly pleased.

< >Harry swallowed and his eyes watered as the man's grip on his face tightened. "I don't understand," he said.

< >"And well you shouldn't," the man snapped. He threw Harry back into the cushions. Harry vigorously rubbed his chin and throat. "You must come to understand on your own." He leaned toward Harry who pulled away as much as possible, but the back of the couch stopped him and once again he felt the man's spicy breath on his face.

< >"In my opinion, Mr. Potter, you will not understand while you reside within these walls."

< >"Does that mean I'm leaving?" Harry demanded.

< >A puff of hot air on his face - laughter. Harry flushed angrily.

< >"One day, Mr. Potter, one day you will leave these walls. In the meantime, you are in my - our - hands. You shouldn't worry about anything else."

< >"I'll worry about what I damn well please," Harry growled through gritted teeth. He paled, instantly regretting his words.

< >"Insolence, Mr. Potter," the Robe said, sounding highly amused. "Somehow, I expected nothing less."

< >"What has Malfoy told you?" Harry asked darkly.

< >"Draco can give an earful when properly stimulated, but he is not important right now."

< >"What is important?"

< >"This," said the Robe, promptly dropping Harry's wand in his lap.

< >Harry stared at his wand, which had appeared so suddenly it had made his heart skip a beat. Tearing his gaze away, he looked up at the Robe who'd moved away in lieu of his shock.

< >"Are you frightened, Mr. Potter?" Harry didn't say a word and the Robe tutted at him. "Not nearly frightened enough, I'm afraid." Harry started and drew away when the Robe put a finger under his chin and tipped his face up. He almost thought he could see dark, gleaming eyes in the shadowed hood, but he was probably imagining it. "What terrifies you?"

< >Harry went cold. He felt if he answered he'd tell this man everything. If he opened his mouth, all of which he was afraid - his uncle, his captors, this room, magic, himself - would come out and the Robe would know. The men would know. Draco would know. The world, everyone, would know. His worries, problems, trepidations and inadequacies would no longer be private. Harry could almost see (what was left of) his life crumble before his eyes. He knew he wouldn't be able to survive if he were to admit his cowardice, and his fears.

< >He shook his head and unconsciously wrapped his hand around his wand.

< >"No?" hissed the Robe, poison in his words. "You will say nothing? That is unacceptable."

< >"What am I supposed to say?"

< >"How you're feeling, Mr. Potter. Say something - anything. Just so I know you have half a brain. You are not a mute, so speak."

< >Harry hesitated then said as passively as he could manage, "I'm tired of not feeling."

< >"I see." The man paused. "Why do you fear magic, Mr. Potter?"

< >"I - I," Harry stammered after a moment, shaken he'd already been figured out. He found himself unable to lie and clamped his mouth shut.

< >"Do not try to fool me," the Robe said. He leaned close to Harry. "You'll find it impossible."

< >"I don't understand."

< >"That is far more than obvious. Answer my question."

< >"No."

< >"Fine. You will answer soon enough."

< >Harry looked away and hoped the Robe was wrong.

< >"We have a lesson today."

< >"What do you mean?" said Harry.

< >"Have you completed your list of charms and spells Mr. Malfoy asked you to compose?"

< >"I haven't finished reading the pages he wanted me to read, but yes, I have done most of the list."

< >"Let me see it."

< >Harry pulled out the parchment and handed it to the Robe. Their fingers touched and Harry snapped his hand back; the Robe's fingers were very cold. The dark man just laughed. He glanced over the slip of parchment and returned it to Harry.

< >"The first four charms. Wingardium Leviosa, Accio, Engorgio, Reducio. Until you get them right. Stand up and follow me. Don't forget your wand."

< >Harry followed the Robe slowly until the man stopped and turned around. He was standing with his back to the bathroom, and Harry was facing him. The Robe immediately started barking out orders, making Harry wave his wand in the air.

< >The first time he did it, nothing happened. The second, still nothing. The third and fourth . . . Harry stood there for a while, looking at the wand in his hand. It didn't seem real to hold it again. Was he happy nothing happened? Was he disappointed it didn't? He couldn't decide - even now, after he'd thought about it, he still didn't know if feeling at a loss for magic was good or bad.

< >He waved his wand again, trying to focus, but there was nothing, and he sighed.

< >It seemed to confirm his magic abilities were lost and he almost threw the wand across the room. No matter how much he hated himself, magic had taken him from the darkness of his cupboard and had held him up for the past four years. Yet, he couldn't help thinking magic was what killed his parents, was what made Voldemort strong, was what coursed through his veins and made his uncle hate him.

< >Harry finally looked up at the Robe, confusion, embarrassment, and discontent in his eyes. The man motioned for him to try again and once more nothing happened.

< >"Magic comes from within, Mr. Potter," said the Robe sternly. "It works with your mind, your heart, and your soul, all of which must be strong to begin with. From my observations, this morning and in the past few days, not one of those is working right. You're mindless, heartless, and soulless. This is surprising, of course, for the Boy Who Lived has always persevered in times of struggle." Harry looked away and the Robe chuckled softly.

< >"I've only survived," Harry muttered.

< >"Because you were a good wizard, a good person," was the sarcastic reply. The young boy glanced at him. "You knew what needed to be done and you did it. I respect that, as much as it disgusts me. It seems, however, you've lost all respect for yourself."

< >Harry didn't answer. He knew it was true.

< >"Try again. Swish and flick, Mr. Potter. Now."

< >"What's the point?" Harry demanded sharply, clutching his wand in his fist. To his surprise, green and red sparks shot out the end of his wand and showered over the floor. His eyes widened in shock as he stared at the spot where the sparks had disappeared once they'd touched the hardwood floor.

< >"Well done," said the Robe idly.

< >Swallowing hard, Harry asked again, "What is the point?"

< >"You will face the Dark Lord. I am here to prepare you for such an occasion. That is the point."

< >"Why can't he just kill me now?"

< >The Robe did not answer for a moment. Finally, he replied, "You must be a strong opponent. The Dark Lord fancies a challenge."

< >"He's insane." Harry squeezed his eyes shut, anticipating a blow or curse for insulting the man's master. It never came and he looked back to the Robe, who was suddenly much closer to him.

< >"He may be," said the man darkly, his hot breath making Harry shiver, "but that is not for you or me to decide. Wingardium Leviosa, Accio, Engorgio, Reducio. Now."

< >"Please don't make me do this," Harry begged, softly. His heart pounded in his chest. "I can't. I don't want to. Please don't make me."

< >If the Robe was surprised or disturbed by these pleas, Harry could not tell. He shuddered under the invisible gaze of the strange man, whom he now was certain was not Voldemort. They stood there for many moments before the man spoke.

< >"You fear the very thing that makes you what you are, Mr. Potter," the Robe said slowly. "You hate it. You hate your blood, you hate your gift - I think you even hate yourself."

< >Harry couldn't lie. He felt himself breaking apart. "Yes."

< >"Do you hate the ones who brought you to this world?"

< >Harry's throat closed. "Please don't ask me to answer that."

< >"Why? Are you afraid of the answer?"

< >"Terrified." Harry closed his eyes and took a deep breath, not understanding why he was telling this man what he felt inside. "I hate them for not being here. I love them because they are . . . were my parents, but I wish they could be with me. I hate that they can't be here. I hate that I can't be with them."

< >The back of the man's hand, cold as ice, touched his cheek and Harry fought every instinct that told him to jump back. He refused to open his eyes.

< >"A normal reaction, I assure you, in your situation - but you're on your own now, child. What will you do? Will you fight? No," said the man quietly, almost tauntingly, as he drew his hand away, "you won't. There's too much to fight. You have no idea where to start. The battles of good and evil are all around you and questions are churning in your head. Is the Dark really so black? Is the Light really so pure? What am I fighting for? Why don't I just give up? Why are we even fighting? Why can't it all end before it even begins?"

< >"Stop, I don't -"

< >"Haven't you ever thought that both sides might be exactly the same?" snarled the Robe. "Who is to say what is evil and what isn't? You? Me? I distance myself from the label of evil for I have no say. No one does. Your precious Professor Dumbledore has the potential to be as dark as the Dark Lord, as much as the Dark Lord has the potential to be as good as Dumbledore. They are so close together one can never be sure where one stops and the other begins."

< >What am I fighting for? Harry asked himself. His heart thudded in his chest like a drum. Was the man right? Were the Dark and the Light akin? Were they like radicalism and extremism? So far apart they seemed to come full circle and were almost exactly alike? It could not be true.

< >Harry's eyes were hollow, empty, and desolate when he opened them to look at the Robe. "But I know what side I'm on. Isn't that what matters?"

< >"Do you really?" sneered the dark man. "No one is sure what side they are on until the last moment - when judgment takes hold of the world and decides who has won the battle for power, and when it happens, there is really no difference. Nothing matters. Think, Potter. Both survive because good cannot survive without evil, black cannot be without white."

< >Harry was trembling, but he squared his jaw.

< > "They're different."

< >"How? They are both bound by magic, like the magic that is within you. Each side grapples with good and evil, and what their interpretation of each is. I know the Dark and shadows do not reach every corner of that realm, Mr. Potter, nor will they ever. We each fight for what we believe. You cannot fault someone for that.

< >"The world is changing. Where do you stand? On the precipice of a cliff, pondering the lie someone from your 'side' has told you? In reality, if you step off that cliff, you will fall forever. Nothing will be there to catch you should you go over the edge. Do not believe all that you hear. That will be your downfall. The Dark in the world is not entirely dark, nor is the Light entirely pure. The Dark Arts are not necessarily evil, nor is normal magic necessarily good, but white is more easily stained then black, and ink has been spilt all over the Light. Where are you better off?"

< >"I-I don't understand," Harry stammered.

< >"Then," said the Robe, "let me ask you this: can you honestly tell me that you know someone on the side of good who is without sin, without evil?"

< >"I can't," Harry answered after a moment, to many things. He paused again, trying to collect his thoughts. "You don't seem to understand that when I say I can't do magic, I can't do it. I've tried."

< >"And you succeeded, Mr. Potter. Did someone perform Obliviate on you at some point during this conversation? You seem to forget your excellent display of magic which nearly scorched the floor. I say you certainly can perform magic - in the least, magic tricks. These four spells are merely child's play. I will be very irritated if you can't re-master them in under two hours."

< >"I don't want-"

< >"You will do it anyway. I will not tolerate insolence," the man snapped. "You must do this and I will remain here until you get each spell right. Is that clear? Raise your wand. You will try again. Now." Harry reluctantly raised his wand and the man pointed at the coffee table where a stack of books was set. "Lift the top one - the levitation spell, if that instruction wasn't clear. Do it until you get it right."

< >The bit of magic that he'd unexpectedly been able to do had somewhat disoriented him. Two hours later, Harry collapsed on his bed, nauseated and gasping for air. He was exhausted and sore from the exertion of managing all the spells except the Summoning spell. Something was keeping him from concentrating and each object he tried to summon fell at least ten feet short. The Robe pulled a bar of chocolate from his robes. He waved it idly at the boy.

< >"Do I have to?" Harry demanded, chest heaving. He glowered at the man standing halfway across the room.

< >"What do you think?"

< >Harry's eyes fluttered shut for a moment and he took a deep breath. He gripped his wand in his hand, pointed it at the man, and hissed, "Accio chocolate!"

< >The chocolate bar flew into Harry's hands and he bit into it almost immediately. Strangely, the affects he'd expected did not occur. His dizziness seemed to abate only a little and his stomach churned. He put the chocolate on the bedside table and stood up shakily. The Robe was watching him.

< >"May I stop now?" Harry asked weakly.

< >"Yes. I am leaving now anyway. I will return tomorrow and we will work on more spells, including two curses. Please write your letter to Ms. Granger and leave both letters on the coffee table for the house elf. Practice saying the spells we performed today. It will help you tomorrow morning. I believe Mr. Malfoy also left you work to do and you have books with which to bide your time. Good day, Mr. Potter."

< >"Wait!" Harry snatched his wand off the bed where he'd dropped it and dashed, stumbling, across the room. He pushed the wand into the Robe's hand. "Take it."

< >At that moment, Harry swore he could actually see the man's eyes in the magicked darkness of his hood. They were narrowed, cold, and calculating, but the Robe took the wand from Harry and placed it carefully in his pocket. He nodded. Harry turned and hurried to the lavatory, slamming the door behind him.

< >The man in the black robes with the shadowed face paused as he was leaving the room when he heard Harry vomiting and coughing. He remained in the doorway long after the toilet flushed, but Harry did not come out for several minutes. When he did, wiping his face with a damp flannel, the Robe was gone.




Chapter Five | Webmistress Fiction | Chapter Seven





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