Note: Sorry this release took a bit longer than expected. I hope to continue to still update in a timely fashion. This chapter is a bit more introspective than I had at first thought and turned out quite nicely I think.
THE HAND OF FATE
A war from within/1940
Classes were going well and many of his students had made significant progress in their spellwork over the last few months; alas, the world outside of Hogwarts was growing much darker and dangerous of late. The war had spilled over from the muggle world into the wizarding world as Harry knew it would. If he could have shielded them from this disaster he would have, but how do you prevent something on such a huge catastrophic level as this when you are one person?
And as Harry began to delve more and more into this timeline, he had also become aware that certain things seem to be changing. Minerva had proclaimed that Defense Against the Dark Arts was her favorite class and she would dearly like to follow in his footsteps and become a Professor like him. Maybe he was overthinking things, but if Minerva did not become Professor McGonagall of Transfiguration, what would happen to the future as he knew it?
How he had let so many years pass before he had decided to research time travel and the butterfly effect. His presence was not one small minor event. He had no grand ideas that he was a major effect, but he was a consistent minor effect on events. Who had been the Professor of Defense Against the Darks Arts in the years he had been teaching? He couldn't say because he'd never had much interest in reading through Hogwarts, A History like Hermione.
Again he had been a reckless Gryffindor and not thought ahead like a Slytherin would. As much as he wished he could remain the honorable and brave Gryffindor of his former self, he was in a situation where being a Slytherin through and through was the best way to save himself and Tom.
Harry heard a familiar knock outside his door and he quickly shoved the books he was reading into his secret chest where he kept all the things that Tom must never see. If Tom saw the books he was reading, he would ask questions and questions must be answered because Tom was extremely persistent and if the answers didn't satisfy him, he'd only ask even more questions.
As Harry walked over to open the door to his living quarters, he was now aware that every little thing he did had enormous consequences. He had the vague thoughts that maybe the people he knew and love would no longer exist in this new future he was creating through his presence in the past, but he stopped himself from thinking of it because it would drive him crazy to think he had destroyed everyone he cared about when he had gone back in time to try and save them.
"Tom," he said and smiled at the younger boy. "Come for a chat?"
Since the beginning of third year, Tom had been coming to his living quarters nearly every evening. Though he had been teaching since Tom's first year at Hogwarts and they had often spent time together, it had never been this often. Harry wondered if it was because Abraxas was no longer at Hogwarts. Harry knew that even though Abraxas was several years Tom's senior, the older Slytherin had been easily Tom's closest friend.
Tom nodded and settled himself down on the couch and pulled out a textbook from his pocket and used an engorgement charm to resize the book back to its original size. "I find it easier to study here too."
"What are you studying?" Harry asked as he peered over Tom's shoulder to see what book he was reading, not recognizing any of the odd symbols and such in them. "Need any help?"
Tom laughed and shook his head. "You know for a brilliant wizard, you're rubbish at Ancient Runes."
"Never took it," Harry said. "I'm not much for theoretical magic, much better at the practical application."
Tom nodded. "I find it fascinating. To each their own."
Harry took a seat next to Tom on the couch and pulled out his own book. He had carefully spelled one of his books on the butterfly effect to be only readable to him. To anyone else, it looked like a book of muggle fiction. He needed to do this spell to all the books he didn't want Tom or anyone else to see, but when he spelled too many books like that, he invariably ended up misplacing them as they looked like very average books in the piles of books he had all around his living quarters. As he surveyed the chaotically organized mess of his rooms, Harry decided that he really ought to attempt to organize the chaos at some point soon.
"What are you reading?" Tom asked, looking pointedly at Harry.
Harry held up the book to show him the title, Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham. He had deliberately chosen this book because he had read it recently as Albus had made him the recommendation. Harry didn't much like reading, but the life of Philip Carey through the ups and downs had resonated with him.
"A muggle book?" Tom reached over to grab the book. "I didn't know you read muggle books."
"I find it fascinating at times," Harry stated carefully. "Wizards don't write much fiction and I cannot read tomes and texts all day long. I think it would drive me mad."
Tom shrugged after briefly scanning a few of the pages and handed the book back to him. "Was it any good?"
"I found it enjoyable and the message resounding."
Tom tilted his head. "What message?"
Harry was aware that Tom was extraordinary, he was easily the best student in his year and could his own against the upper years as well. In no time at all, he was going to be a great power in the wizarding world based on his talents. There was nothing he couldn't accomplish if he set his mind to it, but Harry didn't want that for Tom. He feared that if Tom got a taste of power, that taste would lead to temptation, and temptation would lead him astray. Harry didn't want Tom to become Lord Voldemort. He cared deeply for Tom and wanted him to be happy, and the road to power was not the path to happiness. And yet, who was he to say he knew what was best for Tom?
Harry was afraid that what he thought was best, what he thought would make Tom happiest were all thoughts that were tainted by his desire to prevent Tom from becoming Lord Voldemort. Maybe it didn't matter what he did. Maybe the big events that had to occur in life would occur no matter the minor effect he had on smaller events here. Harry turned the pages in his book to where he last left off. He was reading the chapter on the many possible changes to insignificant events not leading to significant changes in major events because somehow certain things must happen no matter what. What if this was all for nothing? All these years of toil and the result still the same? And perhaps, even worse?
"What message?" Tom asked again, nudging him with his elbow.
Harry smiled apologetically. "I shall need to read you my favorite line in the book first, which is: 'Had he not seen also that the simplest pattern, that in which a man was born, worked, married, had children, and died, was likewise the most perfect?' I think it a beautiful sentiment. That the simplest path of life is the most perfect existence."
"The simplest path of life is the most perfect existence," Tom repeated. "Do you believe that is true?"
"I would like to," Harry stated. "Because what artificial meaning must you put into life? We all live and die, and I think as long as you have people you love and care about, then no matter what, life is meaningful. All else matter naught."
"If you have people who love and care about you, then I suppose," Tom said.
Harry was surprised at the edge to Tom's voice. He reached over and pulled Tom to him in a tight hug. "I care about you," he said and for the first time he was not scared to admit in his heart and outloud to Tom, "and I love you."
And he did love Tom, and he hoped that loving Tom was redemption enough for both.
A/N: I read the novel Of Human Bondage in college and it left a truly lasting impression on me. I think it a lovely novel and one of the best that I've read. I'm glad that I am able to put a little of it in here. I wasn't really intending on writing this chapter, but I think it's high time after the years they have spent together for Harry to tell Tom and to acknowledge to himself how deeply he cares for the younger boy. And I think it time to talk about the consequences of time-traveling, just to know I'm not ignoring the so-called butterfly effect.
Thanks for reading and supporting! Til next time!
Released on March 5, 2013.