Title: Hidden in the Forest
Pairing: Tom Riddle x Harry Potter
Warnings: Muggle AU, Dementors.
Author's Note: Written for Finals, Round 1 of Quidditch League. Firediva0, Keeper of the Wimbourne Wasps, Player 7: Juxtaposition and Foreshadowing. The Juxtaposition was: Innocence v. Taint. Frida's OTP: Tom Riddle x Harry Potter.
Summary: His blood pumped furiously through his veins, and his eyes were alight with something akin to fear. He was going to die here, was going to perish like the insignificant being he was. Tears, unbidden, came to his eyes. He didn't want to die! He wanted to live! Behind him, Tom Marvolo Riddle, aka the Dark Lord, followed him, a manic glint in his eyes. Harry Potter, the Chosen One, would be his.
When I was a child, no one believed in the supernatural. To us, it was all mere myth, something you told your kids to spook them. We never thought that there was truth to the words of our stories, never thought that the tales of our our ancestors were anything more than fantasy.
My name is Harry James Potter, and, like everyone else, I foolishly believed that humans were superior to all other creatures. If only I had known…
"Come on, Hermione," Ron urged, gesturing towards the forest. "We're just going in for a peak."
"I don't know about this, guys," Hermione whispered, eyeing the forest with something akin to fright. "Didn't our parents tell us to stay away from it?"
"'Mione, nothing is going to happen to us," Harry cut in, rolling his eyes. "They're just afraid of that stupid myth."
"You don't think Dementors are real?" she questioned, looking at him in shock. Harry shook his head.
"Can we go in now?" Ron asked, hoping to get them back on track. "I want to get out of this bloody forest before it's dark outside, and you're making it hard to do that."
"I'm not going," Hermione told him. "Unlike you fools, I'm not too keen on dying."
"Oh, please," Ron huffed, rolling his eyes. "We're not going to die, but if you want to be a coward, go ahead. Let's go, Harry."
Ron grabbed Harry's arm, pulling the emerald-eyed boy towards the forest. Harry hesitated. He looked at Hermione in concern.
"Are you sure?" he asked her softly. Hermione nodded, her brown hair shifting at the movement.
"Be careful, okay?" she whispered. Harry nodded. He opened his mouth, as if to say something more, but Ron had already begun dragging him towards the forest.
"See you soon!" he yelled over his shoulders. Hermione smiled softly and waved.
If only they had listened…
Foolishly, Ron and I walked into that forest. I remember how arrogant I was, remember how I acted as if I had been the strongest thing that had ever lived. If only I had known what lurked within the forest's depths; if only I had known that I wouldn't come out.
Perhaps, I wouldn't have walked in under the trees; perhaps, Hermione wouldn't be grieving over me.
Oh, well. What's done is done.
"Ron," Harry said softly. "Maybe Hermione was right."
Together, the two boys walked down a worn path. Surrounding them were hundreds of trees, each of them blocking the natural sunlight. A shadow was cast over the forest, forbidding them from telling the time. The air smelt natural, fresh even, but something was amiss. Harry could feel his skin prickling, could feel the eyes of someone watching them.
Perhaps, it was paranoia.
…Maybe it wasn't.
"Oh, don't tell me you're a coward, too?" Ron questioned, rolling his eyes. Harry frowned, glaring at Ron.
"Fearing for our safety doesn't make me a coward," Harry retorted. "It just makes me sensible."
"Whatever you want to call it, mate," Ron cut in. "You're still a bloody coward."
They were silent after that. Harry tried to pretend that someone wasn't watching them, tried to pretend that someone wasn't there, but he couldn't. Not anymore.
"I'm leaving," he announced. "Hermione was right; this was a bad idea."
"Whatever," Ron said in annoyance. "I'm staying. You two can be cowards together."
"Screw you, Ron," Harry said, his irritation finally getting the best of him. "Don't be an idiot and get yourself killed."
"I'll be fine. I don't need you guys."
Not wanting to hear another word, Harry turned around and walked away. He would get back to their village by himself. If Ron wanted to be a fool, that was on him. Five minutes later, Harry paused and looked around. Had they come this way?
I remember walking through the forest, lost. I spent countless hours there, spent countless hours panicking.
I was alone; no one was looking for me. I wouldn't be discovered until hours later, possibly dead. This was the end. The eyes were back. They were peering at me, mocking me for walking into the forest.
I was a dead man, and the creature looking at me knew it.
Bye, bye, Harry.
Hours later, Harry was tired of walking. Despite going down multiple pathways, he was a hundred percent sure that he hadn't found the right path. By now, the sun had set and the shadow that loomed overhead had grown into an all-consuming darkness. The fresh scent of the forest had morphed into a menacing one, cold and murky. Accompanied with the eyes Harry could feel, it only served to put him further on edge.
"Ron," Harry called out for what felt like the thousandth time. No answer. Then again, did he even expect one? He was lost, hopelessly so, and Harry couldn't help but wish that he had listened to Hermione from the very beginning. At the very least, he should have stayed with Ron.
Harry was so deep in his own misery that he didn't even realize that the air grew abnormally cold. It wasn't until a scream echoed through his head that he noticed.
"It's cold," he whispered, his eyes growing wide. An image flashed before his eyes; a wolf howling among several corpses. Another scream. Ribbons of dark crimson.
"Dementors!" he yelped. Harry didn't hesitate. He began running, his mother's words ringing in his head: "When they are near, everything will go cold. Your heart, your mind, your body… All of it will seem to freeze. They will play with you, will fill your mind with horrid images, will cast you into the darkest of shadows. In those moments, you will wish you were dead…"
Another flash; this one of Hermione lying on the ground, her skin pale.
"You won't die. Not until they have you right where they want you."
Another flash; A lily bathing in the blood of the stag.
"Finally, when you're on the brink of self-destruction, they will feast upon your soul."
Darkness consumed him.
"Are you sure about this, Tom?" Vlad, the Lord of the Dementors, questioned in his native tongue. He watched as his protegee picked the child up in his arms, careful to not allow his mouth to get too close.
"Positive," Tom assured him. "He is to be my consort."
"A human?" Vlad questioned. "You are the cruellest of us all. How could you possibly have a human consort? Would you not end up breaking him?"
"No," Tom said softly. "Not him. Never him."
"Hmm, we shall see," Vlad returned, eyeing him skeptically. "When we get back to the castle, I trust that you will tell me the reason?"
Tom eyed him, considering his veiled order.
"Perhaps," he eventually said. "If the fates allow me to do so."
Looking down, Tom gently caressed the child's cheek. He could feel the innocence radiating from the child's soul, could feel the pure heart that beat within the fragile chest. Yes, unlike the other humans, this one was special.