47 Days to Change (a translation) @snow_owl01
Baits and the Cave

Chapter 18

NOTE: This is a translation of a Chinese HP Fanfiction by 墨玉绿

parseltongue

October 26, 1935.

Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. The morning of the first October was crisp and golden as an apple.*

What a perfect description for a perfect October day —warm sun kissing happy faces and cool wind caressing messy hairs. It was perfect day for a field trip.

The primary school took the children to a beach. It was a rather desolate stretch of ocean, furious waves beating against jagged rocks on white sand, nothing like the fun, golden beach that they had hoped for. Cold winds swirled around them, warning all that winter is coming fast.

As violent waves invaded the empty beach, teachers and parents looked upon their destination with disdain. They set up a picnic area somewhere far from the waters, and watched the children play from afar. The children, though, didn't mind the isolation. The rural, empty space was new to them, so they were eager to explore.

Tom stood on the beach, coolly observing other children's games, as they chased after each other, laughing, yelling.

How boring! How obnoxious they all are!

Tom watched from afar, with cold, dark eyes that couldn't conceal his inner turmoil.

Harry should've come with him on this field trip... but Harry wasn't around anymore. It had been about a month since the man had left—almost one whole month... gone— and Tom had already begun to question whether or not Harry would come back at all.

The man promised him... Five months.

Tom hated feeling like this. So helpless. He hated himself— his weak, useless self who clung to Harry so desperately, who relied on Harry for his very own survival. Once again, he understood his own powerlessness. He was powerless to stop Harry from leaving. He was powerless to do anything more than waiting, day after day, wallowing in his own miserable uncertainty.

Tom never desired power more so than he did in that moment. With all his heart, he wished for enough power to stop Harry from leaving him again, ever. Never again.

Harry would always belong to him... because Tom would never let the man go.

Even if, some day in the future, when Tom no longer wants Harry, even then... he would rather destroy Harry with his own hands than to ever let him go.

Tom needed more power... because he wanted — needed — to have Harry in his grasp. He needed to control Harry. He needed to turn Harry into a person who relied on him— who relied on Tom and on him alone — someone who clung onto Tom with the same desperate need that burned within Tom's mind.

Tom needed more power. Lots and lots more... power and influence and knowledge. He needed to grow.

"Tom!" A pretty girl, in a floral-print dress, ran toward him. She screeched to a halt, when she caught sight of the twisted smile on his red lips.

No matter where he was, Tom always attracted attention. He inherited all of Riddle Senior's good looks. The seven-year-old was beautiful and noble, always dressed and carried himself appropriately. He had the rarest, most wonderful eyes — pure black orbs that captivated everyone— and he had a head full of rich, well-coiffed, jet-black hair to match. Tom's charisma was special even among the crème de la crème of Slytherin society, so never mind in this small, muggle school.

The young boy already knew how to use his good looks to his advantage. A handsome face matched with a refined and courteous personality, combined with a mysterious and tragic past, instantly, Tom became the most popular boy in school. Even the teachers, with their motherly ways, could not resist his charms.

The girl bounced toward him, shouting his name. She wanted to show Tom her pretty new dress. Plus the most handsome boy in school shouldn't be all alone... She nodded to herself, yes, she'll help him!

Instantly, Tom's expression shifted. His red lips curled politely; his black eyes softened; and all traces of dark and vitriolic thoughts vanished into a blinding smile.

"Yes? What is it?"

She peered at him, puzzled by the flash of cruel smile that lingered in her memory. Then, she smiled back, trusting and eager, as she tagged on his sleeves. "Come with me, Tom. Let's go play!"

Tom hid his annoyance, as he discreetly removed his sleeves from her grasp. He petted the snake concealed under his coat, to placate his pet, so it would stop squirming after the girl's unwelcome intrusion.

"No thanks. I'll pass," replied Tom. He gave a disgusted dismissal toward the children skipping stones on the shores, but quickly adjusted his expression into a shy smile.

She saw the hesitance on his face, which just furthered her resolute to help him. She beamed at him, "That's alright, Tom. You are my friend now! ... I'll introduce you to everyone."

Tom nodded obediently, looking ever the sweet, handsome boy. But, in his mind, Tom sneered — idiot. He didn't want to play with children. The only amusement they could provide him was by acting like fools— fools who believed his model student act, who loved him for it, even as he manipulated them from unseen shadows.

"ALLIE! Why are you talking to him!"

The downside to being popular was jealousy from other stupid little boys.

"He's just an orphan— dirty, poor, but lucky enough to be adopted by a rich dad," the leader of a gang of boys rounded toward them. The older boy shouted loudly on purpose, eyes challenging Tom.

Tom didn't react. It was true; he was just a lucky orphan.

The girl glanced at Tom nervously. She turned and hissed at the approaching boys, "Stop it!"

The tall boy shouted, "Why? It's all true! Isn't it?"

"Yes, it's all true... Harry is a very good adoptive... father." Tom narrowed his eyes. The word 'father' rolled off his tongue slowly, as if he was unhappy with the common label.

Eagerly, the boys were edged on by Tom's apparent passivity. All at once, they spilled everything they've heard from their parents.

"Hey, I heard that your father doesn't want you anymore."

"Yeah, yeah. I heard that he's disappeared for one month! Bet you he's never coming back!"

Tom's smile remained unwavering, but his fingers moved toward where the snake hid beneath soft fabric. Its cold body coiling around his arm, poisonous fans extended, readying to strike.

Tom hesitated. He looked toward the teachers and parents standing far behind them. Too bad... they could still see them. Then, Tom's eyes flickered toward a distant cave; its cavernous opening dark and welcoming like a hungry mouth.

Tom released his hold on the snake. He rewarded those yapping boys with an unreadable smile, ebony pupils constricted with the intense focus of a viper stalking its preys.

Calmly, he answered them, "You are wrong, by the way. He didn't disappear for a month, just for twenty-six days."

At lunch time, the teachers gathered up the children around a picnic blanket.

The kindly nanny had packed Tom a luxurious lunch, full of delicious treats.

Tom waved a cheery-jam scone in front of the children.

He offered his lunch to them, smiling earnestly as they all focused hungrily on the box in his hands. "Goodness! I can't finish all these by myself. Who wants to share?"

"Me!" "No, me!" The children shouted, pushing each other out of the way to reach the scones, glistening with thick, sweet cheery-jam.

"But—" Tom suddenly tugged the box away, looking down at the scones with a troubled expression. "Too bad that I... that I didn't bring enough for everybody—"

Tom's eyes rolled over their eager faces. How boring! No challenge in playing these fools, he thought.

"Say, later, I want to go explore that cave over there. I'll share my lunch with anyone who will come with me."

The children looked at the dark cave that Tom indicated. They couldn't see into its pitch-black depth, but something strange and ominous seemed to be lurking just beyond. They recoiled, suddenly frightened.

"Cowards," Tom sneered at a gang of boys.

Such a simple provocation technique— a direct challenge, simple but very effective, especially on those impetuous idiots.

"I'll come with you! And so will he," No surprise that the tall boy took the bait right away. The idiot even dragged his friend into it. "And after... you promise to give us all your food?"

"Of course," Tom nodded, grinning like a satisfied cat.

All my food? Well, sure, and I'll personally make sure you have no teeth left to enjoy them with.

"Ri... Riddle... Let's go back," said the boy, voice cracking with fear, as he followed Tom further and further into the cave's dark interior. Everything was pitch-black. All they could see was a vague outline of Tom leading them into the unknown. Salty wet air filled their nostrils.

"But we just got here," replied Tom sweetly.

He walked fast, his eyes growing brighter in the darkness. There was something special up ahead at the center of this cave. Tom felt a distinct power hidden there. Amongst the jagged limestone, there was a dark and deadly force calling out to Tom, like an irresistible Siren song. A sinister force saturated the cavern's air. Its strangeness resonated with Tom's dark magic, as it reached out to him, almost like an eager servant.

All Tom wanted was to teach those boys a lesson, but now... it seemed that he had found something even better. Well, now he'll have to repay them with a bigger gift, won't he?... To thank them for leading him here.

Tom grinned darkly, anger twisting his handsome face into jagged edges, sharper and more dangerous than ragged rocks all around them.

All those, who defy him, must be punished!

Tom's mask was perfect, so the boys didn't realize how much their words angered him.

Harry... doesn't want him anymore. As soon as the thought popped into his head, Tom's blood boiled. Dark magic and rage whirled within him, ready to explode. His mind burned with anger and there was only one thing that could calm him— revenge. He'll make them hurt. He'll make sure they shut up. He'll make sure they never speak Harry's name in front of him again.

By happenstance, the two boys had attacked Tom with the one topic that was untouchable. So, as they walked behind Tom, unassuming and unsuspecting in their callousness, they had doomed themselves.

Finally, they reached the end of the tunnel. But there was no light there, only a large body of black water in front of them, its surface calm and sinister like a horizontal mirror.

"Riddle! I'm... I'm going back," stuttered the tall boy, legs trembling.

Tom's spared them a lazy glance. There was no need to pretend anymore. Tom grinned into the darkness, and, suddenly, an unseen force tossed the boys into the air. They fell, head-first, into the cold, dark waters.

"AHHHH!" They screamed as salty liquid drenched them, chilling to the bones. "DAMN YOU, RIDDLE!"

Finally, the boys realized Tom was leading them away to exact revenge on them. They cursed at him, screaming as they struggled to stay afloat.

Tom licked his lips. No, this is not enough to exonerate their rudeness... More, more

Suddenly, the two boys froze in fear. From the depth of the waters, something cold and soft tangled up their legs. It felt leathery, soft, almost like skin. They turned stiffly, and saw, emerging from the water, many colourless faces staring up at them — faces with eroded, empty holes of eye-sockets turning toward them.

"How... extraordinary," Tom could barely contain his excitement as he emerged from the cave, alone. His eyes shone beautifully like precious obsidian.

It almost felt like the very moment he had discovered Harry was the same as him. The ecstasy he had felt finding out how magic connected Harry to him. And now, he experienced a different kind of joy. Magic could be different from what Harry had showed him. Harry was light. He would never show Tom the true extent of cruel destruction that magic could bring. But now Tom had seen it with his own eyes. Dark magic and its wonderful, unforgiving powers. And it shook him to the very core.

"HELP!" screamed the boys. They tried to run, but their legs turned to jelly. The living corpses climbed on top of them. The stench of long-dead things filled the air, and disgusting body fluid dripped onto their clothing. Fear pumped through their veins, crawling up their throat, until nothing else remained.

Finally, they couldn't take it anymore. They fainted, falling to the ground in a thud, nested among the dead creatures as if they belonged with them.

Tom watched their terror with cold eyes. He smiled with satisfaction, then retracted his magic.

They can't die here...It'll lead to trouble. Tom still wanted to keep the cave a secret, for now.

The teachers found the three missing boys on the other side of the beach.

Two of the children were wounded and drenched in some foul-smelling liquid from head-to-toe. One of the boys, the tall one, had a terrible gash on his arm, and he was feverish, drifting in and out of consciousness. When they asked them what had happened, none of the children could explain. The two boys mumbled some nonsense, in broken sentences, body rocking back and forth in terror.

They said something about dead people crawling out of the sea... Must been a heck of a hallucination, hmm?

*Quote from J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

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