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47 Days to Change (a translation) @snow_owl01
For Whom the Bell Tolls

Chapter 30

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

BETA: the brilliant and awesome AzulticSerpens

August 27, 1939

The world was grey with dust and smoke that clogged the air. Bombs had filled London with flames and explosions and bursts of lights, turning the city into bleak chaos of black soot and red glows. It was dusk. But Hitler's celebration was just beginning. London was their stage, a fancy exhibition to show off all the power and might of the Nazi's new technologies and weaponry.

This was a real war, a muggle's war. Even wizards appeared insignificant before the terrible flashes and swarm of airplanes, humming in the sky, casting shadow of death upon them all. Dodging falling shells, people ran for their lives, hiding, praying; severed arms and legs poked out from under the rubble, pale and macabre yet ignored. Rocks fell; people screamed; bullets sliced through soft flesh. Along the burning streets, even ancient oaks bent to the enemy, their branches trembling, as if they could sense flames crawling toward their roots.

Harry couldn't even remember how many times he had fallen. His mind was pained and muddled; he couldn't even tell north from south. Yet, his body moved on its own, like a programmed robot determined to fulfill its mission. He ran, protecting the precious little boy in his arms.

Fate sneered at them. Indeed, it could not erase Harry's presence there. Yet, history demanded for it to punish the time-traveller who dared to go against the tide of time. Fate nodded.

So he couldn't die — but he could suffer.

"Harry," a soft head kneaded against Harry's neck, whispering into his ears, which still rang from the constant bombardments. It sounded like the soft whine of a wolf pup. "You... you aren't going to abandon me, are you?"

Although his tone was quiet and respectful, only Tom knew how much Harry's answer meant to him. In that moment, as he waited, Tom hated this dreadful feeling of apprehension and neediness. Slytherins were men of actions. They attacked instead waited, always landing the first blow.

Therefore, he slid on his mask, pretending to fall into vulnerability, to plead, even, for Harry's sympathy and protection. Again, he had asked: Are you going to abandon me?

Yet, beneath that mask of a helpless child, beneath that soft pleading tone, his eyes turned dark and ominous, as cold as ice as he compressed all emotions into himself. Passively, Tom pressed his head against Harry's neck, listening to every beat of the man's erratic pulse.

As he waited, his teeth clenched so hard that his gums hurt.

Harry's ears were still ringing from the boom of explosions, so the boy's words had only sounded vague and muffled.

What... was Tom saying?

With great difficulty, Harry blinked; sweat and dust had almost glued his eyelids shut.

If he hadn't been protected by rules of time-travel, Harry was sure that he would've died by now.

But, even if his mind and senses were drowning in a sea of exhaustion and pain, he still noticed the spike in the boy's emotions, vaguely, through the slightest tremor in the child's voice.

Was he afraid?

Harry felt his tired muscles turning as stiff as rocks. He didn't even have the strength to speak. He was only able to crank his neck a little, so his chin rested on top of the boy's head reassuringly, letting his actions speak for him.

Don't be afraid. I'm with you.

Tom tightened his arms around Harry's neck. He didn't want to let go of the faint warmth seeping through the young man's skin.

The little boy pressed closer, almost burying his head into the man's neck, breathing heavily as he greedily inhaled the familiar scent. Warm and overwhelmingly addictive, his scent was so distinct even mixed with the smell of gun powder and smoke.

Harry. So this is your confession... You are promising that you won't abandon me.

Tom's lips pressed into Harry's neck, a wolf pup hiding his growing fangs and obsessed predatory grin. When Slytherins wanted commitment and affection, they only knew how to demand for it, how to take it through force and persistence and selfish lies... as if love could be forcefully obtained, as if commitment could grow from one-sided obsession, it was almost... pathetic.

Harry might have been running for only twenty minutes, but it felt like an eternity. Time seemed to have stopped, yet his pain seemed infinite.

Harry was careful to conceal Tom within his embrace. Everywhere, the blitzing of bombs buried London under sulphurous chemicals and searing heat. Harry had so many close calls. If it weren't for the protection of time's rules, he would have been burned to a crisp, many times over.

Harry wrapped his arms tightly around Tom. An eleven-year-old didn't weigh much, but under the pelting rain of shells and bullets, it was undoubtedly a heavy burden, the slim difference between survival and death.

Finally, Fate had enough of its cruel and silly cat-and-mouse game. It trembled in anticipation, grinning excitedly.

Suddenly, high in the sky, the bombers dived toward them. A hatchet beneath their metal wings opened up to reveal round barrels of machine guns. After the initial blitz had levelled all of the taller structures, it was time for phase two to eliminate all moving targets, using more precise and rapid rounds to erase all lives below.

Harry paused as a dense rain of bullets fell around him. Oddly, it reminded him of the times in his childhood spent watching Dudley play computer games, as neon spaceships were shot down by lines and dots. It almost looked and sounded like this, filling his ears with sounds of 'ratatata', and filling his vision with streaking bullets and holes appearing in the ground.

His arms were numb. Adrenaline pumped through his veins, until even the pain of his broken ribs faded away. Harry felt like he was dissociating from his own body, even his skin had lost all sensation. Only when, again, a piece of cold metal bit into his flesh, did his mind started to think again. Although Harry knew that he couldn't die in the past, he still felt scared as the strong smell of blood his own blood— filled his nostrils.

It felt like he was actually dying.

Suddenly, Harry came to a terrible conclusion. What if Hermione was wrong?

Your very presence there... can become your biggest weapon.

But... what if Hermione's theory was wrong from the beginning, what if Fate didn't care about what happened to Harry...

Harry opened his mouth, but he could only cough out more blood. Moments ago, a single bullet had torn through him, burrowing straight into his lung.

Harry's legs wobbled. More bullets pierced his body, until finally he collapsed, kneeling onto the road of hard gravel and broken glass.


Harry gasped in pain, his larynx and lungs filling with blood. He leaned forward, resting his forehead against the ground, arching his back upward, forming a temporary tent using his own body and clothing a tent just big enough to hide an eleven year old boy.

Stiffly, Tom could feel the weight of Harry's body pressing him down, protecting him. Roaring and clunking of bullets banged against his eardrums, black smoke clouded his vision, and the smell of blood filled his nostrils. Harry was very still. Suddenly, an overwhelming realization came over the boy. Shaking terribly, he reached out, fingers splayed against the young man's chest.

This was the first time that the boy didn't rejoice at the red sight of blood; this was the first time that he feared for the inevitability of death; this was the first time he felt ecstasy and relief as a heart beat beneath his fingers.

"Harry! Harry!" The young Dark Lord yelled urgently, as he struggled out of Harry's arms.

"Don't... don't move," Harry grasped, his voice terrible and weak as blood gurgled in his throat. "Don't let go of me... I won't die, Tom... You stay hidden... under my arms."

Harry shifted all his weight onto his forehead and limbs, bare skin pressing into hard gravel. Many images flashed in his mind, rapid, distorted, until the battlefield in front spun into grey and red until it vanished. There was a lustrous and dazzling light, many colours, then, suddenly, he was home again. He saw Ron, then Hermione, then the Weasley twins...

His mind was slipping. He was... dying.

In his trance, a hand was pulling at him, small but strong like the claw of a baby beast. A soft head was rubbing against his cheeks, and a small voice came from so far way: you've promised that you won't abandon me.

—...Tom Riddle?

Harry's lips quivered, almost stretching into a reassuring smile. Green eyes dimmed and squeezed shut.

Something painful was expanding in Tom's chest, making his eyes and nose sting. He had thought that he was so familiar with Harry Potter, but he never understood him. Tom never figured out Harry's goals and desires, his intentions for adopting Tom... He was Tom's enigma. It was true that he had wanted to kill Tom, yet, the next moment, he was sacrificing himself to save Tom. Suddenly, the young Slytherin felt very angry, like he had been cheated.

But now was not the time to vent his anger. Right in front of his eyes, the man was growing weaker by the second; there was only the slightest heaving of his chest and the faintest pulse of his heart that indicated some hope. It seemed like Harry's soul was slowly leaching from his body, the vibrant and warm lustre nearly gone out of his eyes, leaving behind nothing but an empty shell.

"HARRY! Don't close your eyes!" Tom screamed at the unmoving man, angrily, desperately. Rage twisted his face, hiding the true fear which arose from his very soul. "Harry! Look at me!"

The boy, who was ever so mature and brilliant for his age, panicked; he couldn't do anything but scream and watch.

Muggles! It was all their fault! Harry...this everything— was all their fault. If only they were all dead

In his desperation, the Slytherin heir turned his full-blown hatred towards the muggles. His hunger for power reached a new peak; his desire for violence grew and grew. If only he had more power, then he and Harry wouldn't be trapped in this mess. If only he had enough power, enough magic, then he could exact revenge on all those disgusting muggles, crushing them like worthless ants they were.

I won't die, Tom... You stay hidden... under my arms, the man had said. His arms were as stiff as a statue, and yet he never let go of the boy.

Tom's eyes were red and angry, bloodshot, something hot and wet seemed to be dripping down his cheeks.

Once again, he wrapped his arms around the young man's neck, drying his tears on the other's bare skin. Tom only clutched tighter, desperately pressing into the man's feeble pulse, as if he were a wolf pup trying to burrow into its mother's warm fur. He murmured, his voice hoarse and incensed, childishly demanding, threatening.

"You've promised me! You are not going to abandon me!"

He waited. Harry didn't answer.

He waited until he couldn't even hear Harry's breathing. Harry's whole body went limp, collapsing on top of Tom. Numbly, Tom could do no more than holding Harry up with his small arms, unable to stop the man's warmth from slipping through his fingertips.

Tom's mask shattered completely. His eyes turned scarlet. Suddenly, he sank his teeth into soft skin. A man's neck was his most vulnerable spot. Harry's skin was soft and delicate, and it tasted just like him, pure and sweet, like his warm and gentle smile.

"Harry, Harry, Harry, Harry, Harry..."

He repeated the name over and over again, madly, obsessively, his childish voice lost in the thuds of bullets and roars of shells. No one answered. He clutched his teeth, swallowing that name into his stomach.

He gnawed on the man's neck, until Harry's pale skin turned as raw and red as his bloodshot eyes.

Yes, he was a child. A distraught, lost little boy who was overwhelmed by the circumstances until only his vicious instincts remained he became a real wolf cub... and animals couldn't cry, they couldn't hope, they could only whimper, pleading and pathetic...and defeated.

Tom didn't even notice that no more bullets managed to hit them. An invisible shield seemed to appear around them, sealing them off from the outside world, from the deadly rain of bullets and falling debris.

Maybe Fate had finally remembered its job... or maybe it had lost interest after its intended target had... perished.

Time was a series of interlocking rings, perfect circles, syncing and reconnecting past to future.

In January of 2001, somewhere in the Ministry of Magic's head office, the Death Eaters had already seized power.

Abruptly, the handsome Dark Lord rose from his throne. His irises were glowing red, brighter than ever before, brighter than even blood that poured from a freshly slit throat.

Slowly, he pressed a hand to his chest, as his heart recovered its steady beat. He felt rather agitated.

That sensation just a moment ago— when he felt like his own heart had arrested and his insides were being hollowed out... What was that feeling?

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