Harry had the illusion he was near success; that he had successfully pulled Tom back from the darker path, and successfully prevented the child from further metamorphosis.
Tom would knock on his office door on time instead of walking alone into the Restricted Section of the library; he would silently and domineeringly occupy half of Harry's table instead of using words to lure in the best interests at the Slytherin feasts; he would take on the task of correcting homework when Harry's too busy, happily finding all grammatical errors on the Gryffindors' papers before drawing a rather shocking T on it, instead of making deceptive night tours in the name of inspection. He no longer attempted to broaden his wings, no longer expanded his interests, no longer chased his rights.
Since Professor Merrythought retired, Harry had moved into occupying the opening for Defence Against the Dark Arts teaching position, and with it, Tom became the resident guest.
Harry wasn't against it, he was even fairly happy; every time he turned his head he'd see the child's serious expression, and in the soft lighting, the sight was enough to make someone's heart swell tightly in their chest.
Tom smiled back religiously, looking like a blind man who's finally seen the light.
And if you're the type to wonder: Really?
Fate's dial won't answer you, for it can't speak.
This month may go down in history.
Gellert Grindelwald requested a duel with Dumbledore. Harry knew what this meant; it meant that the dark phase of German rule would be ended by Dumbledore.
Actually… Didn't Grindelwald just want to see Dumbledore? Even though he was draped with such pompousness.
In the current situation, the Muggle world's World War II had already come to an end, and there were only 5 months left before the Germans' surrender, followed by Hitler's suicide.
Even now, Germany was at a disadvantage and Grindelwald, who had a close alliance with Hitler, was gradually routing; even if Dumbledore didn't show up, he wouldn't have been able to support himself for long.
This so-called duel was just an excuse.
Harry knew about Grindlewald's relationship with Dumbledore; when Dumbledore died, their illicit affair graced the pages of every major publication. The old man who dedicated his all, including his true love, to the Wizarding World was suddenly pushed into the eye of the storm, to be looked at and discussed by everyone.
Harry didn't think the word 'gay' served as a stain on Dumbledore's good name, even when most media stories spun it that way. Although he couldn't understand same-sex dynamics, in his eyes, love served as a blessing instead of a stain.
And there really was no doubt; they were in love.
Even if the two were separated by the span of a hundred years and the straits and lands from England to Germany; even with the unerring boundary between life and death in 60 years, it was a fact that couldn't be changed, as it was engraved in all their emotions.
This story wasn't a fairytale - it even held the scent of death, blood and smoke - but its scenes had the same colors as one.
Once again, Harry found all his performances to have pointed to the conclusion of 'he loves him', but people in time couldn't see.
But Tom Riddle wasn't one of these people.
"Harry, why does Grindlewald want to duel Dumbledore?" Tom played with his quill, the feathers on its barrel thick and hard, scratching his fingertips like needles. "There is no denying that Dumbledore is very powerful, but he isn't so powerful as to make the Dark Lord from far-away Germany to challenge him to a duel. Could it be that… Gellert and Dumbledore have some kind of friendship?"
Harry was holding a quill stained with some red ink, prepared for scoring, but was stopped by Tom's question; the tip of the quill shuddered, and it drew a stroke on the student's paper.
"Call him Professor Dumbledore." Harry coughed unnaturally, "What makes you think I know these things?"
Of course you'd know, my beloved time-traveller. Tom grinned, narrowing his eyes with a smile, but said, "I thought you knew Professor Dumbledore well."
Even if Harry didn't say anything, Tom could find out in other ways. That Karkaroff; although his comprehensive ability was average, in terms of snooping for ** he was comparable to a keen detective dog. For example, the many years of friendship, ignorance, and the final break-up between Grindelwald and Dumbledore… He could find the general details of.
Gay? In love?
Tsk, Slytherin laughed from the bottom of his heart.
How ridiculous and pathetic! It was because of this so-called love that made the Dark Lord give in, again and again, take the initiative to retreat to Germany, and cut Britain abruptly from the territory of his ambitions. It was because of this so-called love that made the Dark Lord willing to relinquish mastery of the Elder Wand and endure the pain himself.
What was love? If you like an eagle, you'd only find ways to make it surrender, but if you fall in love with it, you'd surrender for it.
For the ambitious, love was a poison.
"You love him." So when Abraxas came to a conclusion like this, the Slytherin descendant hadn't hesitated to refute, "No, not 'love'. At the very most, 'like'."
To like a person was to unscrupulously possess; to love a person was to generously let go.
Grindelwald and Dumbledore were the best examples.
For Tom to let go? No; from the beginning of his memories at 4-years old to his current 18-year old self, all he remembered was to be unscrupulous.
So, he didn't love him.
When Dumbledore crossed the English Channel back to Hogwarts, almost all the media outlets saw him as a hero. How he defeated the German Dark Lord and won the Elder Wand was tirelessly placed on the front pages, again and again, the moving picture dangling in front of Harry for an entire day. But Dumbledore took a day off.
Grindelwald was locked up by Dumbledore in the tallest tower of Nurmengard Castle.
Some people were dissatisfied, believing it was too little of a shackle for the Dark Lord.
But only Harry knew that whether Grindelwald had the power to break through the prison or not, in his remaining lifetime, he never stepped out of that place again.
He couldn't possibly take the initiative to step out, but he also couldn't prevent outsiders from entering.
The tallest tower of Nurmengard, though it was part of the building complex, was out of place; as if it was isolated.
The greyness of the tower could render people depressed just by looking at it, unable to breathe. And the once-important Dark Lord was imprisoned here.
On December 30, none of the guards would've thought that Numengard Castle had a guest.
"You really don't want to leave? Even though we planned everything out for you?" A man in a hood stood outside the prison, quietly dodging the eyes and sight of the caretakers whilst standing in front of Grindelwald. The prison's dim light was obscured by the hood, completely hiding the visitor's features.
The Old Dark Lord laughed; although his face had aged, with weathered skin and faded blond hair, his youthful demeanor could still be seen in his profound features, like the pair of eyes sharpened by war and death, capable of bringing fear into people's hearts. "How did you get in?"
The man in the hood smiled, but the shadow cast by his hood concealed the movement. "The means of money and power were necessary, plus appropriately used fear."
"Good method," the Old Dark Lord said faintly, closing his eyes and ignoring the visitor once again.
The man in the hood was silent for a moment. Then, looking very gloomy in the prison, he spoke in a low voice, "Mr Grindelwald, what kind of a predicament would Mr Dumbeldore be in, if the media, who is particularly fond of him right now, found out about your relationship?"
The Old Dark Lord opened his eyes the first moment he heard the name 'Dumbledore'; after carefully looking up and down the hooded man standing in front of the prison for a while, he sneered. "Are you performing 'appropriately used fear' on me now?"
"If that's what you want to call it."
"If Dumbledore can't cope with it, then he wouldn't be Dumbledore. You, however - aren't you afraid of me killing you in the first moment I step out?"
The man in the hood suddenly smiled, and his voice, though low, sounded youthful, "Firstly, you won't choose to come out with me. Secondly, you can't kill me."
"Then what's your purpose of being here?" The Old Dark Lord frowned.
The man in the hood shrugged his shoulders. Although the light was dim enough for some details to be unclear, an action could still be seen clearly.
"Christmas holidays are a little boring," the man replied with a dumbfounding answer. He stretched his hand out of his black robe, and waved it to the imprisoned Old Dark Lord; the ring on the man's hand flashed under the light, enough for the person in the prison to clearly distinguish its shape.
It's red. A diamond-shaped dark-red stone; even after the light irradiates, the colour flowing into the gem can still be seen. This represents great, powerful magic.
He recognised it! He recognised it! Grindelwald would never forget his wish as a teenager with Dumbledore - the search for the Deathly Hallows!
"Wait!" The initially cold Old Dark Lord suddenly became excited, but in front of a similarly intelligent person, one had to further avoid showing their eager need and purpose.
Almost stunned by the huge surprise, Grindelwald lowered his voice and eagerly called, "What do you want?" He wanted to induce the man to take out the ring.
The man in the hood also turned around, and a young voice came from the hood, sounding slightly playful. "What do you want?"
The Old Dark Lord raised his eyebrows. "Wasn't it you who came to find me?"
"Alright." The man in the hood indifferently gestured, and simply said, "I want your old Ministry. The remnants of the German Dark Lord's forces… Just thinking about it makes me excited." Just by listening to the young man's voice, you could imagine the man narrowing his eyes.
"However, your opinion doesn't really matter. The devouring of your forces has already begun," the young man added happily.
"But all you'll devour is (1) dried shrimp." The Old Dark Old chuckled, "My request is simple. Your ring."
The young man in the hood seemed surprised. He reached out and rubbed the angular and smooth stone; with an almost overbearing tone, he asked, "Tell me, what's its use?"
The Old Dark Lord lifted his line of sight. "Resurrection. Resurrection of the dead."
"Tsk, I don't have anyone I'd like to resurrect." The young man scoffed and took the ring off his hand. "But this is my possession."
The Old Dark Lord pondered for a bit. "I'll give it back to you."
"This is going to be a loss for you," the young man chuckled and exclaimed.
"Just…" Gellert murmured a word, before swallowing the rest of the sentence back into his mouth. As long as his sister was resurrected, he'd come back…
The man in the hood immediately threw the ring to Grindelwald and turned away.
The ring was initially snatched away by him anyway; even if it was lost it wouldn't matter. And… Even if Grindelwald wanted to snatch it away, he'd have to think about how he'd endure his revenge!
When he reached the exit, the man suddenly stopped and turned his head to the Old Dark Lord sitting in the corner of the prison. "You have power; if I were you, I'd snatch him over instead of waiting."
The Old Dark smiled, a hint of weariness between his sharp brows. "But you aren't me."
Grindelwald watched the young man disappear quietly, his gaze deep. That certainly was a good young man. Not only was he excellent, but he was also formidable and wise; his only drawback was he's too tyrannical.
Too tyrannical? That wasn't an obstacle; his goal was to become someone everyone is too afraid to speak the name of.
** - In this situation, we could read this as 'indecent gossip'
(1) - Dried shrimp - Small fries, of little significance