Watching, Waiting Ch. 11
*Author's Note: Alright guys, I've got a nice, long chapter for you this time! Thank you so, so much to everyone who reviewed this last chapter. I love to hear from you guys so much. I especially want to thank those of you who have been diligently reviewing each chapter as I post it. You know who you are and you are amazing! I really appreciate your comments and support! Enjoy!*
"I'm not always like this
It's something I've become
A terrible weakness
In my nature, in my blood
Save me, oh save me
Save me from myself
Before I hurt somebody else again"
-Imogen Heap, Glittering Cloud
Harry watches Tom for a moment, green eyes calculating. It's a lot to ask, to see the moments that make up a person, that dictate who they are. It's even more to ask it when you're someone likely to use that information against them. In this moment Harry has to decide how much he really trusts Tom, how open with him he can be. If Tom really wants to change, is really dedicated to taking this way forward, then showing him the memories would be worth it. However, if for some reason this is all just a ploy, some scheme to get information from Harry about how he defeated Tom in the first place, then allowing Tom access to his head could be dangerous, not just for Harry, but for everyone. Harry stares into Tom's spelled eyes, trying to decipher the truth in those indigo irises. But there's no way to tell what Tom is thinking. When it all boils down to it, all Harry has is his gut.
"Fine," Harry says finally, "but only if I get something in return. I want to know the details of how you came to be, when you made this horcrux and why. I can guess most of it from what I've seen, but I want to be sure. I want to hear your side of it."
For a second, Tom just looks at Harry, his expression perfectly blank. Then, finally, he nods.
"Alright," agrees Tom. "That sounds like a fair trade. I assume you want me to go first?"
"Well," continues Tom after a brief pause, "I was twenty-two at the time. I was working at Borgin and Burks. It was my job to convince people with items of interest to part with their goods, for the right price of course. I think that career move surprised a lot of people. They were all expecting me to go straight into the Ministry, but I had other plans. The Ministry held no appeal to me at the time, not compared to the power I could obtain outside of it, through less legitimate channels. The Ministry was something to be tackled later, when I had the support and man-power to hold it. Besides, as I'm sure you already know, I was busy collecting certain items of historical significance. I had wanted a post at Hogwarts for that very reason. Of course, there were other aspects of teaching at Hogwarts that I found desirable as well, but that was one of them. Since I was too young for that, however, I knew Borgin and Burks would be the next best thing. It's amazing what passes through those doors. Don't get me wrong, most of it was junk. Cursed necklaces, dismembered hands, bones that would suddenly leap up and whack you on the head if you weren't careful. Most of it just looked impressive, was meant to scare and intimidate. But some of it, oh, some of it was really worth something. Some of it had real history behind it."
"Like Hepzibah Smith's cup from Hufflepuff," interjects Harry. Tom raises an eyebrow slightly, eyeing Harry with newfound interest.
"So you do know how I got it," murmurs Tom. "I thought you might have, since you so diligently tracked it down later, but I could never be sure. Yes, just like Mrs. Smith's cup. To think, that such a boring little old lady would have an item descended from one of the Hogwarts founders. An item of such importance, with such a history to it. It was wasted in her hands. Completely wasted. And it was all too easy to get it. Just a few well-placed compliments, a little much-needed attention, and a handsome face were all it took. She practically threw the thing at me. She knew that it would impress me, and by that point the woman was desperate for my attention. Anything to hold onto me a little longer, to have someone to sit there and smile politely while she prattled on about her nieces and nephews and the life she wished she'd had. Pathetic really, what loneliness can reduce people to. But it was talking to her that showed me. When I saw how easy it was to charm her out of the most precious thing she owned, that's when I truly began to appreciate the power of youth and a handsome face. That's when I knew that power had to be preserved. So, while I continued collecting items of significance to Hogwarts' history, I made my second diary, preserving my twenty-two year old self within its pages. The two diaries were different than all my other horcruxes. Most of them were just fragments of my soul, sealed away for safe-keeping, but the diaries were more. The diaries kept memories, too, preserved me just as I was at the time they were made. I decided to use Mrs. Smith's death to make it. It seemed fitting since she was the one who gave me the idea, even if that wasn't her intention."
"I see," says Harry slowly, trying to hide the disgust bubbling up within him at Tom's flippant description of the way he manipulated and then murdered the sweet old woman. "So you're just like the Riddle from the other diary then. Without any of the older Voldemort's memories, like time was just paused for you from then until now."
"Indeed. Regretably, that's true. The memories of my older self have been lost," Tom admits, sounding almost wistful.
"Now then, Potter," he continues, "time for your side of the bargain."
Harry pauses for a moment, staring down into the gently swirling liquid within the pensieve as he tries to decide which memories he should share. There are so many to choose from, so many little moments that really, when it comes down to it, were important. It's amazing what moments were defining when you really look back on it. Even little, everyday events represent a massive part of one's existence when looked at from afar. Everything provides context, begins to set the scene for who you are. Eventually, however, Harry reaches up, pointing his wand at his temple. A silver substance pools there at Harry's wand tip, growing into a thick, metallic thread as Harry pulls his wand slowly away. Then, gently, as though afraid the silver strand will break, Harry draws the memory downwards, dipping it down into the pensieve's basin.
"After you," Harry says, his face drawn and determined. Tom glances at Harry once, noting the other boy's grim expression. Then, slowly, he leans forward, pressing his face into the cool liquid of the pensieve.
Tom's stomach leaps into his throat as he plummets downwards. Some force is drawing him down, not gravity, obviously, since this place isn't real, but something like it. All around him, black liquid swirls, rushing right beside him but never actually touching his pallid skin. Then, suddenly, his descent stops. Walls form around Tom, slanted, short walls that press on Tom's back, forcing him down until he's kneeling. He's sitting in what appears to be a closet. Beneath Tom's feet rests a small mattress with a child's sleeping bag sitting on top. At the far end of the closet sits a row of dusty shelves. These shelves mostly just contain clothing, neatly folded and put away, but there are also a few figurines, some hint of a childhood. In front of Tom sits a young boy of around five or six years old. It's hard to tell precisely. From the boy's size and weight Tom would normally have guessed younger than five, but there's a wisdom in his eyes, some dark, depressed intelligence that no four year old could possess. Even at his size the closet is too small for him to live in, and it's certainly too small for Tom to comfortably fit along with him. A second later, the space becomes even more cramped as the present day Harry lands at Tom's side.
"You lived here? In a closet?" Tom asks quietly, his voice somber as he watches the young Harry slowly move his action figures around. Harry just nods.
"This is no place for a child to live," murmurs Tom.
"No," agrees Harry. "But I'm sure where you grew up wasn't much better."
"At least I could stand up in the orphanage," grumbles Tom, shifting awkwardly as he tries to get comfortable in the cramped space. Harry's elbow is jabbing Tom painfully in the side, and his neck is beginning to ache from being so hunched over. Eventually, however, he gives up on trying to be comfortable, and just watches as Harry plays with his toys. It isn't the usual, energetic play of a five year old boy. There is no narration of what the action figures are doing, no sound effects or loud, guttural explosions. Instead, Harry remains perfectly silent, just moving the figures slowly around in front of him. This is a boy who's been shown the consequences of being loud, someone used to having to pretend that he doesn't exist. He's like a shadow instead of a loud, happy kid. And for a moment, Tom understands.
"Boy! Get out here! Your chores aren't going to do themselves!" shouts a voice from the other side of the closet door. Then, something clicks, a lock on the door Tom realizes, and the closet door bangs open. A meaty hand reaches into the cramped space, grabs the young Harry by his over-sized shirt, and drags him bodily from the closet. Harry doesn't yelp, doesn't make so much as a sound. He knows by now not to talk back. A few years down the line Harry will finally get the courage to start muttering come-backs under his breath, to fight back, no matter how subtly against the Dursley's treatment of him. But for now Harry is too young and lonely and afraid to protest. He sees how other little boys are treated, how they're loved and embraced and coddled, and he thinks that he must be bad, must have done something horribly wrong to be treated so differently. It isn't until later that Harry learns to place the blame on the Dursleys instead of himself. For now, though, when the Dursleys tell Harry that he's a bad kid, that he's a freak, he believes them. After all, why else would they treat him the way they do?
The older Harry pushes on Tom's shoulder, urging him forwards, and Tom eagerly complies, crawling in an embarrassingly undignified way out of the tiny closet under the stairs. Harry quickly follows, rubbing his stiff neck and grimacing as it cracks back into place.
"I'd almost forgotten how miniscule that closet was…" Harry grumbles, but it's a lie. He remembers all too well.
"Come on then," Harry continues, getting to his feet and following his younger self into the kitchen. Tom hurries after him. The man who dragged Harry out of the closet deposits the young boy in front of the sink, waving fat, sausage-like fingers at the dirty dishes piling up there.
"Get cleaning, boy," the man snaps, his considerable jowls wobbling dangerously with every spittle-coated word. Then, as soon as Harry grabs the slightly damp sponge sitting on the edge of the sink, the large man trudges away. He seems eager to be away from Harry, as though afraid to catch something unpleasant from him. Tom can't begin to imagine what.
"That's my uncle Vernon," explains the present day Harry as his younger self begins to pour soap onto a grimy plate. He doesn't say anything else, though, doesn't try to explain his uncle's actions. Tom doesn't press him.
The younger Harry looks incredibly small standing in the Dursleys' kitchen. His clothing hangs on him, hand-me-downs that are several sizes too large, making the boy look even smaller in comparison. In fact, the only thing Harry owns at this point in time that didn't used to be Dudley's are the small, round-framed glasses perched on his nose. Even homeless people have a cart or a backpack of possessions, but here, surrounded by all this fine furniture and comfort, Harry owns nothing. This place isn't his home; it never was. It's just four walls that contain people who hate him, people who don't even want him there. But despite all this, they did tolerate him. They did keep him. Even if a big part of Harry wishes that they hadn't, the Dursleys, in the end, had done their duty. Even if it was just the bare minimum.
Harry stands there next to Tom, watching his younger self hustle around the kitchen. The young Harry moves almost like a rabbit in scared little bursts of motion. He occasionally pauses, tense and on edge, to look about, sensing out the locations of his relatives in the house. Only when he notes that the Dursleys are safely far away does he resume tidying up. As Harry watches himself, something tight clenches in his chest. It's hard, knowing what's in store for that poor, scared little boy. That thin, little child is going to have to endure years more of this abuse, and then, when he's finally free of it, when he finally has friends and the Weasleys and people who'll accept him, he's going to have to lead a war against the most powerful and feared wizard in history. Things are never going to be easy for that little five-year-old. Still, though, Harry knows that it was worth it. If he had to go back and do it all over again, he would. Because even if things were never easy, even if every step along the way was a battle, it was a battle with something worth fighting for. Harry gained loved ones and then lost some of them again over the course of the war, but Harry knows now that it was worth the pain of losing them to have had them in his lives for even a short period of time. He would do it again. He would. It doesn't make looking at that child any easier, though.
Suddenly, Harry gasps as someone walks right through him. Vernon has returned, his face beet red with unjustified anger and his face scrunched into an ugly scowl. The younger Harry hasn't noticed him, too absorbed in scrubbing at a particularly tough bit of egg on one of the plates. Vernon takes a few lumbering steps into the room then stops, glaring at Harry for a moment before shouting at the top of his lungs.
"Boy!" he bellows, and the younger Harry starts, jumping up in the air and dropping the plate in his hands in surprise. The plate falls to the floor, shattering with a loud crash on impact. Bits of ceramic fly about the room, skidding across the floor as the plate breaks. Both Harry and Vernon stare in horror at the remains. Harry remembers this moment, remembers the fear his younger self felt, the complete and utter terror at the punishment he knew must be coming. Harry tenses despite himself, waiting with horrible anticipation for the inevitable. Tom just frowns, taking the scene in curiously.
Vernon has turned an even deeper, nastier shade of red, his mustache quivering in his fury. That plate had been part of a set inherited from Vernon's grandmother: fancy, expensive, and completely irreplaceable. Vernon takes a slow, angry step towards the five year old Harry. Harry's body is completely tense, his big green eyes wide with terror behind round lenses. Vernon takes another step towards the cowering boy and then another, his hands curling into fists and his back hunching over to bring his scowl even closer to the boy's round face. He's moving quickly now, practically running towards the scared child. The young Harry's eyes clench shut, wincing in anticipation of the blow he knows must be coming. He lets out one short, terrified whimper as Vernon's fist extends out towards his pale face, his hands reaching up to try and shield himself from the punch. Vernon's hand never connects, though. Instead, when the young Harry tentatively opens his eyes, he sees that his uncle has been blown forcibly across the room. Vernon's head strikes the wooden cabinets painfully, his face an almost comical expression of shock and horror. Harry looks almost equally horrified. He doesn't know what just happened, but he knows that whatever it was, he's managed to take his situation from bad to worse. Vernon no longer looks like he wants to hit Harry, though. Instead he looks shaken, afraid of the frail little five-year-old standing by his sink.
For a moment Vernon just stares, all his worst fears about his nephew confirmed in a few, short seconds. Then, he's shouting, letting out his fear in the form of angry phrases and hurtful words.
"You freak!" he's shouting, lunging to grab Harry by his shirt collar. "You little, ungrateful freak! I should have just left you out on the doorstep where you were found, should have just let you freeze to death, you ungrateful bastard! Just like your parents! Just as strange, just as useless!" He's dragging Harry across the floor now, occasionally pausing to clout Harry about the ears. Harry remembers how much those blows had hurt, how his ears had been buzzing for almost an hour afterwards. Harry and Tom quickly step out of the way as Vernon approaches, passing the invisible viewers to throw Harry bodily into the closet once more. The door shuts behind him. Then, Vernon locks it. The man is shaking now, his hand fumbling as he seals the closet door shut. Whether it's from anger or fear, though, Harry can't tell. Probably both.
"How can you be such an advocate of muggle rights when this is how the muggles who raised you treated you?" asks Tom, his voice cold and full of hate.
"Muggles are no worse than us," replies Harry, watching the closet door somberly.
"How can you defend these people?" Tom snaps incredulously, cutting Harry off. "Look at how they treated you! No wizard child can help doing wandless magic when they're angry or afraid, and your muggle uncle beat you for it and locked you in a closet! All just because you were different. All because you were special and they were oh-so-very ordinary. Because they were jealous and closed-minded and afraid of what their tiny little minds weren't capable of understanding!"
"But they aren't that way because they're muggles!" shouts Harry, beginning to lose his temper. "They're that way because they're human, and flawed. I mean, listen to yourself! You're accusing muggles of being horrible for their prejudice, but you're being just as prejudiced against them as they are of us! Anybody can fear what they don't know, what they can't understand. When I was in my second year, I told this snake in Parseltongue not to attack this boy in my class, Justin. But instead of thanking me for saving him, he freaked out. He thought I was trying to kill him or something, that I was Slytherin's heir. He was just as afraid of me as my uncle was back then, and he lashed out just like he did. People fear power they don't understand. No one likes to feel helpless, or out-gunned. No one. Not wizards, or muggles, or anyone. I'm not saying the Dursleys are good people. Far from it. But they aren't bad because they're muggles. They're flawed because they're people, and, although it's taken me years, I've forgive them for that, even if I may never like them."
"How on earth could you forgive that?" asks Tom, looking almost disgusted at the idea.
"I'll show you," says Harry, and the world dissolves into black wisps. When it finally reforms, Tom and Harry are still standing in the same kitchen. This time, however, the other version of Harry is much older, in his early teens perhaps. Uncle Vernon isn't the only Dursley in the room, either. A frail woman stands beside him, looking even thinner beside his plump bulk. Vernon is just as red as in the last memory and just as furious. He's yelling at Harry, screaming something about how Harry needs to leave now, needs to get out of his bloody house and never come back. This older Harry isn't just quietly standing by anymore, though. This Harry is shouting back, giving as good as he gets to the fat, mustachioed man, and he seems just as eager to leave as Vernon is. Their argument is interrupted, however, when a large, brown barn owl swoops in through the kitchen window. For a moment, everyone in the room is silent, just staring at the bird in silence. Then, Harry reaches out, untying the letter from the owl's helpfully extended leg. He frowns, though, when he sees whom the letter is addressed to. Wordlessly, he holds the letter out, offering it to his stunned aunt.
His aunt tentatively reaches out, bony fingers closing reluctantly around the bit of parchment. This seems to break the spell of silence on the room. Instantly, Vernon is yelling again, screeching about bloody birds all over his bloody house and how Harry needs to leave at once. Suddenly, a hand squeezes Vernon's arm, drawing the man's attention to the prim woman at his side. Aunt Petunia's expression has changed now. Now she doesn't look scared or apprehensive or angry. She looks determined: a woman about to get her way.
"They boy stays," she declares flatly, iron in her voice as she crumples the letter between her fingers.
"What?" splutters Vernon, taken aback. "But Petunia-"
"No, Vernon," interjects Petunia firmly. "The boy stays. Harry, go upstairs to your room. Now."
"What changed her mind?" Tom asks curiously, eyeing the scene with sudden interest. "She didn't seem to mind you leaving a second ago."
"The letter in her hand," Harry replies, studying his aunt's lined face carefully as he speaks. He tries to see the resemblance to his mother, but can't. His memories of his mother stem from photos alone, and in all those photos his mum was young and happy and in love. Nothing at all like this thin-faced, middle-aged woman with her nose constantly in the neighbors' business. "It was from Dumbledore. It took me years to figure it out, but he eventually told me. It reminded Aunt Petunia why Dumbledore had sent me to this house in the first place. Petunia was my mum's sister, you see, so her blood was similar. While I was in her house, so long as I could call Privet Drive home, my mother's protection kept me safe through that shared blood. So you see, even while Petunia was fine with sitting back and even participating in a lot of the little abuses they put me through, she wasn't willing to cast me out for some dark wizard to kill. Somewhere, somewhere well hidden and very deep down, Petunia cared about me, even if it was only a little bit. Even though she was horribly jealous of my mom and hated her for it, she took care of her only son. Even if it wasn't as well as she could have. She could have cast me out, but she didn't. None of them did, not in the end."
"You say that like it justifies what they did to you," mutters Tom, his voice bitter and dark.
"No," interjects Harry. "It doesn't make up for it, not really. They still treated me horribly. But it means that there was some human decency in them. Somewhere deep down. When it really counts. They had their limits to what they would do to me. Even if they did hate me, even if they were afraid of what my parents had been and what they knew I'd become, they still kept me alive, saved me from, well, you. The Dursleys just cared about different things. Being normal and fitting in were important to them, and I wasn't any of those things. They were always afraid of what the neighbors might think if someone found out about me. I wasn't allowed to talk about magic or school or anything, in case someone overheard me. That's why the owls bothered them so much. It's not normal for muggles to have owls flying in and out of their house, especially not during the day when owls are supposed to be nocturnal. I'm not saying it makes them good people, but it means there was something. Something worth forgiving. My cousin Dudley even apologized to me in the end for how he used to treat me. He was worried about me, too, when he found out there was an incredibly dangerous dark wizard after me. Actually asked if I was going to go with them into hiding like he wanted me along. I'll admit, though, that took me by surprise. I hadn't expected to ever get anything that concrete out of them, you know?"
Tom just shakes his head, clearly still not understanding.
"They're more than just their mistreatment of me," Harry tries again, but Tom just continues to frown disbelievingly at him.
"It's a power to be able to forgive someone," Harry murmurs, his voice soft, as if the words are for his own ears alone. "It's easier to hate someone than it is to forgive them. It's harder than revenge and anger. But it is a power to be able to forgive someone who's wronged you. It takes strength. Sometimes, you just have to be bigger, be the better person because they're not able to, and someone… someone has to or else hate is all that's left. It's easier to hate than to try and understand, and that's where all of this starts. That's this whole bloody war, really." Then Harry shakes his head, seeming to snap out of this train of thought, coming up out of his own head and back into the present moment.
"Anyways," he continues. "Let's look at something happier, shall we? After all, the Dursleys were only part of my life."
Instantly, Privet Drive dissolves, melting into inky pools of blackness. For a moment, the black substance just swirls lazily around the two men, then, suddenly, it reforms. The pair is standing in what can only be the Gryffindor common room. Red and gold is everywhere. Striped banners bearing the emblem of the Gryffindor lion coat the walls. Plush, crimson armchairs sit facing a massive, stone fireplace. Coating the fireplace's mantle is a festive garland made out of fir needles, like a Christmas tree. Bright, red and gold baubles hang from the garland and float about in the air, catching the light and shining proudly. Clearly, it must be near Christmas. Three children are currently sitting in front of the fireplace: a girl with a thick, bushy head of hair, a freckle-coated, red-haired boy who could only be a Weasley, and Harry himself, although a much younger version of him. From what Tom has been told of history, he can only guess that the other girl and boy are Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. From what Tom can tell, nothing particularly significant is going on. The three are merely opening presents and joking around with each other: ordinary friendly behavior. Tom can't imagine why Harry would take him here, choose this out of all of the moments in his life to show.
"This meant a lot to me," Harry says, breaking the silence. "This was my first Christmas here, at Hogwarts, and it was the first time I'd ever gotten a present from someone else, let alone from a friend. I'd never even had any friends before this year. The Dursleys always just got me socks, or sometimes, nothing at all, so I'd never really seen anything special about the holiday before. But this year, I'd woken up and there'd actually been parcels at the foot of my bed all wrapped up in paper and bows and everything. It'd taken me a minute to figure out what was going on."
In front of them, the red-haired child is tugging out a knitted maroon jumper bearing a massive letter "R" on the chest. He makes a face, turning a deep, embarrassed scarlet that matches his fiery hair as the others cajole him into pulling the sweater on over his head. A minute later, and Harry is holding a similar jumper, only in a deep emerald green to match his eyes. Instead of looking embarrassed or horrified, though, Harry looks awed by the garment. Tom watches the little boy's face closely, seeing the surprised happiness in his smile, the almost tearful glint to his emerald eyes. Clearly this hideous jumper really meant something to him, since he couldn't be that happy about the sweater in its own right. Heinous, really.
"Mrs. Weasley knitted that for me," explains Harry, smiling fondly at the memory. "Ron's mum. I'd never had anyone actually make something for me, let alone such a sweet, motherly woman as Mrs. Weasley. It really meant a lot to me, having all these people who cared enough to spend time and money choosing something out for me. After all those years of just the Dursleys and being called useless and a freak, I'd finally found friends, finally found people who cared. I remember feeling that this moment was so perfect. After all, I finally had everything I'd always wanted. Hogwarts was the home I'd never had: a place where people accepted me for who I was and where people thought that I actually had potential, that I was really capable of becoming something. And then my friends and the Weasleys, Ron and Hermione, they were the family I'd never had, too. It was everything I'd been denied for all those years, and I'd finally found it."
Harry and Tom watch as the younger Harry unwraps a massive book, obviously from Hermione, who beams when Harry murmurs his approval of the gift. Then she pounces, grabbing up the dark-haired boy in a tight hug, and the smile on Harry's face is so big that it hurts. Ron just laughs, taking the book from Harry and pretending to almost drop it due to its weight. Hermione swats at him, frowning and scolding, and Harry and Ron are laughing, laughing so innocently, so happily. And in that moment, Tom sees why Harry chose this moment to show him. In that moment, Tom begins to understand.
"These are the people I fought for," says Harry, watching the scene with fondness before turning to look Tom dead in the eyes. "These are the people I died for. And this ,these bonds, are why I was strong enough to kill you."
*Author's Note: So much italics! Anyways, I hope you guys have enjoyed this chapter! Tom is finally starting to understand Harry a little better, and hopefully, the more he learns, the more relatable Harry becomes to him. Please review with any feedback or requests you may have. I love to read what you guys have to say, and I appreciate all the support you guys have been giving me as I write this story! Thank you all for reading!*