It's currently 4:50pm, Christmas Day, as I'm writing this, so I'd like to say:
Merry Christmas everyone!
It's been around 4 months since me and my beta has taken over the translation for this fanfic, and I'm so thankful for all of your support!
I'm... Not sure if you guys checked my Twitter for the announcement, but that's okay! Today, I give all of you a double update as your Christmas gift~ ;))
Enjoy reading! :DD
December 31, 1945
In the solitary tower, there were no devices that could tell time; even the current time of day could only be roughly estimated by the light present in the cave. But then again, the cave was hidden, and excluding the three or four hours of noon, there was usually little to no light within the vast space. But Harry always managed to guess the estimated time; so long as Tom came back, it'd always be around six or seven.
Harry had learnt not to threaten Tom with his fists. Similar to a parent who'd realised that they no longer had the strength nor the leverage to enforce physical punishments onto their grown child, he'd weaned himself long ago from the idea of corporal punishment
"Why are you locking me up here?" Harry simply asked his ward.
"Because you don't like me." Tom paused, "I know; I've known since I was a child."
Harry wanted to smile at this answer.
So he smiled, and asked, "How was I found out?
Such a calm look painted Harry's face, it was as if… As if he'd already admitted to it. Tom clenched his free hand into a fist.
This realisation made the handsome young man's bland disinterested look distort into a gruesome expression; the hand hooked around Harry's shoulder blades also squeezed tightly, powerfully, as if he wanted to crush Harry within his palm.
"I can clearly remember every detail from when I was a child, including the way you looked at me." Tom stared fixedly at him, a blood-like mist faintly beginning to take over his black pupils; in the isolated darkness, it appeared particularly seductive, the red more gorgeous than it had any business being, before gradually approaching the colour of those eyes belonging to his persona in 2001.
Harry didn't feel the need to smile anymore. If anything, he could feel physical weights made of melancholy dragging his heart to the pit of his stomach, but his expression remained stoically pleasant.
What other expressions could he make?
Tom Riddle only remembered how he looked at him in avoidance and alienation; only remembered his cold expression; only remembered the despair and disappointment in his eyes.
But were these really the only things he'd done? He remembered that he'd rubbed this child's hair as he taught him magic; brought a cake in front of this child to celebrate his birthday together; taught him how to write, play ball, swim; taught him how to smile, cry, act spoilt; accompanied him to sleep, decorated his bedroom, and chose out clothes for him.
Yet he decided to magnify all the infinitesimally negative things, layer by layer, taking step after step to the extremes; only to proclaim himself the victim?
Was it truly his fault? His fault that he'd shown any emotion to Tom Riddle?
What could Harry do now besides smile?
Tom Riddle was Voldemort; he never needed to change.
Hermione once asked him - is it worth it?
Using twenty years, if not more, of his life span; bearing the pain of his internal organs as they were subject to slow deterioration; suffering from the doubts and incomprehension of companions and comrades-in-arms; raising a Tom Riddle who was destined to be his enemy - was it worth it?
Harry had once answered - I don't know if it's worth it... But I feel the need to do this.
But by choosing to do this, did that mean he hadn't the right to any regrets? Was he not allowed moments of doubt? Was he made to be above mistakes and moments of weaknesses?
Harry felt his heart sink further, allowing his posture to droop forward with the impending weight that he acutely felt on his shoulders.
Was his only function in life "perfection"? A boy soldier in a war he had no say in, a broken man to raise the enemy he was sworn to? Cannon fodder to some, a shield to others, a sword to the one standing before him…
Was his only purpose in life to be the dam that did not break against a large, all-consuming ocean of Tom's evil? Could he really handle the weight of responsibility of not letting a single drop of water leak through?
Was he not allowed to be flawed? Human?
Harry Potter was not a saint, nor was he a saviour.
He was no hero, chosen by a prophecy or otherwise.
He was a boy forced, step-by-step, into becoming the only one who stood before Tom Riddle.
He wasn't as well-read as Hermione, nor did he have Ron's perseverance or strategic mind. Maybe he was braver than some and more optimistic than others, but only by a little bit, and only due to necessity.
Whether it be Muggles or wizards, none could escape the perils of being human. No matter how great the deed committed, the cowardice in their character could never be hidden or altered. No matter how firm their resolve, how impossible a task it must be to attempt to eliminate the blessings and burdens of their emotions? To sever their tether to their humanity?
Tom Riddle had killed his parents, killed his godfather, drove him into such desperation, Harry was almost collapsing on himself!
Why couldn't he find it in himself to feel resentment?
Why couldn't he feel indifference and hold Tom at arm's length?
Why were his struggles, hesitation, indecisiveness, and negligence considered futile in the eyes of outsiders?
Harry was not capable of restraining all his emotions. He was not a novelist, nor was he a powerful historical figure whose emotions were lost in the pages of history; he wasn't a scheming politician, nor was he someone who could fully calculate the consequences of his actions.
He was just little Harry Potter from 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey, The Cupboard Under the Stairs.
But he was hoisted upon the Savior pedestal by Voldemort.
Tom listened to Harry's intermittent laughter; between each hicoughed laugh, there'd been a light hack escaping his hoarse throat. The Slytherin felt an inexplicable yet extreme pleasure.
Have I brought you pain? Am I reason enough for you to feel sad?
Who allowed… Your disdain for me?
His petty joy was much like a child's revenge, except it was far worse than just revenge; it was selfishly depriving Harry the choice to like or dislike something, someone.
He seemed to have found something fun, fiddling with the hair of the person within his arms and bowing his head almost religiously to kiss it.
You only have me to like now.
"Let's eat, Harry." Tom walked out of the specially set-up kitchen, his expression as relaxed and natural as it had been in Godric's Valley; as if nothing had even happened, as if their relationship was still the same.
He was trying hard to pretend; pretend that the peaceful relationship between them this last month was still unchanged.
Today's food seemed exceptionally fancy and their table's arrangement also seemed particularly eye-catching; Harry was surprised for a moment, but in the end, he never fully paid it enough of his attention or focus on it.
"I took a few sets of books from Malfoy, all of them unique copies; you'll be interested." Tom brought the food to Harry.
Harry laughed a little. "How unfortunate. I'm not interested."
You see, even though they've lived with each other for fourteen years, they still didn't understand each other.
Just as he didn't know Tom's smile, warmth and softness were all just floating on his outermost surface, Tom didn't know his love for books weren't as passionate as Hermione's. In fact, Harry's most tedious task imaginable was actually being forced to read at all.
Tom paused, a silver fork in his hand, and raised his head to meet Harry's calm gaze. "Then what do you like?"
Harry turned his head and looked out the window. The outdoors were so dark, people could've easily thought there was but a piece of dark cloth tapered onto a wall.
"I like to fly." He turned his head to meet Tom's gaze again, and Harry grinned at his suddenly gloomy expression. "It's a pity I'm stuck here."
Harry ignored the Slytherin's cold expression. He liked to fly, but his happiest memories lived in Hogwarts. In the three years between his seventeenth and twentieth birthday, he'd ridden a broomstick more than he had during his six years at Hogwarts. But every time he picked up his broomstick, it'd symbolise escape and war, and it'd always be accompanied by death and parting… In the end, he even began to faintly hate his broom.
In 1946, he was trapped in an isolated tower, and couldn't fly.
In 2001, he'd be trapped by the war, and wouldn't dare to fly.
The culprits were Tom Riddle and Voldemort, boy and man, one and the same.
Harry wanted to go back, he'd always wanted to go back, but the first thing he needed to do was escape.
When Harry cast his gaze towards the dark window again, the Slytherin had narrowed his eyes.
The tower was ten metres high; a jump would only result in falling into the stagnant seawater, except there were thousands of Inferi in the water. Even if he left the water quickly, there were still Dementors in the air… Maybe he wouldn't die, but he'd become a soulless husk of a man; maybe he would die, or at the very least, pray for death…
With this thought, Harry became short of breath.
Fate would not allow him to die in the past; does that mean if he died, he could go back to 2001?
You mustn't try.
A sensible voice in his head said.
If his inference turned out to be wrong and he died, what would happen to Hermione and Ron? What would happen to his Wizarding World? ...What would happen to Tom?
Harry's lips pressed tightly together, and his bloodless face turned paler.
The Slytherin's expression just remained sullen, unspeaking, as he looked down and drank his soup with each spoonful.
Compared to the Slytherin, the Gryffindor was still too simple and easy to understand.
Tom took a napkin and wiped the soup from the corners of his mouth; he reached out and took the knife and fork from Harry's hands. "It seems you don't want to eat anymore. Take a shower. Let's do something else."
Almost instinctively, the muscles in Harry's entire body contracted instantly, tightening from his jaw to his neck, and his pupils dilated in a gesture of extreme fear.
Tom took the plates back into the kitchen, and turned around to glance at Harry; the expression of fear that had originally excited the most was apparent on Harry's face, but his heart suddenly sank.
Tom found that fear didn't suit him.