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Animus, Anima: English version

Chapter Text


 

The first incident (1934-1935 / 7-8 years old)

Chapter 3: A saliva quilt


 

 

Christmas was at the corner, with its kitsch decorations and its family atmosphere. Like Harry, Tom was not a fan of the end of the year period. It reminded him that his parents were certainly dead and that his only relatives were other orphaned kids with whom he did not get along.

And there was his birthday. Tom did not like his birthday. On December 31st, everyone was celebrating New Year Eve, and he, who should have been the party king, was completely forgotten. He did not understand why he had to be happy to grow up, unless it meant he had less time to wait before quitting the orphanage.

Until then, Harry had always done his best to make the day enjoyable, offering him gifts whose contents Tom had known for weeks, for they shared one mind and one body.

That year, however, Tom was afraid that his eighth birthday would be very gloomy. Harry tried to start a conversation with him, pinched his cheeks and rolled his eyes, but Tom refused to answer him. He did not know why, but he held Harry responsible for his dark mood and his constant anger.

It was the first time they had been fighting for so long and without a real reason.

xXx

“Tom! Tom, what did I just say?”

Tom, once was not custom, jumped. Without realizing it, he had let his eyes leave his sheet of paper to venture into the grooves of his desk, which they have followed like two shipwrecked guys carried away by the water. He still held his penholder in the air. Purple ink dripped gently on his writing board.

He was angry at Harry for not calling him to order.

I called you! Harry protested immediately.

All faces were turned towards Tom, no one laughed. The schoolchildren of the 1930s were unquestionably quieter than those of Harry's time, for they dreaded the painful punishments they risked if they disobeyed ... and they also had more respect for the order. Some, however, smiled with eloquence.

Even though Tom was not an annoying bespectacled know-it-all, they were glad he was scolded. It warmed their heart to have proof that the polite, handsome, well-bred, intelligent orphan was not absolutely perfect. Billy, who was not as smart or as integrated as Tom, did not hide his joy.

Kids are cruel, Harry thought, making a face.

"I don't know..." Tom replied finally, erasing Harry's frown.

"… Mistress" Harry added quickly.

Don't speak in my place! Tom annoyed.

It's no use worsening your case, you idiot! Wanna get your fingers hit? Wanna sit on the corner?

“Well, Tom, you'll copy ten times "I need to concentrate in class". I'll give you a model at the end of the lesson. You will also give me back your Cross of Honor. Well, children, now ...”

xXx

Everybody went back to his writing sheet. In two seconds, the smug smiles had given way to expressions of intense concentration. Tom did not even bother to decipher the stupid sentence they had to calligraphy.

He felt humiliated. He felt like the other students were silently laughing and making fun of him. And why? Because he was thinking about Hogwarts! All this was Harry's fault.

I don't think so, Harry snapped at him. I'll help you write your lines, if you want, but focus now.

Shut up, Tom squeaked.

Whatever you say, Harry calmly said before he stopped thinking.

It was much easier than before. He just had had to get the hang of it. Now he could fade as often as he wished. As soon as he wanted to fly away from reality, he only had to imagine an impalpable and translucent entity folding back on itself. It was often a kind of long pearly fluid, like a wizard memory, which curled up to form a tiny blue pearl.

This time, he choosed to visualize an immense wave laced with foam, like a horse's mouth full of spit. The drool flowed everywhere, sprinkling the sky with viscous postilions, and then, gently, retracting. The imperious ocean called back its waters: the heavy wave wrapped itself up like a saliva quilt then died, devoured by itself.

The scene worked and Harry's presence slowly decreased.

It was not really like falling asleep but rather like putting yourself on standby to protect yourself from the outside. He was then huddled in a corner of Tom's brain or heart, as if in an underwater shell, and the sounds of the world came to him deaf and nebulous. It was comfortable but a bit sad.

Lately it happened to him more than before.

And in those moments of extreme solitude, where Harry was almost cut off from his other self, the only thing he could do was screaming with rage and helplessness. Why had Tom learned so early that he was a wizard? Why could not Harry avoid the fatal events he felt would soon occur? Why did he reincarnate in Tom, if he could not change the course of events, if he could not save himself and save Voldemort?

What am I supposed to do? he lamented.

xXx

That night, Tom did not ask Harry to help him with his lines so Harry let him be. Their relationship had rapidly deteriorated. Tom's attitude toward him was maddening, but he kinda deserved it.

He should never have told him about magic. It was too late to have remorse but if he could have kick himself, he would have done so. Tom was turning bad and Harry was the one to be blamed.

More than once, when the child was very young, the Chosen One had thought of strangling himself or throwing himself from his cradle to put an end to his days. By sacrificing himself and the infant, he would have preserve the wizarding world from two wars. It would have been so simple! He would only have had to smash this skull, to spread his foggy brain on the ground and never would anyone have heard of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Why would he have returned in the past if it was not to accomplish this act?

He had often raised his chubby arms towards his neck. During a walk, he had sometimes rolled to the side, hoping to overturn his pram, but he had never went all the way. What had stopped him was not the fear of disrupting the space-time continuum – he was not even sure he was in the past for real – nor even the fear of committing suicide: it was the absolute wrongness of murdering a baby.

Did he have the right to kill Tom when he had not done anything wrong? Could he kill someone who had just been born and had not even realize he was alive?

Harry had not eaten the dying creature in Limbo to kill it afterwards. The nature of the world in which he had ended up was of no importance. If he was there, it was to change Tom, to turn him in a better man. That was his mission. At least he was persuaded of it at first. Then he had let Tom grow up, loving him as his own son.

But he obviously was a poor educator. He had blown up everything by telling the boy they were wizards. From that day, Tom had been dissatisfied, almost disgusted with his modest daily life. Since he had discovered the existence of magic, each day he had become colder, each day he had become more and more Voldemort.

The only thing that has kept Harry going was that the boy had still never lost control of his magic. As long as he did not discover how to use it, as long as he did not try to tame it ... Then it would not be too late. As long as Tom caused no fatal event, Harry would not have to kill him.

For the Chosen One remembered word for word what the Pensieve's Tom had said and it frightened him every time he thought about it.

"I can make things move without touching them. I can make animals do what I want without training them. I can make bad things happen to people who are mean to me. I can make them hurt if I want to..."

His own Tom was different. He had benefited from his affection and his tips. Even though he was stubborn and capricious, Harry loved him. Tom was loved, Tom loved him, was not that enough to say he was no Voldemort? To allow him to live?

xXx xXx xXx

“Merry Christmas, children!” Mrs Cole chanted.

"Merry Christmas, Mrs Cole," all the kids answered, including Tom – but it was Harry who had spoken for him.

Stop doing that! It's not your body!

Oh, Harry sighed ironically. Where is my Tom who said "Harry, you're my best friend" all day long? The one who begged me to tell him the story of the princess and ...

Shut up!

You franckly has a bad temper. Do you know that's not a good thing for your heart?

Even if he was angry, Harry had to be the grown-up, the one who set an example. Tom had been difficult lately but he only acted as a spoiled child. And Harry was trying to convince himself that a child, even little Voldemort, could not be bad. Violence, hatred, endless anger, all this belonged to adulthood, all this happened later. Harry did not know from when one could be called a bad person, but he was sure a eight years minus a week old boy could not be called that. Eight years old was so young ...

As it was unproductive to have a row with himself, Harry went by the Christmas tree.

xXx

On December 25, the orphanage's children just received small things, except for the year they entered school. Next morning, Tom and Billy would unpack gifts which would have more value than a pair of socks or a second-hand comic book.

But Harry did not find a gift with Billy's name by the tree. He had a bad feeling.

Maybe she forgot it, Tom commented dryly, talking about Mrs Cole.

It's impossible. It must be something you can't leave under a tree for a night.

We don't care. Let's go back to our room.

Harry and Tom fell asleep at the same time – as always – but as independently as possible. Things were not improving.

Harry no longer understood why he was in Tom's body. To kill him was not his mission but to give him love was not it either. Were the past eight years part of a nasty curse destined to make him crazy?

Was he the victim of a sterile hallucination without a purpose?

xXx xXx xXx

“A rabbit!” Billy cried. “I've always dreamed of owning a pet rabbit!”

Mrs Cole watched him holding his brown rabbit in his arms with the benevolent look she reserved for the boarders she particularly appreciated. She liked Billy Stubbs. He was a child without problems, whose look was as dull and naive as a child's look had to be.

Not like– Mrs Cole turned. Tom was behind her. He looked at Billy's pet with fear. Was he afraid of rabbits?

But his eyes were not filled with mild fear but with real terror, as if Billy was cuddling a monster. His haunted eyes stared at the animal as if it had tentacles, mandibles, thin hairy legs and eyes all over its body. It was perhaps even worse than a monster: a monster's corpse. It was a disembowelled thing with twisted limbs, covered with violet and sticky fluids and garlands of knotty intestines, which Billy Stubbs crushed cheerfully against his chest. Tom looked like he would throw up.

Seriously, what was wrong with this boy?

“Tom?” Ivy asked him. “Tom, is everything okay?”

"I'm fine" Tom replied calmly.

Why are you like that? he asked Harry with as much authority as concern.

But Harry could not answer him. Confused pictures paraded chaotically through his mind. They were going so fast, they made Tom feel dizzy too.

"I don't feel very well" Harry added in a troubled voice. “I'll refresh myself upstairs.”

Harry moved away from the rabbit at full speed, as if the rodent was going to throw himself at him and tear his fingers and toes off one by one. He was already on the stairs when Ivy shouted:

“And your gift, you don't open your gift?”

Tom wanted to go back to retrieve his gift but Harry forced him to go up. Over his shoulder, he articulated with great difficulty:

“Later, Miss Ivy.”

xXx

“What is happening to you?” Tom cried as soon as they had shut their room's door behind them. “Why are you so weird?”

“Don't speak aloud!” Harry replied, resisting the urge to slap himself.

"That's what you're doing!" Tom exclaimed.

He threw himself into the bed but Harry got up immediately.

“What are you doing?” Tom grumbled.

I wanna refresh myself and you come with me, Harry explained silently, making an effort to calm his nerves.

Do I really have the choice? the child muttered. Harry's really weird-It worries me-Are you afraid of rabbits?

Harry did not deign to reply. He got them to the boys' washrooms. In front of the mirror, he sprinkled himself with water, but it did not calm him down. His thoughts all revolved around the rabbit, the rabbit and the rafters, Billy and a quarrel, accidents, and what deep shit had he landed himself into?

“Why are you freaking out?” Tom cried. “Answer me! What's wrong?”

“Stop speaking out loud!”

“You give me no order!”

Breathing deeply, Harry and Tom resumed their dispute silently, their eyes riveted on their reflection, looking desperately for each other.

But why is it so complicated-Why now-Why does it happen? Harry wondered. Tom, stay away from this rabbit, okay? Don't touch it!

Why? What's wrong with you? Tom asked inquisitively. Tell me!

"Don't give me any orders, Tom!" Harry shouted, slapping himself this time.

They heard footsteps on the other side of the door. Quivering, they realized someone had heard them argue. It was over. They would be sent to the asylum.

Everything is your fault! Tom accused Harry. You hit me, how could you!

I hit myself, okay?

Harry heard all the negative thoughts that were jostling in Tom's conscience and they were not pleasant. He recalled he was the adult one. Then he sprinkled himself with water again, closed his eyes, loosened his fists and finally calmed down.

Sorry, Tom, I didn't want to hit you. It was meant for myself. I feel better now. Let's go down to see who heard us and to open our gift, alright?

xXx

His cheek still red, Tom went downstairs and found he had been given a jump rope. It was beautiful, with his wooden yellow and green striped sleeves and his leather cord, but Tom made an internal grimace.

Who does she think I am? A girl?

Come on, it's so pretty, isn't it?

Harry, you're talking like a girl, Tom sneered.

His anger momentarily forgotten, the child had a mental epiphany.

Maybe you're a girl? Harry, Harry? Harriet? Are you sure you had a willie like me in your past life?

Tom, it's not funny, Harry smiled despite himself.

He was relieved, finally having a relaxed chat with his soul. It had been an eternity and he had missed it.

“Do you like it, Tom?” Ivy asked, all smiles. “Mrs Anne, Mrs Cole and I thought you could exercice in the garden or in the school playground.”

“Thank you, Miss Ivy, thank you, Mrs Anne and Mrs Cole,” Tom politely replied with an angelic smile. “I enjoy reading a lot, but I'm sure I'll love the skipping rope.”

"What a charming young man!" the cook said, waddling. “Isn't it a pity, Mrs Cole, that no one have adopted him yet?”

Tom did not listen to the rest of the discussion. The advantage of his banter with Harry was that he finally had a good excuse to start talking to him again. He would never confess it to Harry, at least not explicitly, but he had missed him. Sometimes he even wondered why he had sulked for so long.

Harry, are we going to test the jump rope?

Let's go, Harry replied almost naturally, for he was also thinking “So he missed me-Tom's so cute!"

According to decency, you had to pretend you hadn't heard, Tom winced.

xXx

“Come home soon, Tom, it's very cold!”

“All right, Mrs Cole," the child closed the garden's door.

Did you hear what she said to Anne? She called me mad, he grumbled.

Well, how many normal people would come out on a day like this? It must be 0°! Harry exclaimed, hugging himself.

Tom pulled away at once. He was not cold. And how gross, Harry was giving him a hug!

If it were 0°, it would be snowing. Anyway, how does a jump rope work?

Harry took control of the child's body to show him, and soon enough both were awkwardly crumbling. It warmed them up and did not keep their minds busy so they kept talking. They had both missed their carefree plays immensely.

Why are you afraid of Billy's rabbit? Tom asked.

Harry tried to close his mind as much as possible.

It's ... It doesn't matter, Tom. I'm sorry, I panicked. It reminded me of a bad memory, that's all. I'm truly sorry.

Harry was not telling him the whole story but Tom did not find any rabbit image, any traumatic scene in Harry's memory that could have explained his reaction. As he ventured a little further, he catched a glimpse of some prophetic words he could not understand, for Harry refused to share them with him.

This rabbit story was really weird. Harry seemed to be less afraid of Billy's pet than of Tom himself. There was however nothing to fear. Tom loved animals.

You're lying but I don't care, the boy thought. It's better to reassure Harry-I don't want him to feel bad-Truth isn't so important-I missed him -I don't want us to argue anymore.

When did you become so mature? Harry whispered. Before, you'd have had a full-blown breakdown! Thanks Merlin-He doesn't wanna know more-Close your mind, Harry.

I'll turn eight in a few days, Tom simply replied, ignoring his friend's other thoughts.

Who do you think heard us in the bathroom earlier? Harry asked, unable to keep the question for himself.

I believe it was a boy.

xXx xXx xXx

The holidays passed peacefully for Tom and Harry had almost reconciled. They were not as symbiotic as they used to be, but little by little they put aside their differences and rediscovered how comforting it was to always have someone with you. In a way, they re-tamed themselves.

Harry eventually thought he had worried for nothing. It was natural that a relationship, even with a brother or a son – he did not know exactly how to consider Tom – could go through periods of conflict. It was like when Tom had had his two years old crisis: it had passed and this time again, it had passed. After all, they were doomed to have a common destiny, weither in their previous or later lives.

Sometimes, however, he was in doubt. Was he underestimating the potential threat Tom Riddle was? Was he blinded by his happiness at having finally found a family? But his vicious mind always furnished him with arguments he hastened to approve. Tom was a child, Tom just needed love. Everything was going to work out. Everything had already worked out. Indeed, no one had told Mrs. Cole about their schizophrenic crisis in the bathroom and Tom had reverted to his capricious and adorable previous self.

Since he had found no good reason to keep Tom away from the rabbit and since Tom did not seem to want to harm it, he allowed him to spend time with the animal. What was at first a stroke from time to time quickly turned into hours of watching the rabbit frolicking in their room and running after it, when it tried to run away.

Harry would have liked to keep the rabbit as far away as possible from Tom, but he obviously could not reveal what he knew and he did not have the heart to leave the animal locked up all day. Indeed, after a few days, Billy had already get tired of his pet – which he had named Turnip.

"It's only eating hay. And its eyes never blink!” he had complained to Mrs Cole.

"It's a rabbit, Billy," she had sighed.

"Fortunately, Tom volonteered to take care of it," Ivy had added.

Anne had said nothing. She was too busy painting the portrait of three hideous toddlers.

xXx

Harry still was afraid for the rabbit, but at the same time he was wondering how Tom could kill such a cute animal, especially since he had declared himself its genuine owner.

When they played with Turnip, Harry listened to the boy's thoughts scrupulously. But not once did he detect a desire to hang the rabbit from the rafters.

Tom isn't Voldemort, he kept repeating himself when Tom was not paying attention. After all, when he was younger, we often had fun with stray cats, and he never hurt them. I freaked out, but Tom's bad behaviour was just caused by err ... pre-teen hormones. Everything is fine now.

Tom turned eight years old without any fuss. Harry would have given him a gift but since they had not stopped arguing during the previous weeks, he had not dared to use the child's body to go and buy him one. To be forgiven, he animated their right and left arms and hugged himself.

We look really stupid, Tom grumbled, pretending to struggle.

You must confess, you love it when I hold you in your arms.

Tom did not reply consciously, but Harry smiled with ease when he heard slightly embarrassed words in their skull. They remained in this strange position for long minutes.

xXx xXx xXx

Turnip was fond of Tom. As soon as the child opened its cage, it ran to sniff his fingers and waited for the piece of carrot or apple Tom would inevitably give it.

Margaret sometimes came to play with them but Turnip was scared of her. Even if she was older than Tom, she did not have the gentleness animals appreciated.

Tom was always quiet. His gestures were smooth, as fluid as those of a priest. He never had to put his hand in the cage for Turnip always came to him, as if it was answering to an Accio. And when Tom caressed it between the shoulder blades, it was as if it was Turnip who was undulating while the child's fingers remained motionless.

Harry admired his dexterity but his bad feelings often haunted him.

However, after two long weeks at the orphanage, they would go back to school without any significant incident having occurred. If Turnip had been a test of Voldemortration, Tom had done well. The last before school started again, Harry finally relaxed. The future seemed radiant once more.

Turnip is still alive, Turnip isn't dead! he roared at a time he was curled up far away from Tom's mind.

xXx

Are we done with homework?

Harry, you were there all the time ... Of course we did them all, Tom sighed mentally.

What do you think will happen to Turnip during the day? Billy is also going back to school.

Tom freezed. He was shelling green beans with Ivy, the cook.

“Are you okay, Tom? You didn't cut yourself, did you?”

“Everything is okay, Miss Ivy. I was wondering what was going to happen to Turnip.”

After a short silence, the cook replied:

“You should talk to Billy, it's his rabbit after all. You finished with those?”

Ivy plunged the shelled beans into the warm oil, singing something that looked awfully like "Hotess, we want to eat. What have you got to give us? I have rabbit, hare's stew and cabbage soup!"

Tom, fortunately, was not listening. He was shelling his beans, wondering how to bring up the topic with Billy.

xXx xXx xXx

“Billy, what are you going to do with Turnip?”

Billy was making his bag for school. He put down his rule, his penholder, his inkstand and his tatty notebooks.

"Tom, you don't go into my room without knocking," he said in a reproachful tone.

"I respect your living space if you respect your rabbit," Tom replied immediately.

Don't talk to him like that, Harry grumbled.

I do what I want. He started it!

I remind you we had to discuss it calmly, like big boys.

Leave it to me, Harry, that's not your problem.

Harry indignantly shrieked, but he did not dare to take control of Tom's body.

"It's just a rabbit!" Billy cried. “And you're misplaced to play the mistress with me," he added with a mocking smile.

“What do you mean?”

“You're a model child, but you're so weird! You care more about a rabbit than about other people! At school, you're faking all the time. Everyone loves you, but I do know you're abnormal.”

“You repeat that and I hit you!” Harry got annoyed.

Why do you get upset? Tom asked, interested. I thought we had to be reasonable.

“You're weird, Tom! I don't like you and Elliot, Beth, Jack, Eric and all the others in the orphanage, they do not like you either! Unlike those at school, they know you're a shady guy!”

“Nonsense!” Harry cried once more. “Margaret is in love with me.”

Beuh! She counts for nothing, Tom grumbled.

"Why did no one adopt you, then? Mrs. Cole, she doesn't like you, you know. On the other hand, she loves me.”

"All this has nothing to do with Turnip," Harry said wisely, as Tom tensed in him.

xXx

Billy stood up, abandoning his school stuff on the floor. He was taller than Tom. But Tom would never be afraid of another child and certainly not of a Muggle one. With Harry, he was invincible.

"That's what I dislike about you! You always speak like an adult, you think you're superior to us. But you were abandoned by your parents. You're the same as us, so stop it!”

Tom moved back a step. He was not impressed at all, of course, but Harry had forced him to do so. They had not come there for a fight.

"Stop controlling me," Tom murmured to Harry.

"Don't speak aloud," the teenager squeaked.

"I knew it!” Billy shouted, stunned and frightened, pointing at Tom. “You are crazy! They put them in the asylum, the likes of you!”

"You don't know what you're saying," Harry said, fighting against Tom.

"But I do," Billy sniggered, a gleam of triumph in his eyes. He sat down on the floor to pack his bag.

"What do you mean?” Harry and Tom said in unison.

"I heard you, when you spoke to yourself in the bathroom," the other child said calmly. “You've got a problem, Tom.”

Tom did not think. He threw himself at him and tried to hit him, but Harry stopped each of his punches. It was a strange scene, as if Billy was surrounded by a Shield Charm.

Stop doing that, I'll kill him! Tom thought in a deafening, mute cry.

Exactly!

"You see? You can't even give me a punch. You're possessed by the devil!” Billy laughed, but his eyes betrayed his fear.

Harry let Tom's little fist fall on the other child's cheek.

"Ouch! You're crazy!” the latter yelped, rising, his eyes full of tears.

Tom fell back. He had hit someone for the first time. Until then, Harry had always forbidden him to use violence. Billy left his room in a whirlwind and fled into the petticoats of one of the establishment's girls.

It didn't go as well as I had expected, Harry commented as they walked back to their room.

Well done for him. If only he wasn't such an arse.

xXx

That night, Harry and Tom locked Turnip in his cage, assuring him everything would be fine. Even if they would spend the whole day at school, they could take care of him after homework. They would stop on the way back home to buy him a treat, as Harry had allowed Tom to stop making the trip with Billy, for he had finally admitted Billy had an IQ equivalent to a mailbox's.

But even if we play with you, in the evening ... during the day, you're going to have a life like mine, Tom thought, stroking the rabbit. It would be better for you if you could be free and go somewhere else. Billy is so daft, he doesn't understand what it is to be misunderstood. Poor Turnip. Ivy will maybe kill you for dinner. If I were you, I would kill myself. I prefer it when I decide. And when I'll die, I'd have decided to.

The rabbit was looking at him with his large, round and black eyes, like two marbles, and Harry felt as if he had nodded.

xXx xXx xXx

The next morning, as expected, Tom and Billy didn't go to school together. The first day of school slowly passed. During the breaks, the pupils talked about their holidays or their Christmas gifts but Tom did not participate in the conversations.

He was worried about Turnip, all alone in his cage. If Turnip had, like him, a second conscience, at least he would not be bored.

It's lucky I had Harry at birth-I don't know what I would have become without him.

Stop stressing for nothing, Harry snickered, uncomfortable. And the right answer is C, not A.

Tom distorted his questionnaire absentmindedly, but his thoughts were all turned towards the caged rabbit.

When they came back home that evening, they were greeted with panic.

"Tom!” Mrs Cole yelled, disheveled. “You closed Billy's rabbit's cage yesterday, right?”

"Yes," Tom replied in surprise. “Billy never takes care of him.”

Why are they panicking, Harry?

I don't know, Harry replied, but his other thoughts indicated otherwise.

Tom did not have time to linger over it, for Mrs Cole had approached him. She seemed ready to slap him or to tear her own hair away.

"Are you sure the door was closed?"

"Why?”

"The rabbit has disappeared," old Anne said, giving the bottle to a baby.

Did we close the cage, Tom?

Of course. We wouldn't have made such a mistake.

"He couldn't get anywhere," Ivy said. “But we searched the ground floor, and it's nowhereto be found.”

"And the floors?' Harry asked.

"How could he climb the stairs?" the cook said, puzzled.

"They are smart, rabbits," Tom commented.

xXx

Billy, hitherto silent, pointed at him.

"It's you! You got revenge!”

"Don't be foolish," Anne growled. “Why would Tom released the rabbit?”

"Billy told me Tom and he had a fight last night," said Mrs. Cole. “Tom would have hit Billy.”

"He gave me a punch!” Billy exclaimed, rubbing his cheek.

Tom did not deny it.

"Why did you do that, Tom?” Ivy asked.

We can't tell them he told me I was crazy.

No, we can't, Harry admitted.

"That's between he and me," the child cautiously said.

"Tom, what have you done to the rabbit?” the Matron inquired.

"But I didn't do anything! I properly closed the cage's door yesterday!”

"The rabbit likes Tom. If Tom looks for it, it'd perhaps reappear?” Ivy suggested.

Harry and Tom nodded and began looking for Turnip with all the others. Billy looked at them with hate and fear, as if he were sure Tom was at fault.

When they had searched all the rooms downstairs and upstairs, Harry felt a terrible urge to vomit. He knew what had happened. Not in details, but he knew where to look for Turnip. He felt dishonest to hide what he knew from Tom, but he could not tell him. If Tom learned Harry knew almost everything about his life, about his future ...

You've grown attached to Turnip, compared to the beginning, Tom remarked, interpreting his friend's confusion as anxiety for the rabbit's lot.

I hope nothing bad had happened to him, Harry said, nauseous and guilty.

When Mrs Cole ordered them to check the attic, it was Tom who climbed the ladder leading there, not him. Tom had no idea what he was going to find, but Harry knew and it was enough for their common heart to contract.

Don't go, Tom, he pleaded, unable to stop himself.

Why? If Turnip is there ... Harry, are you okay? My heart hurts...

xXx

Tom pushed open the door. It was dark in the attic, but the light caming from the ground's opening illuminated the room just enough to see its shapes. The furniture's illuminated angles glowed in the darkness. On the ground, a few lamps with broken bulbs were jumbled and many cartons were stored in the corners. The air was drenched with dust and must.

The rafters gleamed gently. At one of them hung a flaccid form.

What is it?

Let's go down, Tom, there's nothing to see here, Harry implored, trying to look away.

No, wait, what's that, over there? You see it, right?

Tom ...

The child did not obey and he came nearer, despite Harry's soft protests, of Turnip's hanging corpse

It was a pitiful and monstrous vision that would mark Tom for life. The worst part was most likely that there was a jump rope with colored sleeves around the rabbit's neck.

xXx xXx xXx

With this incident the near-happy days of Tom Riddle came to an end. The boy was not truly accused – an eight-year-old couldn't have done such a thing, especially since he had spent the day at school – but Mrs Cole could not bear to see him anymore. He had not hung the rabbit, it was impossible. It was rather as if he had induced the animal to hang itself with his own jump rope. It was worse.

On the other hand, even if he had discovered the dead body of the rabbit he had taken care of every day, he did not look upset. He looked surprised, perplexed, perhaps even horrified that the crime weapon had been his own jump rope, but he had never looked sad. It was as if he had expected this incident to happen and he'd just found out that yes, it had happened.

The Matron often bitterly thought of December 31, 1926, the cursed day when a dead woman had come to give birth to a diabolical child.

Anne had buried poor Turnip in the garden and everyboy had moved on. After all, it was only a rabbit they had picked up in a farm. It was the same as if they had eaten it, less the pleasure of taste. However, if the incident itself was quickly forgotten, the behavior of Tom's entourage towards him changed significantly.

Billy Stubbs had asked the mistress to change places, and when he came back to the orphanage after school, he purposely made a detour to avoid Tom. Margaret no longer sought to seduce him. She had chosen herself a new lover, an eleven-year-old boy who often played ball in the neighborhood. And nom Ivy did not allow Tom to enter the kitchen, frightened he would steal a knife and kill a child.

Dennis Bishop, a boy Tom respected, was the only child who didn't avoid him. He sat beside him during meals and asked him math questions, to which Harry answered correctly, even though Tom's heart was not there.

xXx

Immersed in his shell, Harry had tried to sort out this story, in vain. He was twenty-four hours a day with Tom. He would have realized if if the boy had taken his jump rope to hang a rabbit.

But the words of memory-Mrs Cole often came back to him: "Billy Stubbs's rabbit... well, Tom said he didn't do it, and I don't see how he could have done, but even so, it didn't hang itself from the rafters, did it? ... But I'm jiggered if I know how he got there to do it. All I know is he and Billy had argued the day before."

There was only one explanation. Yet, even for a wizard, it sounded crazy. Turnip had hung himself. He had obeyed the indirect, mute orders of Tom:

"It would be better for you if you could be free and go somewhere else. Billy is so daft, he doesn't understand what it is to be misunderstood. Poor Turnip. Ivy will maybe kill you for dinner. If I were you, I would kill myself. I prefer it when I decide. And when I'll die, I'd have decided to."

And the Pensieve's Tom Riddle had said:

"I can make animals do what I want without training them."

But Tom did not want Turnip to hang himself. It was an accident, the first accident.

Harry locked it up in the depths of his mind. Tom did not have to know. For, contrary to what Mrs Cole thought, Turnip's death weighed heavily on his heart, and he often fell asleep weeping softly.

Then Harry was forced to hug him so they both managed to dive slowly into a long night of nightmares.

Basically, Tom was convinced that Turnip had obeyed him, that it was his fault if he had died.

I was only thinking about it, it wasn't for real... But he did it nevertheless. I didn't mean it, Harry, I swear I didn't want him to ...

Stop talking nonsense, Tom, his friend said gently. He was feeling guilty for lying to him but he had no choice. Even if you're a wizard, it's impossible and you know it. Now count sheep, you have school tomorrow.


 

To Be Continued...