September 10, 1942
Harry was startled awake by a loud noise and he fumbled with his glasses. The smiling face of his fellow judge, Alphonse, came into focus.
"Sorry for waking you up." Alphonse laughed as he scratched his hair.
Harry smiled. Alphonse exuded a cheerfulness that was infectious.
"Are you doing anything today?" Alphonse asked. "If you've got nothing planned, would you like to come have a duel?"
"Sure." Harry agreed readily.
There weren't many people attending at the moment, probably because most of the students were in their classes. Harry wasn't very familiar with the room they were in but he had been in it during his second year when he'd had that duel with Malfoy. At the time, that duel had seemed so important to him but now he could almost laugh at the childishness of it.
"Good job!" Alphonse suddenly cheered. Harry's attention snapped to the stage.
The duel was between two older students who were tussling on the stage, wands thrown to the side. One of the students had his elbow pressed to the others neck, ending the duel in triumph.
Harry was surprised. "They were dueling wandlessly?"
"Yes," Alphonse said with excitement, "close combat is very important for young wizards to learn."
"Well, it's our turn now!" Alphonse was practically bouncing he was so giddy now that the previous two had finished their duel. Grabbing hold of Harry's hand he pulled him to the stage.
Tom was standing beside Cygnus Black near the dueling stage. He watched as the two men fell into a fighting stance on the meter high platform.
This was the first time that Tom had seen Harry truly fighting. It was so unlike when they had been escaping the bombing of London, fleeing from danger. Here Harry was embracing the battle. The combat was beautiful, even dazzling.
Tom had never seen anything like Harry, with his vigorous attacks. Every gesture of his wand was just right, not a movement wasted. His bright green eyes were focused and fiery. All the eyes in the dueling room were on him. The kind of self-confidence and strength he exuded drew the spotlight to him with no conscious effort on his part.
But as the young man watched the duel he unconsciously narrowed his eyes. It was becoming a habit to watch Harry. It was addictive to try to find additional weaknesses in the man. He focused on the other person, pulling his eyes away from Harry. The teenager recalled that this was Alphonse Tullson. Like Harry, he was a Triwizard Tournament judge from the Ministry of Magic.
Tom thought that he looked rather unsightly.
"They're really amazing!" Cygnus Black sighed, looking at the variety of colors being flung on the dueling platform, eyes full of admiration, totally unaware of the way Tom's thoughts were turning.
Harry finally saw the opening he had been waiting for and quickly shot off an Expelliarmus. Alphonse tried to counter too late. In a last ditch effort before the spell hit, he tried to turn away from it but in an instant his wand hand was hit. The man's wand flew over the dueling platform as everyone watched. Harry had won the duel.
"He won!" Cygnus couldn't help but look at Harry with eager eyes. Part of it was simply the curiosity he felt at seeing Harry's face up close. Like Abraxas Malfoy before him, he asked Tom, "Merlin, is he really your father? He looks so young."
Harry didn't expect that Tom would be in the room. Because he wasn't looking he didn't see him standing nearby. He just stepped off of the dueling platform, a bit out of breath. An arm came down heavily on his shoulders.
"You did great, lad!" Alphonse couldn't care less about Harry's sweaty neck or damp hair, reaching up with his hand to mess up the youth's already messy hair. He rubbed hard and relinquished Harry only when he had thoroughly messed it all up.
Alphonse and Ron were very similar, both in the way that they smiled and in their body language. There was a kind of easygoing nature that they shared. Because of these similarities, despite that a sweaty Alphonse was touching him; Harry didn't feel the slightest bit of disgust.
Harry gave a large grin in response to Alphonse's.
For the first time, Tom found Harry's smile ugly.
With the exception of the Triwizard Tournament announcement, Tom had not seen Harry around Hogwarts. The castle wasn't that large and yet he had remained hidden from Tom for a suspiciously long time. Even Ovidius's attempts at trying to hide from Tom had failed rather quickly, with Tom crossing paths with him several times. Still, he hadn't come across Harry. How? The more Harry used his clever tricks to get away the more he gave himself away.
In the September weather just moving around made people hot and sweaty. After the duel, the two men were sweating to the tips of their hair. Despite this they were very close together. Harry avoided Tom but not the uncomfortably sweaty and warm man he'd been dueling?
Tom stared at Harry, narrowing his eyes. His glare rested on the arm around Harry's neck. He thought of resting his head on Harry's shoulder, biting, licking at the man's most vulnerable areas. Not one inch of that smooth delicate skin would be untouched by Tom.
And that Alphonse Tullson dared rest his arm there, his skin touching Harry's, standing so close that he could no doubt feel Harry's body heat! Tom took a deep breath. The idea of anyone touching his property left him feeling extremely possessive.
Alphonse smiled, hugged Harry, and Harry smiled back.
Tom hated the contact between them.
Much like the way he feels that no one should be able to enjoy themselves when he's in a foul mood; when Harry shuns him no one else should bask in Harry's company. When there were such barriers between them, when they were on such thin ice, how could he possibly tolerate another person coming between them?
He couldn't stand it, so he fixed a handsome smile on his face and walked into Harry's line of sight.
Cygnus didn't have time to ask what Tom was doing and could only hurry to catch up to him.
"Harry." Tom greeted. The man looked at Tom and saw something off in his otherwise happy looking face. Tom's eyes shone with a kind of malicious light.
Harry had been in the middle of laughing but the sight of the young man caused the laugh to catch in his throat.
"Tom," Harry said. It wasn't as if he wasn't pleased to see the child but it still felt too early to face him. He couldn't help the feeling of guilt and helplessness that rose at the sight of Tom. He could feel the sense of joy he'd been feeling fracture.
He knew he'd have to face this predicament at some point. The child's temper had not cooled down as he'd been hoping. Harry had no particular talent with words and could not change the awkward atmosphere with a glib manner. He could only try to break the tension.
"I thought you were in class." asked Harry, awkwardly.
"I'm sorry; I'm not bothering you, am I?" Tom was still smiling, but the words were thorny.
"No." Harry quickly shook his head.
"Really?" Tom looked at Alphonse who was still standing beside Harry. "Good morning, Mr. Tullson."
Alphonse was taken aback by the way the boy addressed him so seriously and it took him a few seconds to react.
"Good morning, and who are you?" Alphonse scratched his head sheepishly as he asked.
"I'm Tom Riddle and Harry is my…" Tom paused, his eyes flickering, "father."
He could feel his tongue press lightly against his teeth when saying the word. With the exception of "mother" it's undoubtedly one of the most common things to call someone. But his father was not common at all. Even in height, Harry was only half a head taller than his child.
Father? No one understood more than Harry about Tom Riddle's feelings of indifference to family. Tom thought his mother a coward, he was disgusted by his muggle father, and as he grew older he distanced himself from his name. The one thing he inherited from his father, he would replace.
Harry had never thought to truly replace Tom's father; his aim was off from the outset because of his ulterior motives. He had taken on everything but that most outstanding responsibility of Tom. That the child saw him as such was not much of a surprise, all things considered, but it was flattering regardless. Harry smiled, touched.
Alphonse, however, was very surprised.
"It looks like you're in your twenties, how are you a father?" Alphonse's eyes were as wide as dinner plates.
"I turned thirty-six years old this year." Harry said, still smiling and looking at Tom with softening eyes.
Tom smiled back. "Father, why don't we have a duel ourselves, just for fun?"
Father was a word with teeth; the bite of it gave Tom a strange kind of satisfaction. They know they're not father and son, not even in name, but the word "father" implied a kinship of blood. That kind of relationship is both strong and vulnerable in the most obscure ways. The powerful the connection between family members tended to be more difficult to break.
That feature alone was enough to be fascinating, the deep connections of flesh and blood. The thought of having Harry that entwined with him gave Tom a possessive sort of satisfaction.
Unfortunately, they're not related. Truly a pity.
There were, however, methods described in his books that could achieve a similar kind of effect. The young dark lord could afford to wait a while.
The teenager carefully concealed his thoughts and faced Harry expectantly. He took the initiative and stepped onto the dueling platform.
The majority of Harry's dueling skills came from what he had learned fighting Voldemort. And now in the form of a face to face duel, he'd use those skills against Tom.
The past and the future were now in some form of strange loop; Harry using the skills he learned fighting Voldemort would teach Voldemort those skills.
There was no doubt about the results of the duel. Harry had been at the front of a war for three years. Tom didn't have much chance of winning. Tom was, however, practically born for combat, or more accurately, for violence and death.
The teenager's terrible attacks had raw talent behind them. Tom could accurately predict the other wand's range and power and cast spells at the opportune moment. There was also a great deal of accuracy in his attacks which were both arrogant and bold, though his movements were guided by caution. Harry felt this duel could be trickier than his duel with Alphonse.
Tom danced too fast. Using his body in conjunction with his magic he fought tenaciously. He looked increasingly delighted as Harry had to concentrate more and more on the fight. It was as if he was appreciating the view of his most treasured flower blooming before his eyes.
And how true that was; just in front of him Harry was blossoming!
Every time Harry cast Expelliarmus Tom dodged or deflected it. In a daring move Harry darted forward, swift as a panther, in order to use a different kind of attack to disarm Tom.
Harry used his close proximity to knock Tom to the ground where he held him with his arm pressed against the youth's slender white neck, panting, ending the battle.
"You're very powerful, father." Tom said with feeling. He could feel the power in the man's body, the movement of his breathing, his violently beating heart. Harry grinned down at him and with some shortness of breath Tom smiled back.
They were so close that they could feel each other breathing in a rare moment of harmony.
But hidden beneath it there was suspicion, anger, and a desire for control on one side while on the other side, guilt, helplessness, and despair were things only temporarily forgotten.
Harry couldn't imagine that the child who called him father would be ready to calmly stroll to Slughorn's office and open the book of their lives to a page that he had never wanted revealed.