NOTE: This is a translation of a Chinese HP Fanfiction by 墨玉绿
BETA: the great and wonderful Paperthins.
December 23, 1932
Wizards were born with the gift of magic, but it lied dormant, asleep in their bloodstreams, until the right moment when a child needed his power the most. In that moment, his magic would come to him, in full, unpredictable force, awoke once it truly belonged to him. Wizards called this — accidental magic. Of course, sometimes accidental magic could be dangerous; sometimes it could even lead to magical explosions.
But Tom didn't know any of this. To him, it was only revenge.
After his power dissipated, it left behind quite the messy carnage in the room. Furniture and broken shreds scattered everywhere. Nothing was left in tact. Without whirling sounds of flying objects, the room seemed eerily quiet, silent like the dead...well, except for Billy's muffed sobs. Harry stood in the middle of the room, his face pale, unsure how to react to the mess. His chest tightened as he surveyed the damage, all the destruction that Tom had caused.
Harry stopped Tom with his magic. But the damage had already been done.
Before he could think of what to say, Tom took a step toward him.
Throughout the last twenty years of his life, Harry had never felt so conflicted toward another person, but Tom... Tom was always special. One second, he felt disheartened by Tom's natural, cruel tendencies; but the next, he felt a great tenderness toward the small boy standing proudly in front of him, all alone, black eyes distrusting the world.
Tom stood facing him. Proud eyes met his gaze. Blood dripped from a terrible gash on the boy's face. The wound ran along his eyelids to the tip of his nose, barely sparing his eyeballs. But it didn't seem to bother Tom. The boy's face remained a mask, unnaturally calm for a child his age, ebony eyes hidden by deep, dark emotions.
Tom might've looked calm, but Harry could discern, beneath that hard-kept pretence, the child was upset. Even if, one day in the future, Tom would become the Dark Lord... at least right now, in front of Harry, he was still a scared little boy in need of guidance.
Before Harry could console the boy, he heard an angry screech coming behind them.
"HARRY! STAY AWAY FROM HIM! HE IS... HE IS A FREAK!"
Finally, Billy snapped from the paralyzing shock. Perhaps... after barely escaping death, Billy finally realized that he was provoking a power which he knew nothing of. That kind of power was unnatural! No human beings should be able to command such a force — such unnatural power— so terrible, formidable, and evil. He screamed at Harry, his voice cracking with hysteria.
Billy pointed accusingly at Tom, fingers trembling uncontrollably, whether due to pain or fear he did not know. For once, the boy's pitiful state was genuine and not a pretence put on for Harry' sake.
Momentarily, the Muggle boy's reaction surprised Harry, but then...he supposed that it shouldn't have. Children could be ignorant and insensitive, especially in face of things they didn't understand. Suddenly, Harry realized his mistake. He realized his mistake from the expression on Tom' face, as the child's lips trembled at that word — 'freak'. In that moment, Harry's heart hurt for Tom; it hurt for all the damage his careless mistake had caused.
If Billy wasn't so paralyzed with fear, the cunning boy would've surely noticed the regret flashing across Harry's face. But he wasn't paying attention, and so Billy made his first mistake — his one honest reaction would prove fatal to his plans.
"FREAK! FREAK! FREAK! FREAK! — DIE! FREAK! DIE!"
The common insult hurled toward them, over and over again, like stone thrown at criminals, weighted down by centuries of fears and witch hunts. Tom's expression became blank as Billy screamed louder and louder. Ebony eyes shadowed with dead resignation. Faltering, Harry wanted to cover his ears, to spare the child from the hatred and abuse.
See, Harry wanted to let Tom know that he understood him. He was the same. He understood what it felt like... being called a freak, being rejected, bullied, and feared... all because they were different. Harry wanted to tell him, wrapping his arms around the four-year-old, that he was not a freak.
But... how to begin?
"BILLY! SHUT UP!"
Harry's stern voice stunned Billy. The boy looked up and saw Harry's pale face glaring at him. Billy blinked in confusion; the young man had never used such cold and stern expression with him.
Harry watched as fear and hatred twisted Billy's face, as the normally well-behaved boy turned into Dudley and his friends. Then, he knew where it went wrong. This was a mistaken from the beginning.
Billy was still a muggle. No matter how much Harry wished for mutual friendship, muggles and wizards were still from different worlds. How can two children, who'll never be truly equal, grow up together as brothers?
Harry pursed his lips. He approached Billy, his tone softening as he inspected the boy's injuries.
"Billy, come with me. We need to get you treated—"
Now, all alone in the ravaged bedroom, Tom could barely remain standing. The accidental magic had drained all his energy. His knees felt like rubber; his hands trembled. His new power was devastating, unforgivable, and it had reduced the newly furnished room to rubble. Through the broken windows, the dusking sun lit the room aflame with an intense orange glow —unbothered by the battle that had raged — which made his victory feel rather empty.
But... he had won. He scared Billy to (almost) death; he caused Harry to turn pale with dread. He had his revenge. But then... why did it feel so empty? Sorrow drenched him like freezing rain and disappointment nailed his feet to the floor.
Outside, a carriage approached the house. Tom could hear the driver calling out, "did someone called for a cab for number 15 London Street?"
The boy sneered coldly. Even though no one was watching, he tried hard to keep the disappointment and panic from showing on his face. Of course, he knew what was coming — it was time for him to return to the orphanage.
After all, this was his own plan, wasn't it? He had unleashed his power willingly; he had conquered and terrified them. So now, surely, they were eager to get rid of him, eager to chase away the dangerous beast that he was... So he was going back to the orphanage, to where he didn't have to pretend to care, where he could fight and explore and destroy to his heart's content.
Unexpectedly, the boy felt something wet dripping down his face. He was crying, and that made him angry. Tom wanted to remain strong even if no one was watching, but tears just kept on falling. Trembling, he couldn't even muster the strength to raise his hands to wipe them away.
As the child's body quivered, the little snake detected his distraught. But she had no arms to comfort him, so she only wrapped herself tighter around his wrist.
Suddenly, the door was opened. Harry had returned. He was alone, carrying a first-aid kit in his hands. Tom took a deep breath. Quickly, he wiped his tears and gritted his teeth. As he glared at the approaching figure, his eyes remained red-rimmed, but also sharp and distrustful like a wolf cub snarling at intruders.
"I've — I've brought you medicine." Harry smiled at the child, with what he hoped was a reassuring expression. He waved the first-aid kit.
A dreadful, deep gash ran across the boy's face, mangled with dried blood and pink flesh. But Tom didn't pay it much attention. Instead, he stood stiffly, ebony eyes as indiscernible as deep seas.
The child asked, "Why aren't you afraid of me?"
His tone was light and nonchalant, but only himself knew the effort it took to say those simple words.
Harry tried to smile again, but his heart twisted as Tom's clear eyes stared up at him, flickering between distrust and hope. Suddenly, he wanted to hug the child.
Harry laid the medical kit on an upturned dresser. He approached Tom, ignoring the angry glares, and knelt besides the boy. He inched forward, carefully, until their faces were close to one another, their eyes met.
"Why would I be afraid of you?" Harry sighed deeply, emerald eyes warm and gentle as always.
The boy's face twisted into a wide sardonic smile. His wound began bleeding again.
"Because I am a freak," The boy replied simply, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Yes, Tom always knew that he is a freak, different from all the other children. Better than them all—but he never had any reason to doubt his freakish nature. Suddenly, Tom's chest tightened. He couldn't breathe as those green eyes looked back at him, just as kind and beautiful as he remembered.
"No," Harry said firmly.
No? — Tom looked up at Harry. The young man looked lost, as if he was struggling to keep his true feelings hidden. Hidden from Tom. The child blinked. Anger, disappointment, and sadness overwhelmed his mind. The emotions stunned his eyes, threatening to turn into tears again.
"I know that you are planning to send me away," Tom interrupted rudely.
His voice was high-pitched and angry, sharp as a knife, as he stated the truth. The anger spilled from his dark eyes, and finally the child shed his mask. Standing straight proudly, with teeth clenching and fists trembling, Tom yelled at Harry in a fit of childish rage. For once, he acted his age.
"Don't pretend to care about me. Don't lie to me... Just tell me to go. And I will—I KNOW THAT YOU HATE ME!"
Harry felt like someone had punched him in the guts. This was the first time that Harry saw Tom, who was normally so quiet and so mature, throwing a temper tantrum like all the other children. Harry's eyes widened in shock. He was at a lost for words.
"I know that you hate me... but then... why did you bother to adopt me?"
Tears wet the boy's face as he struggled to maintain his composure. Tom stood tall and proud, face fierce, not willing to let anyone get close to him.
Harry didn't expect to see Tom cry. He paused, eyes fixed on the child before him.
Compare to other children, Tom even cried in a prideful way — he kept still, tears dropping from red-rimed eyes, but his face looked angry, vicious, and certainly not as pitifully as most wailing children. Tom rubbed his eyes with an unnecessary force, ripping open the wound. Blood and tears clung to his cheeks. Still, Tom stifled his sobbing forcefully, making a sad choking noise that sounded like strange cries of wolf cubs.
Tom wiped his eyes angrily.
Crying is weak! Crying is useless! He doesn't need childish tears to gain sympathy. He doesn't need—
Suddenly, from somewhere close to his ears, Tom heard a deep sigh, then he was pulled into a warm embrace.
He was enveloped in soft fabrics and a familiar scent — a scent that was warm and nostalgic, like flames on a cold winter night. Comforting arms wrapped around his back, pressing into tense muscles reassuringly. Tom felt a warm breath tickling his neck, hot moist air on his skin, almost seeping new life into him. For a moment, the sudden, firm warmness made Tom felt saved, like a drowning man being pulled from icy waters.
A hand stroked his back awkwardly. Its owner clearly didn't have much experience dealing with crying children.
"Don't cry. Everything will be fine—"
Harry, who hugged Tom tightly, was doing his best to calm the child. He could see Tom was on the verge of breaking point, but he didn't know what to say... So he acted on instinct. He wrapped his arms around the boy, and, rather stupidly, he repeated the only words that he could think of:
People with kids would know better than this. They knew that you couldn't indulge a crying child, because — the more you try to comfort him, the harder he sobs.
But the sight of those tears panicked Harry. So he closed his arms around the child, trying to protect him from the world.
Tom didn't move. He let the warm hug surround him, soothing and alluring, and somehow it made his tears flow even faster. Through the softness of sweater, Tom felt the young man's heartbeat aligning with his own, and, as Harry's arms tightened around him, Tom felt safe for the first time in his young life. He grabbed Harry's shirt and buried himself into soft cotton, breathing in the other's scent. Then the child wept like never before.
That vicious rage, which seemed to have followed Tom all his life, vanished completely.
So this is— Harry Potter, Tom thought, as he laid his forehead on the young man's shoulder. He felt so warm, as Harry continued to repeat his silly, comforting words, silly yet melodic to Tom's ears.
"You are not a freak," Harry finally said.
Tom pulled on Harry's shirt. Blood and tears stained the young man's expensive clothing, but Harry didn't mind. He ruffled the boy's hair until Tom finally lifted his head to look at him. Tom's large, ebony eyes were bloodshot, his cheeks flushed. With tears still clinging on his eyelashes, Tom stared at Harry, enthralled, an odd little expression on his face, odd with an intense affection that border-lined on obsession.
Harry thought he looked very cute. When the boy grows up, he's going to be a lady killer, that one, Harry thought fondly.
"Watch this,' Harry smiled at Tom. He waved his hand. "Reparo!"
Suddenly, all crossed the room, everything—scattered toys, broken furniture, shattered frames— all mended magically. They rose into the air and arranged, neatly, back into their original positions. Even the window pane stitched itself back together, not a crack to be seen on its smooth, gleaming surface.
In less than a minute, the bedroom looked like new, as if nothing happened at all.
The scene shocked Tom. Everything that he had hoped for, the fleeting impossible dream that he was denied for so long, was suddenly coming true. Fervent happiness overcame him like a tsunami, coming forth so fast that Tom could only stare blankly.
Harry held Tom's dazed gaze, green eyes earnest and understanding, and said. "Tom, you and I, we are not freaks."
Harry felt a deep sadness as he recognized the unbridled ecstasy in Tom's face. Perhaps, all Tom needed was to hear the truth— that he belongs somewhere. And perhaps, Harry should've told him so from the beginning.
However, once again, Harry misread the child's emotions. Yes, Tom was euphoric, but he was elated for a different reason—he was elated to find a special connection between them. If both Tom and Harry were special, this meant that they were also equal. This meant Harry was no ordinary, weak human. This meant Harry too was destined for greatness. Most importantly, this meant Harry was fated to stand by his side!
This was why Tom felt such happiness swelling in his chest—because now he knew that Harry belonged with him, to him, and only to him.
"Is it just the two of us?" The child asked.
"No. There are a lot more, just like us, who are wizards."
Tom pursed his lips. He lowered his gaze to hide his disappointment.
Well, that's too bad. Although the tears barely dried on his face, the child managed to crack a mysterious smile. At least, now he knew an important fact— that the person who will be spending Christmas at the Orphanage...It won't be him.