Silence stretched out, spreading throughout the large office and enveloping every single occupant in its folds. Even the boisterous portraits of the previous Headmasters and Headmistresses had gone eerily silent in the face of the events that unfolded.
And Harry, exhausted as he was, couldn't help but feel grateful for the small reprieve he was granted.
A barrage of questions had been hauled upon him, seemingly endless in their quantity. His head was killing him, every single bone in his body was aching, and he couldn't so much as lift a single arm without the muscles protesting and cramping. But he had to endure it. He had to tell the Headmaster everything that took place down in the Chamber, to inform him of yet again another downfall of the Dark Lord Voldemort.
But never, not even during last year's unexpected meeting with the man, had Harry felt so utterly confused and lost.
There was just something about Voldemort's real form…something was definitely different about this time they met. And it was scaring Harry simply because he couldn't figure out why.
"But he had two wands, Sir." Harry said, repeating himself yet again, desperate to make Dumbledore see his point. "Two wands at his disposal, one of which is supposed to be brother wand to his own, according to Mr. Ollivander. And he is powerful, isn't he? Why then? Why didn't he use one of those wands to prevent me from destroying his diary?"
Dumbledore's kind blue eyes softened considerably. "The workings of Lord Voldemort's mind had never been predictable enough for me, my boy. It is regrettable, but I fear I can not give you the answer to that."
Harry was disappointed. That, and something akin to hyperventilation was beginning to gnaw at his core.
"That senile old coot…" Riddle whispered, fingers reaching out to deftly stroke just beneath Harry's eye. "To think he'd have such an ace up his sleeve. I do believe he has just given me more reason to resent him."
Harry could only stare, shell shocked emerald eyes having grown drastically wide. An action that for some reason only served to appease the other despite him being on the verge of extinguishing.
"As exquisite as I remember them." Riddle let out a breathy chuckle, but his face contorted into an agonized expression.
His breathing was becoming louder, so erratic that it was all Harry could hear. The bright patches were spreading throughout his body, smoking like a piece of paper on fire. When Harry had stabbed that Basilisk fang in the pages of the diary, he hadn't been expecting something like this.
Riddle gritted his teeth, and almost simultaneously, a soft whimper slipped past Harry's lips. He hadn't known it was going to be so painful. The other boy was burning from the inside out, literally.
Riddle's face that had been sporting such a cruel smile only minutes ago, now seemed to lit up by the warm, genuine smile that graced his features.
Harry's breath hitched.
How could someone appear so evil one moment and so kind the next?
The fingers retracted from his face, and Harry took an unconscious step forward before he regained his bearings and shook his head wildly, black strands falling over his eyes.
This was Lord Voldemort, the man that had murdered his parents and tried to kill him as well. He didn't deserve Harry's sympathy.
His chin was gripped gently, making him shut his eyes firmly just as his head was lifted up. It didn't matter that this was the third time he had killed another person, and this person didn't deserve Harry's tears.
"It's alright, little one. It's not your fault."
Harry sucked in a deep breath, and just like that, water trails stubbornly slipped past his pursed eyelids, heating up his cheeks on their way down.
"Harry, look at me."
Perhaps it was the tone; so soft, almost pleading. Or perhaps it was because keeping his eyes shut was only intensifying the scorching sensation. Either way, Harry couldn't fail but obey.
It was blurry at first, Riddle's pale face distorted before him, until he blinked once. More rivulets run down freely, making him realize that his vision had just been filled to the brim with tears.
Scarlet eyes, bright like they contained a fire of their own, connected with his, and Harry felt suffocated by their intensity.
"It's not your fault, Harry." Riddle repeated. "This doesn't make you a murderer."
A strangled sob escaped his lips, the onslaught of tears now causing his sight to be constantly blurry. And as if a dam had been broken, Harry fell to his knees. He buried his face in his hands and just wept, sobs falling from his lips unbidden and rocking his entire frame.
Why was it that only this evil wizard could see right through him?
Last year had been the same. No one had bothered to ask how he felt about killing someone, despite it being Voldemort. It was still murder. Not the Headmaster he admired and respected, not the friends he loved and treasured.
He was just twelve, for goodness' sake!
And he had committed his first murder on the tender age of one. He had sent Voldemort to oblivion without even realizing it at the time.
He didn't know which was more pitiful; the fact that the person he had killed three times in total was openly forgiving him and trying to console him, or the fact that it was Voldemort that bothered to lighten his burden.
Fingers carded through his hair, offering their silent comfort. Harry sniffed, leaning into the soothing sensation and for a moment pretending it didn't matter from whom it was offered.
"My other self better hurries. You've suffered enough as it is."
Then, dust was raining down on Harry, bathing him in soot and just the barest traces of smoke. He was covered in the last remains of Voldemort, and instead of recoiling in disgust, Harry wrapped his arms around himself, desperately wanting to keep even a portion of that lingering comfort.
"But what matters now is that Tom Riddle is gone, and Ginny Weasley safe and sound. You did well, my boy."
That was good, right? Dumbledore was even praising him.
Delicate fingers clutched at the fabric of his Hogwarts robes, tightening and tightening to resemble the constriction that suddenly enveloped his throat.
…Why was it so painful?
"Tom is gone…" he repeated after the Headmaster, voice cracking.
Dumbledore's brows furrowed together, keen eyes observing warily, "Harry?"
"H-he's gone…Tom is gone." Each time it hurt more. Each time he said it, a part of himself seemed to scream, protesting against the mere notion of it. "Tom is gone…gone, gone, gone, gone!"
He could feel it; the previous hyperventilation was creeping up on him again, but stronger tenfold. He took huge gulps of air, frantic to provide his lungs with the oxygen supply they required. However, there didn't seem to be any oxygen left.
His hands gripped firmer, the robe nearly tearing from the pressure. But it was useless. He couldn't find an anchor.
He couldn't breathe right. The room was spinning around him, and he couldn't breathe. He was growing dizzy, and his chest felt like it could explode for some reason.
He couldn't breathe.
"It's alright, little one. It's not your fault."
He'd have screamed if he could.
"It's not your fault."
Of course it was his fault! It was only his fault that Tom was gone, and Tom wasn't supposed to be gone, because it hurt too much, and - and it was breaking him too much, and he couldn't…-!
He couldn't breathe! He couldn-!
He didn't know how long he had been out cold, but the moment he opened his eyes in the Hospital Wing, the sky outside was pitch black. A few clouds were scattered here and there, but they kept shifting, caught up in a breeze that didn't reach Harry within the safety of the castle.
And he preferred it that way. The blankets that had been piled on top of him were so incredibly warm, lulling Harry right back into the world of unconsciousness.
He just felt so tired.
The next time that awareness began clawing at Harry's mind, the sky was considerably lighter. The blackness was gone, and a pale shade of pink was only starting to settle, preparing the world for the arrival of the sun.
He closed his eyes, reveling in the silence that remained within the castle for the time being, so much more soothing than the chaos that was always taking place amongst the Hogwarts halls.
The double doors of the Infirmary burst open, causing Harry's eyelids to shot upwards abruptly.
For a moment he just stared up at the white ceiling, rueful at how little his moment of piece had lasted.
"Harry? Oh, Harry, thank goodness! Madam Pomfrey wouldn't let us visit you any sooner. Well, you did need to replenish your energy and rest up your body, but that was downright cruel of her!"
His ire seemed to evaporate into thin air. Glassy emeralds slid to the side, a small smile forming on his face at the two, blurry figures that were making their way over.
"Hey," he croaked, and a coughing fit wracked his whole body, jostling him where he was laying.
A glass was suddenly pressed against his lips, and Harry opened his mouth wide enough to gulp down a few sips of water. He pursed his lips when he was finished, head slightly turning to the side, and the glass was removed.
"Thanks." he said, his voice functioning properly this time, and offered up a grateful smile to Hermione, which the girl accepted with a smile of her own as she set the glass back on the tabletop next to Harry's bed.
"How you feeling, mate?" Ron pulled up a chair to sit on, Hermione following his example.
Harry tried to sit up as well, but the moment his muscles screamed in rage at the idea, he thought it wise to just resign to his fate. "I've been better, that's for sure." He blinked, suddenly remembering a crucial detail. "And Ginny? How is she?"
He released a breath when Ron flashed him with one of his trademark grins. "Good! Dumbledore said that she had come pretty close to -…yeah…but she's fine now! Mum took her home to rest. Oh, and she said she'll be visiting you as soon as Ginny's better!"
He laughed lightly, already picturing the fuss Mrs. Weasley was going to make. She'd probably try to use this as a chance to fatten him up somewhat.
"Harry," Ron's tone was quick to sober him up, blinking at the fidgeting boy.
"Ron?" One black eyebrow went up in amusement, finding weird this so out of character behavior.
His friend finally made eye contact then, and Harry was genuinely taken aback by the fierce resolve shimmering in those blue eyes. The times he had seen Ron look so serious could be counted on one hand.
"Ginny wouldn't have made it outta that place if you hadn't…" he trailed off, shaking his head. "I guess what I'm trying to say is…thanks." A grin spread out across his face, lighting up his entire features. "You really are the best!"
Heat pooled abruptly at the base of Harry's neck, his eyes growing in size.
Ron laughed loud and clear at his flustered expression, Hermione's own chuckles soon developing into right out laughter which she tried to conceal behind her hand with little success.
"Oh, shut it." Harry grumbled, pulling the covers all the way up to his head to hide his burning cheeks from view. But once within his haven, he allowed a grin to manifest, unable to keep it down any longer.
And any lingering memories concerning Tom Marvolo Riddle were swept away.
Unbeknownst to Harry, barely a few hours after he had slipped back into unconsciousness, his mind had worked silently. Any thoughts about Tom Riddle's newest death stirred too much confusion and pain, too much emotion, that Harry's psyche wouldn't be able to deal with it. He'd be swallowed right up.
So, it was banished away, stored in the far back of Harry's mind where it wouldn't be allowed to wreak any turmoil, and it'd be kept there until the boy had reached the mental maturity it required in order to properly delve into it and everything that it entailed.
For the time being, however, it was viewed as a threat. Harry's break down had triggered the unwitting action of burying it deep within his subconscious, for his own safety.
And for the next year, any thoughts of Voldemort were the least concern of Harry's.
With the appearance of all three of his father's best friends, the gruesome Dementors that had developed an unhealthy obsession with his soul, and the new facts that came to light, Harry was justifiably busy.
But it was with the arrival of Alastor Moody at Hogwarts, and the Triwizard Tournament, that Harry would be forced to face everything he had been avoiding up until that moment.
Because it was at his forth year, that Tom Riddle would return to claim what had been ripped from him all those years ago.
Harry could only stare, stare and pant harshly, as the large cauldron melted away, dark grey liquid spilling over the wilted grass and turning it black.
He tried to regain his breathing, and swallowed painfully to soothe the burning throbs that his throat was suffering from all the screaming he had done in the past minutes. He stared almost obsessively at the thick fluids that had been residing inside the cauldron and were now joining it on the ground, making the grass even blacker and sticky.
He stared at the sickening substance that was formed, so that he wouldn't have to look at his resurrected enemy.
His clumsily cut wrist was throbbing worse than his throat, and the waves of dizziness that were assaulting him mercilessly made him wonder if Wormtail – in his haste to complete the ritual, or simply because he didn't care – had dug the dagger deeper than necessary into his vein.
Now he realized that the statue of the Grim Reaper behind him had more uses than simply keeping him captive.
"My wand," a silky smooth voice spoke, and Harry flinched, certain that if he were to lift his gaze he'd be met with the same boy from two years ago. And that was something he really didn't want. That night in the Chamber had left him with more scars than he dared count, and he didn't mean the physical, tiny one on his left arm that had been at the time a gaping, little hole once the Basilisk fang was removed.
Apparently, he thought with a glance at his steadily bleeding wrist, it was never too late to undo Fawkes' work from back then.
Bare feet, slightly veiled by black robes, were suddenly obscuring the only clean patch of grass that his vision had been filled with and were covering the distance between themselves and the statue he was held against in sure strides.
Harry refused to show how tense it made him.
The Reaper's scythe that had been pressed against his neck was no longer supporting him up, and Harry's lips parted to form yet another shout as he used his injured hand to brace his fall.
He fell back on his hunches, bringing his now profusely bleeding wrist close to his chest and carefully cradling it with his good hand.
The intensity of the pain was beginning to make him consider the possibility of Wormtail accidentally severing a tendon.
A black form crouched in front of him, causing Harry's entire frame to grow rigid.
"Show me." Despite the tenor like quality, the authority in that voice couldn't be mistaken.
And as Harry defied it, he didn't know if it was bravery that urged him, or mere foolishness. "Why? It makes your job all the more easier."
"Show me your hand, Harry."
The now didn't need to be spoken.
Harry bristled at the careless use of his first name, burning green lifting to glare at equally enflamed red. "Don't you dare say my name like we're old buddies!"
The next thing he knew, his hand was snatched away at particularly the same time that the right corner of his forehead, right where his scar was located, exploded in pain. Alarmed, Harry tried to take his hand back, but Voldemort's grip wouldn't let him.
"There isn't a single person that has any right to that name more than me!" The older wizard hissed lowly, but Harry was more concerned about that skeletal wand suddenly hovering over his injury. Convinced that Voldemort was going to cut his hand off completely, Harry brought up his other arm in an attempt to push the man away, only to instantly withdraw it the moment his scar seared again.
His captured wrist was released then, and Harry wasted no time to inspect it, eyebrows furrowing at the white scar that now remained in the place of the open wound.
He looked up again, only to have his glasses taken off.
"What-?" Hands grasped his face, forcing him to cut off his sentence in order to hiss at the peak in his scar.
"And it is about time you remembered why," Voldemort's face was suddenly close, too close, to the point that Harry could count those black eyelashes without squinting. Then, a cool forehead touched his, and Harry let out a cry. He thrashed about, pushing at Voldemort's clothed chest with all the strength he could muster.
His vein might have been healed, but it didn't bring back all the blood he had lost, and it showed in the way his arms shook.
A growl, threatening and irked, passed through Voldemort's lips and Harry was pushed backwards. His arms were pressed firmly to his sides and were held there by the man's legs, while his face was gripped but with more force this time, and Voldemort's forehead met his once again.
"Don't fight it, Harry." Hot breath fanned over his lips, and Harry was about to scream again from the excruciating assault behind his scar, when his eyes connected with those dark red pools an inch or so away.
A connection – Harry didn't know what else to call it – seemed to open up, and his senses were abruptly overloaded with tons of colors, various emotions flooding him at the same speed that thousands of images flashed inside his head, fading away only to instantly be replaced by another, and another, and another.
His arms ceased their struggle and fell limp on the ground.
At the screech, a four year old, dark-haired child turned around, green eyes growing large when someone slammed right into him, sending them both sprawling on the ground.
Tom 'oofed', blinking to see a mirror version of himself staring down at him sheepishly, and effectively making him scowl.
A huge grin spread over the other child's face, lighting up his impossibly green doe-like eyes.
Grunting, his arms lifted to wrap around the boy, causing the other to giggle and bury his head in Tom's clothed chest.
Tom rolled his eyes, a smile gracing his features.
The scenery shifted as quickly as it had come.
"Tommy! Look, look!"
A six year old Tom lowered the book he had been reading, raising an expectant eyebrow at the boy sitting on the opposite bed.
The dark haired child bounced on the mattress excitedly once before turning his gaze towards the small table below the window of their room. Tom did the same, eyes coming to rest on the single other book that resided atop of it.
His doppelganger made a shushing motion with his hand, and Tom went back to staring at the object with a huff.
A few minutes or so went by, and Tom had started drumming his fingers on the illustrated cover of his reading material. He was ready to grab his book and return to reading, when the object of his sole attention for the past several minutes suddenly shot off the table, floating and swaying a couple of inches above the surface.
Seconds later, however, the book fell back down as if exhausted and didn't stir again.
"Did you see that? I finally did it!" The boy bounced on the bed again, bright emerald eyes dancing with mirth.
"Indeed, little brother." Tom drawled, picking up his own book again. "You managed this, what, a week after I showed you how?"
"Tom!" The other shouted, hurt and indignant, taking a hold of his pillow and hurtling it at his brother.
Tom looked up, and just before it reached him, the pillow remained suspended in midair for a couple of seconds before it fell to the floor between their beds, and causing the one that had thrown it to cross his arms with a huff.
Shaking his head, Tom turned a page.
Silence stretched out between the two children, before it was finally broken. "Harry," Tom called out without looking away from the text.
The younger boy glared at him from the corner of his eyes. "What?"
Harry froze, eyes growing in surprise. Cheeks flushing, his arms unfolded and he beamed.
Tom responded with a small smile of his own, before gesturing towards the table with his head.
"Again. This time try to make it respond to you quicker."
With a cheerful nod, Harry went to do just that.
"No!" he shouted, head turning away from the searing gaze but Voldemort followed him suit. "Stop it!"
"You need to watch."
Harry shut his eyes tightly, but that didn't stop the images.
"Does it hurt still?" Tom patted the bleeding area just above his brother's brow gently, carefully wiping the cut clean with a wet cloth.
An eight year old Harry shook his head, mindful not to disturb his twin's ministrations. He frowned without thinking and immediately hissed as the still tender wound was stretched.
Tom poked him on the forehead with his fingers. "Idiot. Don't do that."
Harry looked at his brother, bringing a hand up to gently brush one of Tom's eyelids. "They haven't gone back yet." he informed him softly.
Tom swatted his hand away so that he could go back to cleaning his wound. "You know they won't go back for a while."
Harry sighed, peeking at his brother's crimson eyes from behind dark lashes. "Are you mad at me?" he asked hesitantly, teeth gnawing on his lower lip.
"You were making the bud bloom in your palm, Harry. Yes, I'm vexed with you for doing something so careless right out in the open, but I'm mad at them for throwing a blasted rock at you!"
"Language," Harry admonished softly, without feeling.
Tom glared down at the boy for having his own scolding statement thrown back at him.
"I swear I'll be more careful next time."
"Excuse me?" Tom's red eyes narrowed dangerously. "There isn't going to be any next time, simply because you won't be doing it again." He took Harry's chin between his fingers, forcing his brother to look at him. "If you want to practice our stuff, then you'll only do so in the room, and nowhere else. Understood?"
Harry nodded, his eyes downcast.
"Good." Tom said, satisfied, and picked up the cloth again. "Who was that hit you with the rock?"
Harry blinked confusedly up at him. "Billy."
"Wasn't he whining about wanting a rabbit for his birthday until Mrs. Cole finally got one for him?"
Harry nodded, unsure where his brother was getting at.
Tom's lips pulled sideways, red eyes darkening cruelly. "Perfect."
Harry shivered at the near purr, uncaring for whatever fate awaited Billy Stubbs' rabbit but still pitying the poor thing for having to pay for its owner's stupid actions.
The image changed to show the boys sitting in the back yard of the orphanage, both of them now at the age of nine.
"Tom?" Harry asked, knees pulled up against his chest. "You really don't think we're monsters, right?"
Tom cast his brother a bored look. "If this is about what that new kid said, you should know by now not to pay any of them any attention. Dennis Bishop is just like the rest of those idiots. He doesn't know a thing, not about us and not about the things we can do."
Harry laid his cheek on top of his knees, looking at the other boy. "But the things we do aren't normal, are they?"
"Of course not." Tom said, staring at him funnily. "We are special, Harry. Normal doesn't abide to us."
When Harry didn't reply, Tom scowled, turning his attention to the empty playground and watching the swings drifting back and forth in the breeze. "It's not like you to doubt yourself."
"I don't!" Harry's head jerked up. "I love our abilities, you know that!" He sounded offended, and Tom's lips couldn't fail but twitch at this.
"It's just that…" Harry trailed off, green eyes rising to the dark, cloudy sky above. "Sometimes I wonder what mum would think about us."
Tom's own green eyes gazed upwards as well. "Why would you think that?"
"What do you mean why?" Harry asked, but didn't tear his stare away. "Because she's our mum. It's natural, right? Don't you think like that as well?"
"No." Was the simple response, causing Harry's eyes to snap downwards in surprise.
"I don't think like that because I don't consider her family, and therefore, I don't particularly care whether she's proud or disappointed." A drizzle had started, but Tom still didn't look away from the sky, uncaring of the way the raindrops landed on his face.
"The only person's opinion that I value is you, and it'll always be you."
The drizzle was gradually getting stronger, fat drops now falling on Harry's face and sliding downwards, but some of them were hot for some reason, so much like…
It wasn't often they expressed such sentiments. They already knew that they loved each other deeply, thus, saying it was pretty needless. But on the rare occasions that Tom took the initiative, Harry would always find himself speechless, aware that his brother didn't care much for sweet words the way he himself did.
Smiling softly, he reached out, intertwining their fingers together.
Tom's fingers closed firmly, safely, around his own. "Should we go inside?"
Harry shook his head, brown hair nearly black from the rain. "Let's stay a little longer." he said, tightening his grip, and Tom nodded mutely.
"Besides," he added as an afterthought, "It's not like we'll be missed."
They looked at one another, breaking out laughing and snuggling closer to ward off the cold breeze.
Voldemort's heat withdrew at last, but Harry didn't move. His limbs were freed from their confinement, and still he couldn't find it within himself to move a muscle.
One last memory surfaced to the forefront of his mind, the shortest and bitterest of them all.
"I will a-always love you, T-Tommy. Never…n-never forget…that."
Tears spilled over his eyes, running down and to the side, landing on the grass below him. His bad eyesight, combined with the overflow of tears, was making it impossible for him to see beyond his nose, only distinguishing the blackness of the sky up ahead.
"Harry?" Vold – Tom asked from somewhere to the side, and the teen finally willed his arms to move, bringing his hands up to cover his face and his shame.
Choked sobs spilled from his lips, muffled by his hands, and he pressed firmer in the hopes of stifling them completely. Really, he was such a terrible and cruel person.
His hands were pried away suddenly, and as he was seized by the forearms and hoisted into a sitting position, Harry only vaguely registered that it longer hurt when the other touched him. A thumb passed over his cheeks, wiping away the tears there before brushing his eyelashes gently and removing any remaining wetness.
The action nearly made him sob again.
"Talk to me, little brother."
His eyes snapped open, finally taking his first good look at Tom after all this time. Sharp, elegant features set on a perfectly sculpted face. Piercing crimson eyes that contrasted so intensely with the pallor of his skin. With the exception of his hair which was now entirely black rather than dark brown, Tom looked exactly the same as his diary self, if not perhaps a year older.
The last time he had seen his brother, he was a ten year old child.
"Tom," he whispered, marveling at how good it felt to speak that name. He repeated it again, simply because he couldn't believe his older brother was standing right there before him.
And Tom, his smart, brilliant Tom, seemed to understand because strong arms enveloped him in their fierce hold, bringing him closer.
Harry did the same, clinging on him tightly; as if afraid he'd vanish into thin air.
"I'm sorry," he breathed into a robed shoulder, feeling tremors developing all over his body. "I'm so sorry for forgetting my promise. I didn't mean to, I swear! I was the one that told you to never forget, but in the end I…!"
Soothing circles were rubbed on his back, while long fingers stroked the back of his head.
"A reincarnated soul never maintains memories of a previous life. It wasn't your fault, Harry. I could never accuse you of something like that."
The teen drew back, breaking the embrace in order to look into the other's eyes, feeling a pang of guilt at the knowledge that their lovely green color was gone and it was partially his fault.
"Oh, gosh, I killed you. I killed my own brother more than once! As if the turmoil I put you through for all these years hadn't been enough!"
Tom cupped his cheek, linking their foreheads in a way that was so different from before. Harry breathed in deeply, filling his lungs with Tom's unique scent and trying to stifle the anxiety that was slowly and steadily welling up.
"It is of no importance now. I am here, and so are you." Red eyes gazed deeply at him, roaming all over his face. "Do you have any idea how long I've waited to have you back in my arms? Eighty four years, Harry. My Harry, my precious little one."
The teen choked out a laugh, neck burning up at the affectionate words he had gone so long without, at the person he had gone so long without.
Tom smiled slightly, having missed the sound of that ringing laughter.
"Everything is going to be alright now. We are going to be alright." Tom said, and the teen nodded, desperately wanting and needing to believe it.
But he had a feeling that his brother's eyes wouldn't just take a while to revert to normal, like their days at WOOL'S. After all, they had remained like this for eighty whole years now. He wouldn't kid himself. Tom had always taken revenge for everything the other children did to them, and he wasn't going to change his ways now. Not after having to suffer eighty years of solitude and despair.
Oh, yes. His brother's eyes were going to take quite some time to turn back. He just didn't know whether the world would still be standing by that time.
Yes, it's finally done!
What did you think of Ripped Apart?
If you want a sequel, then just sayso in your review or a pm, because I already have something in mind. ;)