NOTE: This is a translation of a Chinese HP Fanfiction by 墨玉绿
After that night, nothing seemed to have changed. Harry's expression remained stiff when facing Tom, yet he was so gentle to Billy.
Obviously, Billy was pleased by the preferential treatments. He spent all his time glued to Harry's side, spitting seemingly innocuous words that were designed to upset Tom. Tom grew silent in face of the other boy's challenges, eyes morose with darkness. Harry saw it, the unfriendliness, but he didn't know how to repair their relationship.
"HARRY! Look at the rabbit that I drew!" Billy thrust a piece of paper in Harry's hands.
Harry put down the documents from Dumbledore's Army. He smiled with his usual warmth and spread the picture on the table.
It was, indeed, a rabbit. Although one could only tell from the two elongated ears poking out of a mess of squiggly lines, the rest was... imaginative. The silly, abstract rabbit lightened Harry's mood. Perhaps he worried too much.
He rubbed the boy's head, and praised. "It looks great, Billy!"
The boy's eyes flashed. Then, he said to Harry, in the sweetest voice he could muster.
"Tom's drawing looks good too!"
"Oh?" Harry was actually curious. What does Voldemort's childhood doodle look like?
Tom, who sat silently near-by, raised his head as his name was mentioned. Harry smiled at him encouragingly. Tom paused; before he could react, Billy snatched away his drawing without permission and presented the paper to Harry eagerly.
Tom pursed his lips and clutched the crayons in his hand. His eyes searched Harry's face, which almost seemed like he was nervous.
Harry stared at the drawing. It was coloured all in black, filled with messy lines that resembled dark clouds rolling in the storm. In the middle of the paper, outlined with white markers, was a neatly reproduced symbol that was — unfortunately — much less abstract than Billy's bunny. Harry had no problem recognizing that symbol — it was a large, white skull.
To Harry, it looked awfully familiar. Yes, he had seen it... On many dark, dreadful nights, green projection of the giant skull dominated the starless sky. A smoke-formed snake was slithering out of its open mouth, its fluorescent body residing above deaths that had inevitable occurred by its master's hands. People, who saw it, ran from it screaming, "You-Know-Who!"
"I don't feel well... I'm going to bed," Harry stood up suddenly. "You have fun, boys... Good night."
Then, he practically bolted from the room, almost tripping over the carpet.
"See, he doesn't like you," Billy said triumphantly. Sticking his tongue out proudly, Billy sauntered pass Tom, bumping into his shoulder. The boy whispered into Tom's ears. "Say... if Harry knew what a freak you are, what do you think he'll do?"
Tom looked up abruptly, but the cowardly fool was already meters away, smiling at him with false friendliness.
"See, Riddle, I've told you that... you don't have to pack anything. You'll be sent back soon enough." The door slammed shut with a loud bang, and, suddenly, Tom was the only one left in the enormous study.
Tom stayed glued to his seat, still as a statue.
"Tom—" the little snake crawled out of his sleeves. Her cold-blooded body rubbed against Tom's cool cheeks, comforting him in the only way she can.
"He does like me—" Tom hissed, patting the viper with his thumb.
She didn't have an answer for him. Snakes were solitary creatures. They did not possess a social brain and thus, her tiny mind couldn't understand the complexity of human interactions.
She couldn't understand, for example, why Tom, who was clearly fond of this Potter human, never even smiles at the man? Even if smiling was easy for human, as she had seen Billy pretends to smile all the time.
She couldn't understand, even more so, why did that Mr. Potter, who was equally fond of Tom, never hugs the boy like he hugs Billy? Even if, after Tom fell asleep, the man would take the trouble to sit by the Tom's bedside, watching over him for a long time, guarding the boy when he could not know.
Life would be better without that Billy human, she decided. If only stupid Billy was gone, then little Tom wouldn't be so sad anymore. Also, if only stupid Billy is gone, the, finally, she would be free to feast on that annoying rabbit.
Harry couldn't untangle his own emotions.
Every times he thought about the boy, he remembered the day that Tom was born, the tiny, soft bundle sleeping in his arms. Harry swore to himself that he would always look after this child, ensuring him a happy, healthy childhood. But as the boy grew older, his ebony eyes became coloured by Voldemort's scarlet anger; his face took on Voldemort's cruel, emotionless mask; and even his thoughts, so mature for his age, tended toward Voldemort's vast ambitions — so merciless and cold — all things that Harry found hard to accept.
He thought about that drawing.
He had to admit that Tom's a genius. Even yet to turn five, Tom's undisciplined hands were able to reproduce such detailed and realistic drawings. Harry chuckled despite himself.
After the initial shock wore off, though, Harry realized how careless his actions were... He remembered how Tom's face had turned ghastly pale as Harry ran from the room— ran to get away from Tom— and suddenly, he realized , unintentionally, he had been treating Tom unfairly, especially in comparison to Billy. This was— perhaps —because Billy tended to act more like a child, immature and attention-seeking. While Tom was... Tom was more independent, capable; he liked to solve his own problems instead of running to Harry for help.
The crying baby get the milk first, as the idiom goes.
Harry sat up in bed, guilt suddenly jolted through him. Now that Harry thought about it, all of their interactions seemed to consist of Billy talking excitedly to Harry while Tom, sitting aside, watched them in silence, as if he was a bystander in this new family. Guilt weighted on Harry's mind like stone. Carelessness was no excuse for negligence... and Harry had failed Tom, as the extremely smart boy was sure to notice.
Tom's proud and boyish eyes flashed in Harry's mind, piercing his consciousness like the stares of a wounded wolf cub. Harry pursed his lips. His chest hurt, as bitter regret rose to his throat.
Am I actually helping Tom?... Or am I just pushing the boy down the same path, towards becoming Voldemort? Harry shook with cold sweat, as the sudden realization popped into his head.
Harry pushed open his bedroom door and happened to see Tom striding toward him. The boy walked with a military precision, every step calculated to be the same uniform length, as if he was a robot pretending to be a boy.
"Mr. Potter," the boy greeted politely. He deliberately moved around Harry, and walked faster down the hall.
The unfamiliar title struck Harry like a tone of bricks. The child didn't even feel comfortable enough to address him by name.
"TOM! —" Harry yelled after him, but, as the boy turned to face him, Harry didn't know what to say. He licked his lips nervously. Then, seemingly remembering something urgent, Harry turned and ran downstairs. " TOM! — Wait for me. I'll be back soon."
The front door slammed behind him.
The child stood still, watching through the window as the young man ran across the street, his coat still unbuttoned in the rush. He lowered his eyes, a shadow passed through them, grim and unreadable.
"Tom... I'm sleepy. Let's go back to our room—" The snake poked her head from Tom's shirt collar.
The boy hesitated, then, he set her on the floor gently. "You go on back... without me—"
Harry didn't know it would take him so long to find what he was looking for... He walked to the end of the street, and, finally, found a convenience store that sold the thing he wanted.
By the time Harry returned home, it was way past dinner time.
The house was dark. All the lights were off and Harry couldn't see a thing. He called the boy's name, gently, as he walked into the dark living room.
No one answered.
Harry waited in silence until his eyes got used to the dimly-lit interior. Immediately, he noticed a small body slumping on the sofa.
The boy had fallen asleep on the sofa! Harry watched the boy's peaceful sleeping face and smiled tenderly. He wanted to laugh at his own stupidity... Yes, Harry was being stupid — Tom isn't Voldemort— and, even if that would be in their future, the boy wasn't Voldemort right now... At least, right now, he was a child who would fall asleep waiting for Harry to come home.
Harry smiled. He placed the newly purchased parcel next to the boy. His eyes inspected the boy's fine features lovingly, then, he pulled a blanket over the child's small body. Quietly, Harry went into the kitchen to prepare dinner, his steps springy with energy, as if a huge weight just lifted off his shoulders.
"Tom, what is that in your handssss?" The snake slipped under the duvet, staring curiously at the box in Tom's hands.
The four-years-old grinned, clutching the box tightly. A wonderful, childish elation appeared on his face, a pure sort of happiness that she had never seen on his face. Dressed in his adorable, puppy-print pyjamas, the boy sat on his bed and opened the box in his hands. He showed her the content of the precious box— a new set of twelve multi-coloured crayons laid in a row. Under the furnace's glow, their waxy surfaces shimmered with all colours of the rainbow.
"What are those?"
"Crayons. For me... Ssssso I can draw more skulls."