December 25, 1942
"On Christmas night, in celebration of the Triwizard Tournament, there will be a formal dance – the Yule Ball."
"I will be teaching you all to dance for the occasion. Mr. Weasley, if you would come forward and be my partner for this demonstration."
"Put your hand on my waist, yes, my waist!"
Ron's face screwed up like he'd swallowed a fly. The image was still clear in Harry's mind. Laughing, he recalled the stern, unimpressed look Professor McGonagall had given Ron.
How would Ron have reacted to seeing Harry being taught to dance?
Harry, flooded with good memories, felt his eyes mist as he smiled. Following his mirth, his muscles were more relaxed and that awful sense of suffocation that had been pressing on his chest was greatly relieved. But Harry stood on a dark road, where happiness faded quickly. Each instance was like a star dotting a dark monotonous sky and, even if the only helped a tiny bit, they were enough to support a strong-willed man who had to walk a hard, thorny path.
"What are you thinking about, Harry?" Tom asked as he handed Harry the glass of juice he'd left to retrieve. "I'll give you a moment to rest and then we'll continue practicing."
After essentially agreeing to go to the dance with Mylene, Harry found that he was reluctant to make a fool of himself in front of a large crowd, and was, therefore, resigned to learn dancing from Tom. Tom was a very good teacher, perfectly executing every step, looking as though it was the most natural thing, even when he wasn't taking the lead. He also had an overwhelming aura of confidence; he explained every move, never made superfluous corrections, and even when the dance got faster, Harry could still follow along. And Harry was only slightly accustomed to the steps.
Being so close, hand resting on Tom's waist, Harry was again struck by the realization that the little boy he considered as his child had grown up. He was now several centimeters taller than Harry, and Harry could feel the strong muscles of a young man under his hand. He could even hear the deeper voice that he'd always associated with the diary. Tom had grown up and no longer needed Harry to guide him and, instead, was now teaching Harry.
Everything had changed so fast. Harry's heart dropped as he struggled to come to terms with it.
"It would have been nice, if I were actually your father." Harry twisted his lips in a painful smile, his gentle eyes sad behind his glasses.
Tom had been leading Harry into a twirl but upon hearing those words his hand tightened on Harry's shoulder, and he brought them to a halt.
"What is it?" Harry asked with surprise. Maybe Tom was getting tired.
Tom's hand slipped from his shoulder to his waist, and before Harry could react he closed the distance between them, burying his head against the side of his neck.
"Haven't you been my father?"
Harry considered it for a moment, repeating the words several times in his head. He smiled, "Of course."
Tom had learned early how to use his words and actions as a honeypot, patiently pouring honey into a cage, the taste sweet enough to distract his prey as he binds them.
The hour of the Yule Ball soon arrived.
The Great Hall had been transformed to look like a beautiful ice palace. It was like something from a fairy tale and even the magically-raised students were enchanted.
The Champions and their partners were ready, waiting for their grand entrance. Laughter broke out as the roof seemed to open on a snowy night, white fluff drifting down but never quite hitting the floor.
Abraxas Malfoy rested comfortably on a couch, his eyes on the silent Slytherin Prefect. His arm was resting around Ovidius in a way that seemed perfectly friendly, but in reality was nearly unbearable.
Tom just had to glance at the boy and, though there wasn't much anger directed at him, Ovidius shook with fear. The devil had a heart of hard stone, and, in comparison, the horrible boy beside him was made of a soft rock.
"Aren't you going to dance?" Malfoy asked with a faint smile.
Tom had once again refused the invitation of a girl. His expression, so perfectly crafted in front of Harry, was now cold and ruthless, watching the room with a predator's eyes, making Malfoy wary.
"Hey, today is Christmas. The whole point is to be happy and enjoy yourself." Malfoy reminded Tom, quietly. Tom's face eased somewhat.
Just in time for the Champions to make their grand entrance into the Yule Ball.
Mylene and Harry were the first to come forward. Even though Harry considered himself an old man, he was still gifted with that youthful look Tom had always known him to have. He didn't have the sort of handsome face Tom had, but he was fine enough to garner looks, and his temperament and power only added to his attractiveness.
Mylene had healed well and now her face was only marred by her red cheeks; a mark of merriness.
Suddenly, Abraxas understood the reason behind Tom's gloomy mood. He couldn't help but joke, "Well, it seems it didn't occur to you that he might find you a stepmother."
Tom glanced at Malfoy and the boy timidly sitting beside him.
"Oh, well it's not like I wish her ill." A joke but both Ovidius and Malfoy caught the dark undercurrent in the words.
Ovidius didn't know nearly as much about the situation as Malfoy, but the more the two of them talked the more disturbed he felt.
"Tom, you obviously care about him greatly. You don't want it to happen, right?"
"What do you mean?"
"Harry's on your mind, just looking at your face I can see that very clearly. He is your father in name only," Abraxas could not help but remind Tom.
"So what?" Wearing close-fitting dress robes, the handsome boy unconsciously narrowed his eyes as if to hide his thoughts. Jumping from his lovely lips were the macabre words, "I want to speak with him; he needs to learn he shouldn't even be allowed out of bed."
"I thought you loved him?"
"Don't make me laugh. How could I? It's just a fleshly desire."
Ovidius heard every word, and he stared wide eyed and gripped with fear at Tom, as though eyeing a terrifying monster. How could Tom entertain such dirty, awful thoughts of his father?
"We can talk about something else: London is in chaos!" Abraxas reminded him a bit sternly. Tom needed to learn to control his weaknesses, something Abraxas took pains to help with. Tom's little Electra complex was no serious problem but a man with another man was still taboo. They were lucky not to be living in their father's time or worse, the Middle Ages.
Ovidius followed Tom's stare to the dance floor and a smiling Harry. Obviously there were a dozen protection spells in the room, but the look in Tom's eyes chilled him from the inside out, hairs rising in horror. The man, watched by the hideous, terrible monster, seemed slated to be torn to bloody pieces by the creature's desire.
Maybe he could warn the man of the monster's purpose.
Ovidius felt submerged in fear and uncertainty when Tom turned his attention away from Harry. Sharp eyes stared straight into Ovidius's as he told Abraxas, "Mind his mouth." Ovidius trembled.
He was a Slytherin, not a Gryffindor, and his good thoughts became strangled under pressure and intimidation. But the seed had been planted, and would one day break past the rock suppressing it, driven by Ovidius's good convictions.
The ball around them was exceptionally lively, but they sat coolly on the sofa, a bit stiff.
"Tom, I don't wish to bring it up again, but don't you think you're overreacting?" Abraxas said, unable to resist speaking about it.
Tom wet his lips as he thought. Harry would fall for the sight of a glimmer of light, set in the smiling face of the girl dancing with him who, reflected in Tom's eyes, was basked in deep red.
"Soon it will not be an issue."
"A Horcrux is dark, very dark magic. It is an object in which a person has concealed part of their soul."
"By doing so, you are protected should you be attacked and your body destroyed. In addition, it lessens the burden of emotions on the main soul, eliminating fear, low self-esteem, and other superfluous emotions."
"And professor, how does one make a Horcrux?"
"I think you already know the answer to that."
The preliminary work had already been completed; the only thing missing was the fresh kill. The beaming thief that stole his prey would be the ideal sacrifice.
And then, he will have finally rid himself of the emotional ties Harry constrained him with. The devil would be free to move without hesitation.
Tom returned to his bedroom excited and laughing, his dark and urgent ambition seeping through his skin. He removed a beautifully decorated box from a spell-locked cupboard. Inside were numerous items; a fractured wand, a bullet that had pierced Harry's body, a piece of cloth stained with blood, but Tom pulled out a simple book from his box of treasures. He stroked the black cover, took out a quill, and wrote on the bottom corner: Tom Riddle's diary.
This diary would be the final record of Harry Potter and his hesitant child. It would seal the fate of the man and silence the crying angry child in him. Here, he would seal the weakness that had plagued him for the last ten years.
While Harry indulged in a night of fun, Fate silently guided history on the right path. The time traveler, as insignificant as a mayfly, could not grasp the futility of it all.
The Horcrux was beginning to take shape, and the savior was a step closer to the precipice.
Maybe when he had been a student, he could enjoy the wisdom of his old Headmaster, someone who could look back and see the problems so clearly but here, in the past, he couldn't even see the present. He would have to decide, with no help, whether to put his faith in the child's tolerance and trust.
Fate giggled and mocked the time traveler's weakness.
And as for the violation of the ethical bounds of their relationship, Fate didn't care about such details. What would it matter if the dark lord loved or not so long as he became the monster he was supposed to be?