Five days. It was only after five days with Tom in Gryffindor Tower that Harry was able to come to his senses enough to realize that he had to leave. The other Gryffindor students would be coming back soon, and he had to go back to his own time.
Oh, Tom, how can I leave you? You are a part of me, like no one has ever been. Every prophecy and word of warning spoken about you and me was true, and yet utterly false: I have vanquished the Dark Lord - but the boy he was still lives, even if I came to kill him: Tom, the Boy Who Lived. The Dark Lord will mark me as his equal - we are equal in darkness now, equal in light, equal in guilt, equal in love. And now I bear marks upon my body, put there by you; not a scar this time, but bruises, left by a lover's fevered lips. A strange connection between my mind and yours - how can it be otherwise, Tom, my second soul, stormy heart for my stormy heart? I let you into my mind, and into my body as well. You possessed me, and I possessed you.
I have failed, failed miserably, at my task. I was the redeemer, sent to slay the monster, and I redeemed no one but the monster. Was this a failure, or a victory? I must go back and see what chaos I have wreaked on the future I betrayed. But how can I leave you? Leaving you, Tom, is like tearing my heart out of my body, like fragmenting my soul...
What would happen if I stay here, if I remain in this time with Tom? Then the future will happen without me. Lily and James Potter will fall in love and have a son, and perhaps they will name him Harry. But it wouldn't be me, but a different Harry, unscarred and whole, leading a different life. He would go to Hogwarts, but would he choose Ron and Hermione as his friends, or was it my enmity with Voldemort that brought us together?
Ron and Hermione. Sirius. I can't live my life here, never knowing what becomes of them. I have to go back. But if I do, will I ever see Tom again? And if I see him, who will he be?
He woke Tom, who was sleeping peacefully beside him, dark curls all mussed, his body impossibly tangled in the sheets after their frantic love from the night before, with an urgent kiss. "Tom," he whispered, "I need to talk to you."
Tom whispered his name sleepily and reached for him under the sheets. "Talk later... First come here..."
That too, in a moment, Tom, my impatient love.
"Tom, I want to tell you my name. My real name, I mean."
Tom was awake now, and he leaned up on his elbow, a smile in his grey eyes. "About time, stranger. After all this, it's time we were properly introduced."
A light finger traced the outline of Harry's face. "So, who are you, mysterious stranger who has ravished me?"
"Ravished you? You did most of the ravishing!"
Tom looked thoughtful. "I did, didn't I? That won't do, Harry... or whoever you are. We are equals. I really must insist that you ravish me as soon as possible."
I will in a minute, my love.
"So, who are you? Slytherin, Gryffindor, Paracelsus - ?"
"No, just Harry. Harry Potter."
"Harry Potter..." Tom repeated the name slowly. "I like the sound of it. It's... almost familiar, somehow. So, Harry Potter, who are you and why did you come to Hogwarts, pretending to be Harry Black? You didn't come just to woo Walburga, did you?"
Harry flung his arms around Tom and laughed. "I came to ravish you, of course." And for the next delicious hour, he proceeded to do just that.
Afterwards, as Tom lay warm and flushed in his arms, he whispered: "Promise me - Promise me you will remember me, Tom! Remember me, no matter what happens. Remember that I love you." And he kissed Tom as if he wanted his lips to bear the memory of his kisses always.
The Gryffindor who speaks Parseltongue. The Slytherin who can conjure a patronus. Our minds and our lives so curiously intertwined that neither can survive without the other...
The food in the picnic basked had finally run out, the wine had been drunk, and the fire-whisky had been put to purposes the house-elves had surely never intended. Tom walked down to the Great Hall to find some more food for them both. Harry had told him the password to get back in to Gryffindor Tower, and Tom had laughed when he learned that it was Basilisk. "I always knew that there was more to you Gryffindors than you let on," he had said, shaking his head.
Alone now, Harry knew that the moment had come. He was terribly tempted to wait, just a little bit longer. Just a few more hours with Tom... No, it has to happen now, while he is gone, or I won't be able to tear myself away.
He scribbled a hasty note. No excuses for his hasty departure, just a promise that they would meet again in the future, a plea for Tom not to look for his father, and an oath of everlasting love. What else could he possibly say? Harry put the time turner around his neck, and with a last look at the crumpled, sticky bed they had shared, he began to turn the golden dial. I am leaving you now, Tom, leaving the boy you were. I will see the man you become, years into the future. Perhaps you will still become a monster. Or perhaps you will remember...
He landed with a thud in Dumbledore's office, the world still awhirl around him. Dumbledore's office? I guess I'm back to where my journey started.
Dumbledore looked at him with amusement, his blue eyes twinkling behind the half-moon glasses.
"You are late for class, Harry."
Harry stood still for a moment, gradually adjusting to the reality of Dumbledore's office, this time with Dumbledore in it. His heart recognized that Dumbledore was here, alive in this time as well, and was ready to explode with joy, but his mind and his reason were still struggling, badly.
Dumbledore nodded, a smile hovering behind his beard. "Yes, Harry, class. Your parents will be less than enchanted to receive yet another owl this month about your attendance."
His parents - ? But then -? Tom? Not Voldemort?
"Class..." His mind was reeling. "Er, which class is that, again, professor?"
"Defense against the Dark Arts. In the Dungeon."
Aha! At least one thing was still the same. Harry felt absurdly cheerful at the prospect of being sneered at by Snape. Something would still be familiar. He would have to figure the rest out later. But some things he had to know -
"Er... Professor Dumbledore?"
"Do you remember which year it was, the year when you defeated Grindelwald?"
Dumbledore smiled at him. "Yes, of course, Harry. It was 1942... What a long time ago that was! I have visited him in prison sometimes, through the years, you know, Grindelwald... Why do you ask?"
Harry shook his head. "Oh, no reason. And Voldemort-?"
"Who?" Dumbledore looked genuinely confused.
Harry's heart sang in his chest as he headed to the gloom of the dungeon. Dumbledore was in his office! His parents were alive!
He pushed the dungeon door open and entered as quietly as he could. No luck. "Potter!"
"I'm sorry, Sir!" he mumbled automatically.
He found his desk, next to Ron, who grinned at him. Ah, Ron, no distortion of time and space could ever change your red hair, a freckle on your face, or your friendship! He frowned as he saw the girl sitting on the other side of Ron. Who was that? In no possible universe could Hermione have turned into this breathtaking beauty, with the mischievous black eyes and the dark curls, a younger and even lovelier version of Madam Rosmerta. Harry leaned over a little and caught sight of the name written on the front of her notebook: Rose Black. Sirius' daughter?
But where was Hermione, then? Harry looked around desperately, until he spotted a head of bushy brown hair bent over a book, and a boy's blond head bent towards hers in a gesture of almost obscene tenderness. Hermione and Draco?
"Potter!" Ah, well. Time for the reckoning, at last.
Footsteps, coming closer, pausing by his desk. "This is the fourth time you are late this week, Potter. You know that means detention, don't you?"
Harry nodded. But wait - that was not Snape's voice! He looked up, bewildered. The professor stopped in front of his desk, bent towards him, with a twinkle in his grey eyes. His face was a little more lined, but still as handsome as ever. A draught of Walburga's youth potion?
"My office, eight o'clock, Potter," he said softly. "Again."
"Yes, Professor Riddle."
As Harry sank back into his seat, his head spinning, Ron patted him on the back. "Bad luck, mate," he whispered. "Although - you've been late an awful lot lately. Anyone would think you were trying to get detention..." He chuckled at his own joke for a bit before he bent back over his book.