Fifth year (1942-1943 / 15-16 years old)
Chapter 8: Too much calmly
“Tom, may I have a word with you?”
Tom slipped a bookmark into his book, closed it, put it on the table, uncrossed his legs and finally looked up.
Who is that? he asked Harry.
Harry looked at the girl standing in front of them, a hand on the hip. Her long black hair was so sophisticated that the whole thing had to held by magic solely. She was beautiful, no doubt, but her face was spoiled by her contemptuous expression: she looked like a dark-haired version of Narcissa Malfoy.
Slytherin. Sixth year, I think.
One year older than us, then, Tom pointed out with disdain, as if it were a flaw.
"My name is Walburga Black," the girl made her hair shine, Merlin knows how. "John speaks highly of you. For someone who has no background, your powers and opinions are pretty respectable.”
What does she want? I'm already fed up of her .
I dunno , Harry stared at his godfather' future mother.
He could not believe his eyes. How could this girl become that bitter old witch whose portrait would shout insults all day long? On closer observation though, she was obviously related to Sirius. Harry was almost certain she would marry her cousin, but fuck could not he remember his name.
As long as it isn't on me she has her heart set on, Tom thought absently.
Tom heard , Harry panicked immediately, shit-crap-shit-
Merlin's bearb, I wasn't listening to your thoughts, you're a true pain in the arse, Tom sighted. I heard you talking about marriage and nothing else. Your secrets, whatever they are, are well kept. Anyway, I hope she won't try to seduce me.
If one did not know she would become a horrible shrew, Walburga was far from being a bad match, according to Slytherin's criteria. She was cute, came from a wealthy Pure-blood family and did not look too simple-minded.
But Tom did not show an interest in her and Harry did not ask him why, for he knew he would replied something like "Harry, marriage isn't an option for me unless you resurrect. Only then will we talk about it again. Now please shut this big mouth of yours”. And it was definitely not a discussion Harry wanted to start, knowing it was bound to give him a headache and to make him want to hang himself. And well, Walburga was waiting for an answer.
Tom stayed silent despite Harry's complaints. He had no desire to meet Walburga – she wanted more than friendship and he had nothing to offer. The girl did not get downhearted.
“The other Slytherins and I are organising a New Year Eve party. It's a sixth and seventh year tradition, but you can come. You can even be my partner.”
"It depends," Tom said to his inkwell. “Who else will attend?”
"Only those who are worth the trouble," Walburga proudly announced, before embarking on a long list.
Each name was followed by a small remark justifying the guest's invitation. Pretending he did not care about wordly things, Harry withdrew into himself but, in reality, he listened very carefully to what Sirius' mother said.
While Tom had been at Hogwarts for four and a half years, he had stayed an antisocial person. Of course, his dormmates strangely worshiped him, John Lestrange often came to talk with him, and the girls shyly called him in the corridors, but he never struck up a conversation himself. According to him it was a waste of time.
As long as he was respected by his peers, he did not see why he should participate in their frivolous discussions and armchair debates. Sometimes he half-listened to them and took a perverse pleasure in silently and methodically finding their arguments' flaws, which made Harry laugh and shudder at once.
He did not need friends, only devoted people who, if things went wrong, would willingly sacrifice their time or, in the worst case, their lives, for him. But he had absolute self-confidence and faith in his other soul: how could things go wrong for them?
In short, Tom being as sociable as a taciturn bear, Harry had never had the opportunity to hear or speak with the ancestors of the people he had known in his old life. It was so frustrating!
He had often seen faces as familiar as they were disturbing, expressions that brought him back straight into the 1990s. Every year he watched Gryffindor table and inevitably spotted a bunch of red-haired Weasleys – but who of them was Ron's grandfather, he had no idea.
Hagrid, who had not spoken to him since the incident in the park a year ago, still wandered around with dead bodies of animals, probably destined for Aragog.
He might also have run into Fleamont and Euphemia, his paternal grandfather and grandmother, but it had perhaps been just fantasies on his part. Yet every time he saw a dark-haired boy or girl in the corridors or in the Great Hall, he devoured them with his eyes. To say he had always dreamed of meeting his family and he probably lived in the same castle as other Potters!
But since his slip-up with Hagrid, he had mercilessly repressed his through-time family reunion desires. He was not there as Harry Potter. Harry Potter did not even exist in this world. Nobody, except Tom, knew his name.
Harry was keeping his ears open, wishing to hear a loved patronym, but the more Walburga monologued, the more he felt cheated. The witch was only talking about Slytherin fellows, and the names of Potter, Longbottom, Weasley, or Lovegood did not cross her lips.
“Abraxas Malfoy is one of the organizers. He's taking his NEWTS in june but everyone knows Malfoys don't work. He's getting married this summer. Like any genuine Pure-blood, he has been engaged since his birth, but that doesn't stop him from having a girlfriend from time to time.”
Oh, Harry realized in his corner, so this blonde seventh year is Malfoy's grandfather.
"Lucretia Black, my cousin, will come. We are in the same grade and she is very brilliant – not as much as I am, though. I don't know if Druella Rosier will be there. She spent the summer at home and took a liking for my four-year-old brother, Cygnus. I think she plans to spend the New Year Eve changing his diapers.”
Harry nearly choked. Thus Druella Rosier and Cygnus Black, Bellatrix's, Narcissa's and Andromeda's parents, had fell in love so young ...
"I didn't invite Alphard, my other brother. He is only in second year, in Slytherin of course. I must say he is a weird one,” Walburga snorted.
Tom wondered vaguely what she meant by that, but Harry had his own idea, although he could not share it with his other self.
Sirius had once told him it was thanks to his uncle Alphard, who had left a fair amount of gold to him, that he had been able to take an apartment after graduation. This was one of the reasons why Alphard had been removed from the Black tapestry. Harry had always liked to imagine him as a former rebellious teenager.
"Nor will there be Orion, my second cousin. He is the same age as Alphard. We don't get along very well, to tell the truth.”
Harry gasped. Orion was Sirius' father. Perhaps an unfortunate marriage explained why Walburga had turned into an old hag. Harry would not have been delighted to marry his cousin Dudley either.
If they are not invited, why mention them? Come back here, I'm so bored I could die.
Maybe she wanna impress you, Harry suggested.
The Slytherin girl was now badmouthing Cedrella Black, who was no longer a Hogwarts student.
You wanna know something hilarious? Even your lame jokes are more interesting than her, Tom chuckled. Which is not to say little.
Harry rolled his eyes and Walburga looked at him with fascination, nodding fervently.
"You think it's absurd, too? Even though he comes from a Pure-blood family, everybody knows they are poor as House Elves.”
I forgot all about what she was saying, Harry was lost.
Tom, it was very rare, laughted mentally so hard that his physical lips twisted. Fortunately, Harry did not share his laughter and prevented him from laughing aloud.
What's so funny?
Tom tried to answer him but his thoughts were all very messy and Harry did not understand anything, which made him sigh with annoyance.
"I totally agree with you," Walburga said. “I can't understand what Cedrella sees in this Gryffindor bloke.”
Two minutes later, while Walburga was still busy talking poorly about her cousin, Tom finally calmed down and agreed to explain the misunderstanding.
You rolled your eyes and she thought you disapproved – I disapproved – her cousin Cedrella's engagement with Septimus Weasley . Th en she once again misinterpreted your sigh.
And? Harry was still confused.
John's and the other Pure-bloods' ideas... you dislike them but you sometimes accidentally seem to defend them, Tom developed. It's as if you encourage me on this way despite yourself. It's as if you drive me towards the opinions you fight against. Don't you find that's ironic and funny?
"So you will come?" Walburga finally asked, preventing Harry from lamenting his fate.
Tom looked up but before he had time to refuse, the girl added:
"I must warn you, there won't be any fifth year except you, not even your friend Albert Avery."
"We're not friends," Tom protested automatically, wondering how she knew Albert.
For my part, I'm only mildly surprised. With her knowledge, she could be the Sorting Hat .
She doesn't hang out with Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs though, Tom proudly moderated Harry's comments.
Harry laughed sceptically.
Why, do you?
I don't rub shoulders with anyone, which means I'm fair with everyone. Except with you: I favor you.
Stop flattering me, it's useless, Harry teased him. I won't do your essay f-
I mean it! Tom was furious . Others are worthless compared to you.
That's the problem, Harry thought for himself.
After a surprisingly long silence, the witch opened her mouth again:
“Really, you two aren't friends?” Walburga had her doubts about Tom's word. “So what kind of relationship do you have with him?”
Is she still talking about Albert? Tom asked, puzzled.
I think so, but her question sure is a strange one...
As Tom did not answer – how could he explain to her that Albert was like a pet for him? – Walburga leaned over the table with a naughty smile and whispered in his ear:
“You know, to tell you everything, John thinks you are ... a ponce.”
Thanks Merlin, she did not notice the brief wavering in his eyes. Not knowing what to answer, Tom slowly crossed his legs, a neutral expression on his face.
Were you aware such a rumor was spread? he asked calmly.
Unlike the majority of his schoolmates, he did not consider being attracted to an individual of his own sex as a shameful and laughable flaw. For him, it was equally strange to be a homosexual or a heterosexual, for he had never been aroused by anyone. How could one envisage penetrating or being penetrated by someone else than oneself? How could the sex act be healthy, when it inevitably blended the boundaries of two distinct entities?
If he had been born a few decades later, he could have fervently proclaimed himself an asexual and an autophile, for he only loved and wanted his own person. But as the 1940s still got paedo and poofter mixep up, he accepted the term "homosexual". And yes, he certainly loved people of the same sex, though he would never say it out loud. To display his intimacy, his love for Harry, was as indecent as walking with your guts out in the open.
Harry listened to his friend's thoughts with excitement. His Tom was much more open-minded than his past version. Tom was salvageable. Harry still could rewrite History.
How could I? I hate to break it to you, but I'm not exactly your independent person. What you don't know, I don't know either, Harry said lightly.
That's a blatant lie. You often know very much more than I do, Tom insisted.
Even though I'm awesome, I honestly had no idea people said that you, Tom Riddle, was gay.
Who would've believed that? Tom Riddle, Voldemort, gay, honestly?
Tom snorted and stared at Walburga with the coldest expression of his repertoire. It was not even contempt but frank indifference. Feeling unconfortable, the Slytherin girl took a step back.
"I shouldn't have to justify myself. You ought to have realized nothing was more baseless than this rumor if, as you said, you are really more brilliant than your cousin Lucretia. As this is obviously not the case, that's reason enough to turn down your invitation.”
He stood up, shoved his book into his bag and left the study room without a last glance at Sirius Black's future mother. An ancient misanthropist had most likely more social skills than he had.
On December 31, 1942, Tom celebrated his sixteenth birthday alone with himself and, as every year, he was fine with that. Unlike last year, he even had the luck to be the only occupant of his dorm. Indeed, almost all the students had returned home for the holidays in order to forget Grindelwald by choking on gift paper and on hypercaloric food. The only other Slytherins left in the castle were the sixth and seventh years who attended the much-vaunted New Year Eve's party.
Walburga, who was now giving Tom the cold shoulder, and her gang had been actively partying in a dungeon loaned by Slughorn for hours now. Harry and Tom did not give a fuck. In their quiet dorm, they stuffed themselves with sweets while chatting animatedly.
Come on, tell me what it is, Harry pleaded, decapitating a Chocolate Frog.
Tom ignored him superbly. Harry sighed aloud, began to tickle himself and remembered, a little too late, that Tom was not ticklish – but he was.
Stop, time out, time out! I'm choking! Please! Harry begged, twisting on the ground, a headless Chocolat Frog struggling between his teeth.
Hoisted with his own petard, Tom continued to tickle himself.
After five minutes of pure torture, during which Harry tried desperately to escape his own diabolical fingers, rolling on the carpet in all directions, Tom finally grew tired of teasing his ribs. It was, after all, a childish activity.
“Merlin's tits, I thought you were going to kill me!” Harry breathed heavily, slumped in their bed, his arms spread and his eyes fixed on the canopy.
"I'll never do that," Tom objected seriously. He added, a few seconds later: “I like it when we talk aloud.”
It sounded like an observation but it was in fact a near prayer.
Your voice-Not two intertwined minds-two distinct people-I want-Harry-say my name-
No, no and no, Harry said firmly.
Well... We'll talk aloud if you tell me what it is.
The aim of the game was precisely you guessing all by yourself, Tom replied in an amused tone. I don't understand the problem. You can literally read my mind. You're remarkably useless at this, though.
Yeah, okay, Harry admitted. In my defense, the only thing I can say is that you're a very good Occlumens, whereas I am useless , as you say.
Can you blame me for not being the failed twin? Tom asked dramatically, without an ounce of compassion.
Harry sighed, but once again tried to force his friend's mental barriers to find out what he had in store for their sixteenth birthday.
Ever since they had entered Hogwarts, Tom had claimed they would now celebrate their birthday in turns, for he found unfair to be the only one to age. Each summer, one of them spent an entire afternoon withdrawn into a shell while the other one was busy buying Salazar-did-not-know-what. That year, it was Harry's turn to grow old, and he was itching to find out what was Tom's surprise.
Sadly, in sixteen years, Harry had made poor progress in Legimency. He was wasting his time. He therefore decided to recapitulate what he knew about the mysterious gift, hoping his predisposition for the Auror profession would help him to solve this enigma.
It's Muggle, since we haven't been to Diagon Alley. It's small, since I don't remember we carrying anything big on our way back to the orphanage. It is non-perishable, otherwise he would not have bought it six months in advance. And it's flat enough to be hidden under our bedside table.
There was little clue.
At midnight, the Slytherin New Year Eve's party was in full swing – Harry have heard alcoholic voices in the park shouting "Happy New Year! Cheers!”. Tom finally allowed him to slip their hand under the bedside table, drawing a small rectangular flat package towards them.
It's a book, isn't it?
Open it, Tom rolled his eyes, faking exasperation. H ap py birthday, by the way.
Harry tore up the gift wrap. In his trembling hands laid a black leather notebook with a bookmark that read "Winstanley's Bookstore & Stationers, 422 Vauxhall Road, London."
It costed me a small fortune but it's premium leath ... Harry?
Harry left Tom Riddle's diary in their bedside table's drawer and a week later he had not touched it not once. His mistrust in the harmless object aroused the suspicions of Tom. It was not the first time Harry had been acting in an incomprehensible way. He seemed to be afraid of the notebook, even repulsed by it, which did not make any sense.
The diary had caught Tom's eye, the boy had not hesitated to spend all his muggle savings into it. He has really wanted to make his other self happy. It was the kind of gift he would have liked to receive himself.
You have so many things on your conscience ... I thought that writing could take a weight off you mind, allow you to express yourself freely . This is the first time you hate one of my gifts, he said in a vexed tone.
I don't hate it, I–
You're a terrible liar, you're wasting your breath … it's a figure of speech. You've kept my children's drawings but you haven't even looked at the diary since I gave it to you.
I didn't have the t–
I know you inside out, Harry. Why do you persist in lying to me when I know almost everything about you? You don't like it. Spell it out.
Even if you gave me The Monster Book of Monsters , I would be happy with that, Harry reassured him awkwardly.
The Monster Book of Monsters ? Tom repeated with doubt. Never heard of that book.
It's not published anymore, Harry lied, blaming himself for his slip-up.
Okay, whatever. Now, can you explain once and for all why this poor diary makes you wanna puke?
Harry knew his irrational reaction saddened and annoyed Tom but he could not see the diary for what it was. However, in order to put an end to his other self's paranoid questions, he forced himself to write into it once a week. At first he only wrote down some insignificant thoughts, fearing that Voldemort's first Horcrux, which looked just like his Tom now, would arise at each line.
But this had never happened because, contrary to the diary of his second year, this one was very ordinary. The words shone for a moment on the paper but they did not disappear. No window opened to show him nightmarish memories and his questions remained unanswered.
With perseverance, Harry finally got used to writing in his diary every Sunday night. The harrowing duty became a pleasant ritual. Tom had been right: Harry enjoyed writing. He was now waiting for his writing time with a slight impatience.
He had convinced himself it was not a mere hobby but a revolutionary act. Filling the diary, he was thumbing his nose at Fate, he told her to fuck off. The first version of Tom Riddle's diary had remained blank, but this one would be blackened by childhood memories and questions about the world, like any self-respecting autobiography. If the object fulfilled its main function, it would not become a Horcrux. At least that was what Harry believed.
His relationship with Tom, weakened after their sixteenth birthday, resumed with greater intensity in the spring. Harry updated his diary several times a week now. On the evenings he was not writing, he was in bed with Tom, trying outlandish positions. Nevertheless, although their masturbatory sessions were still as decadent as they were addictive, they left a sour taste in their mouth.
Like any teenager specialist in handjob, Tom was starting to want more , even though he had no idea what that meant. Harry made it good each time, their overlapping ghostly gestures were incredibly exciting, but there was something missing, something his schoolmates, laughing and whispering at the same time, often discussed by the fire.
If only Harry could slip out of their body, if only he could give him a blowjob! When Tom closed his eyes and sucked his own fingers, imagining they were Harry's, he knew it was smokes and mirrors. Sometimes he had the impression he was fooling himself. He was laughable, possessed by a devil. Twice his anxiety was so bad he had gone limp just a few seconds before coming and had rolled up into a ball in their bed.
In those moments, Harry controlled their arms and cuddled him but it was just hot air. How could a being who was not even a phantom, a being that solely existed in his head, could give him the physical comfort he so badly needed? Why was Tom, despite his soulmate's presence, despite their unconditional love, condemned to solitude? And if this sterile devotion was a dead end, could one really blame him for wanting to commit suicide when the being he loved was as perfect as he was impalpable?
Harry pretended to ignore his other self's torment for he had no solution to offer. He himself was torn in two by a thousand demons, though they did not spoke to him of impossible love as much as of moral perversion. Four years after their first handjob, he had not yet figured out anything.
How could he accept and even beg for their lonely pleasures? Why, against all odds, did he find Tom's body beautiful, worse, attractive?
Tom was no longer a child but he still had not changed sex and Harry still was not gay. He was infinitely more captivated by a pretty bird's curves than by the square shoulders of Winky Crockett, Slytherin Quidditch Captain. In reality, except his or Tom's penis, male attributes were for him like water off a duck's back.
He was not gay, always had had a hard-on while with Ginny, Tom was only ... an isolated case. He was a part of himself. So it did not really matter, right? Was it a crime to love yourself? Does not every person yielding to the delights of masturbation dedicating himself to a homosexual and self-erotic act?
Concluding there was ultimately no problem was cheating though. Although they shared the same body, Tom was clearly a being in his own right, and Harry had always seen him as a son or as a little brother. Their age gap was now so small they were more like twin … but this did not make the situation more moral, quite the contrary in fact.
"Incest!” a voice shouted. "Narcissist!” another replied. "Lunatic!” One last yelled.
But the vilest murmur was the one saying "Tom Marvolo Riddle: I am Lord Voldemort."
Spring passed, unstable but sweet, it was now June.
As the OWLS period approached, Tom's and Harry's mood grew darker and darker. The first had exam stress for he had set himself a nearly surrealistic goal. He intended to achieve a faultless performance and get a list of ten O's. For the latter, the month of June 1943 meant only one thing: Myrtle would soon die. The Chamber of Secrets was about to be opened. Tom was going to accuse Hagrid of havingletting the Slytherin monster loose on the students.
The death of Turnip, the episode of the cave, the few misdeeds perpetrated by Tom, his curiosity for the Blood Theroy were certainly regrettable incidents, but compared to a Basilisk and a Horcrux ... Since Tom's birth, It was the event that Harry had feared the most. How would the diary, to which Harry had become attached, be transformed into a Horcrux?
He only had a vague idea of the process. One had to kill someone, but what else? If he could prevent this tragedy ... but if everything went exactly as it had the first time, if Myrtle was to die, would the time to kill Tom have finally come?
A much more frightening question tormented him, however: what if, despite the murder, despite the Horcrux, despite the proof that Tom was incontestably Voldemort, Harry forgave him?
He would not only be the accomplice of an abominable act, but the real culprit, for, unlike Tom, he knew what was going to happen and he did not even try to fight fate. The only way he had found to avoid the tragedy would be to lock themself up in the Room of Requirement during the whole month of June and, of course, it was not part of Tom's plans.
On June 13, 1943, while Tom was passing his last OWL, History of Magic, Harry had his mind focused on the Chamber of Secrets. It was already mid-June, how was it possible the Chamber had not been opened yet, that Tom had not even discovered its entrance? He suddenly remembered there had been several attacks throughout the previous Tom Riddle's fifth year. It had not been the case in this world.
The mad hope that Myrtle Warren would not die began to germinate in Harry's belly. It was not so absurd, when he thought about it. After all, Tom had not talked about the Chamber since their mid-year conversation, and he obviously had no interest in eradicating Muggles or Muggle-borns. In fact, was there really a reason for Myrtle to die?
Without realizing it, Harry allowed his anxious thoughts to resonate a little too hard in their skull and Tom immediately complained about it.
Let me focus.
Harry apologized and resumed his thinking in a fetal position but he did not manage. He had only one hurry: that Tom finished his exam to ... he did not really know, but he needed to leave the Great Hall urgently.
Tom sighed and his neighbors looked at him. He could not remember the date when Morgan le Fay had created the Vale of No Return, all that because of Harry who was thinking of ...
He frowned. Harry was all curled up on himself, like whenever he thought of something secret. What could he think of during an OWL so important to him?
When did Morgana create the Vale of No Return?
What the hell is the Val of-
While Harry, caught off guard, was wondering in which century Morgana had actually lived, Tom skilfully slipped into his mind and saw the words "Chamber of Secrets" dancing everywhere. If there had been only these words, perhaps he would have returned to his essay without a trace, but there were also pictures .
Clear pictures that could not be mere dreams or hallucinations. Vivid pictures like striking memories, haunting and beautiful pictures, showing a huge green and black room whose ground was covered in water, a haunted and magical underground room, an immense serpent coming out of Salazar Slytherin's mouth, the kind of things that could only belong to stories ...
Harry finally realized Tom had set a simple but effective trap for him and tried to push back the images of the Chamber of Secrets, but the damage was done.
Morgan le Fay, bollocks! he exclaimed. You cheater! cap-crap-crap-
But hiding the facts you know how to open the Chamber and you've even already opened it, that's not cheating according to you?
I don't kn-
Stop lying, it's unbearable! Tom cried, lips clenched, hand so tightly pressed on his pen that it broke in two, spreading ink on his parchment.
The supervisor turned to him and Harry gave him a twisted smile that disappeared immediately. Tom stood up, put away his belongings, and sent his essay to the Great Table with a flick of his wand.
There was at least half an hour left!
I couldn't concentrate anymore, Tom made a face, walking the corridors at full throttle. To say I haven't bothered you with the Chamber as I promised you, and to say you betrayed me ...
But I didn't, it was not a key info-
Harry stopped dead. Which one of them had taken them to the the second floor's girls' bathroom? Had his feet unconsciously led them to Chamber's entrance? He did not even try to censor his thoughts for he knew Tom knew now . It was too late. The 13th of June, 1943 had finally come.
Indeed, Tom felt this was the place to be, as if he had always known where the Chamber of Secrets was. Just like the first time he had been in Diagon Alley or had seen Hogwarts, he seemed to recognise the place.
He might have forgotten, but his other conscience remembered. If Tom scratched deep enough, he could make Harry's first life's memories his owns. They shared a sole memory after all.
In their head, Harry was fidgeting like a fly caught in a jam jar.
Let's get out of here! he pleaded, in the same way as he had done, almost ten years earlier, when they had been sent to look for Turnip in the attic.
Tom ignored him and watched carefully the empty place, which was so .mundane it shone. The only remarkable thing was the way the sinks were arranged, in a circle in the middle of the room.
An intuition, like a sense of déjà vu, urged him to touch the taps. He was sure of it now: that was the way to do it. Everything was really going on as if he was reliving a forgotten scene, as if somewhere deep in his soul he had always known how to open the Chamber. What was truly incredible was that he had never done it before that day.
Tom, if we leave, I tell you everything you want. Something horrible will happen here, Harry lamented as he imagined the Basilisk gushing from the hole under the sinks to rip apart the fresh corpse of Moaning Myrtle.
Tom did not listen at all. For a long time, he had had absolute confidence in Harry but it was always the same song: beautiful promises, aimless lies. Anyway, what so terrible might happen if they opened the Chamber? If it contained a monster that only the heir of Slytherin could control, they were not in danger, for Tom was certain of that, Harry was indeed the heir of Slytherin. This was the only possible explanation for the facts he knew the legend and he knew how to open the Chamber. For Merlin's sake, he had already opened the damned thing! And Harry spoke Parselmouth, and he was so … Lost between fury and admiration, Tom found no adequate word to characterize his friend.
Harry might not have managed to control the monster in his day, but Tom was much more cautious than he was. He had to see with his own eyes what was for the moment only a foggy memory, a fleeting image. Harry had seen and Tom had not, Harry forbade him to do what he had done being a student … It was so unfair! Tom had to open the Chamber, he could not help it, it was his duty.
A god above him might have bewitched him, that might be why he was born. Whatever, he had to do it.
When he found the snake engraved on one of the faucets, his heart threatened to explode. The tips of his fingers, as the first time he had felt magic buzzing in him at the age of seven, was all numb. It was awesome, his body remembered . He felt so powerful he wanted to laugh like a villain.
How does it work, Harry? Tell me.
Tom, let's go! Harry ordered trying to take possession of their body but the result was disappointing at the least.
He was far too desperate to maintain the effort. Each step he took toward the door, Tom took it back, bringing them back to the sink with a casual gesture.
What are you afraid of? The Chamber looks so beautiful, if I can open it I wi-
In the Chamber lives a monster, Tom! A Basilisk who kills with a simple look! If you release it ...
Do you really think I'll do that? Tom asked.
His other thoughts were encrypted and Harry did not try to decipher them.
Y-No! Let it sleep and Hogwarts will not close. You think it's going to help you get ten O's? Why are you so interested in it?
Tom hesitated. He did not know why he was so attracted to the Chamber, but he felt like it might provide answers to questions that were still unformulated. If he did not open it, he would regret it all his life. And besides, there was ...
What do you mean? Why would Hogwarts close? he said quickly.
The last time it was opened ... Harry replied reluctantly, the school has almost closed and yet there was no dead.
This time either. It's just curiosity. Be assured, I don't want to kill anyone, Tom said too much calmly.
Harry wanted to cry out of despair. If he Stupefied himself ... but that was impossible, their wand would not comply. How could he go backwars, when he was cornered? All his efforts had been in vain. The story was already written and it was definitely a tragedy.
So he gave up. As in a dream where he did not control any of his actions, he ordered the engraved little serpent to show them the entrance of the Chamber. He threw himself, hoping to die, into the gulf which had opened before them. And when he found they had survived, he asked the bronze snakes to open the door that would lead them to the Basilisk.
Hypnotized and terrified, his mind blank, he stepped into the immense subterranean chamber, accompanied by their footsteps' echo. He finally arrived at the foot of Slytherin's statue where no red-haired girl was laying. Inexplicably, Ginny's absence made the scene gloomier.
Tom, who hitherto had gone with the flow, suddenlygot a grip on himself.
There he was, miles under the castle, in a sanctuary for serpents, in a secret place only a few chosen ones could reach. He madly like the idea and devoured the room with his eyes. The columns were surrounded by undulating reptiles, with stone eyes. The ceiling was reflected on the wet ground and before him stood the Marble Founder, as imposing as a holy figure.
He wanted to bow so much, but part of him, perhaps Harry, was fighting against the grotesque gesture. So he straightened up and whistled, very simply, inspired by a god or by a devil:
~ I am the heir of Salazar Slytherin. ~
What happened next was so unreal he was convinced he was suffering from hallucinations. The mouth of the statue opened noiselessly and a gigantic serpent fell on the floor, splashing his robes. At the sight of the first scales, Harry came out of his trance and fled, his eyes on the ground, his survivor's instinct coming out on top.
Why had he brought Tom down there? The Basilisk was going to kill them, and it would serve them sodding well right, seriously, what was he thinking? Why was he unable to deny Tom anything? Why was he always the one provoking the incidents?
I am Voldemort? Harry wondered as he ran toward the exit. In fact, Tom Riddle was never bad-was he just possessed by the Devil, by me? And shit, am I going to kill Myrtle?
His old hauntings took advantage of his current weakness to invade his mind. His scar was a chasm of dark magic, he could talk to snakes, he had opened the Chamber, he had seen so many scenes of torture and of murder in his dreams, he was constantly angry, he had so many secrets, he was already Dead and yet he was still there, in the world ...
He had eaten the Horcrux, he had reincarnated in Tom, he had grown mad about the child, he touched him, he sucked him, he led him to the dark ...
Harry found himself stuck in front of the long tunnel leading up to the surface. They were going to die here. It was perhaps for the best. Nobody else would die. Tom Riddle and Harry Potter had already done enough damage on Earth.
I don't understand what you've been thinking since earlier, Tom interrupted, chaos in his head. Why don't you talk to it, to him?
Fuck, don't you see he's starving? You think you can reason with a beast that hasn't eaten for years? Harry replied, shocked.
He looked up and the hole of light, all up there, seemed to be another planet. The Basilisk was behind him and he could picture his enormous head a few meters from his back. Only a few seconds left and ...
We can't fly away, he sighed. If you have a last request ...
Breaking out in a panic, Tom's mind was full of incoherent final words, words of love and insignificant insults mingled. The Basilisk snapped his jaws.
~ I will not harm you, ~ he said in a near impatient tone. ~ Close your eyes. ~
Tom closed his eyes, gasping. The Basilisk, one of the most fearful creatures in the world, did not seem to want to kill him. It was surreal. Maybe he was already dead.
Am I really special? Why would the king of reptiles spare my life? Did he recognize me, like the snakes in the cave? Does he know I am just like him, for I can speak Parseltongue? Or does he see Harry in me?
Goddammit, Tom, this is not the time to toot your own horn, we may die! Harry hissed, but he was not so convinced of that anymore.
The Basilisk looked like to come in peace .
~ Master left me here a long time ago, ~ continued the creature. ~ Turn around. ~
Tom did as asked, his eyelids still closed, and he felt the snake's cold breath on his face. Knowing opening his eyes would earn him certain death oddly excited him. He was so close to the precipice, he was terribly eager to throw himself into it. He could not even conceive that one could cease to exist.
"What does it feel like to die?" was a question he often asked himself and to which Harry, who was already dead, had nothing to answer him. He only had to open his eyes and ...
Tom, cup the crap!
How is it that you have come back from Limbo, why death did not kill you? Tom asked, wisely keeping his eyes closed. I know you can't answer me, but I feel like I'm immortal, I can't picture myself dying one day.
~ He said someone would come. Someone came, ~ suddenly hissed the snake, leaning his thorny head to touch, with an absurd delicacy for such a great beast, Tom's outstretched hand.
~ You felt lonely, ~ the blind Slytherin said.
~ I felt lonely, ~ the serpent said.
Harry was on the brink of hysteria. Nobody was going to die and Tom was now a psychologist for snakes. The world had gone mad.
He just needs company, you know, Tom petted the sharp scales. With h is gaze, building friendly relationships is not easy.
He doesn't need friends, he's a Basilisk. A Ba-si-lik.
And you are a scaredy-cat.
Harry nearly laughed. It was preposterous. He, a coward?
This Basilisk has tried to kill me and he has almost managed to, he said. I don't really hold him close to my heart.
If even the oldest of the snakes didn't succeed in killing you, then you must be immortal, Tom whispered with admiration, not at all disturbed by the fact that the animal he was cuddling had attempted to assassinate his friend.
He asked out loud:
~ Would you help me get out of there if I visit you some time in the future? ~
~ I am bringing you up there, you and your other self. Get on me. ~
A moment earlier, his scales were darting like peaks but they faded under Tom's fingers to turn into a negotiable surface. The Slytherin did not hesitate and climbed on the triangular skull. As soon as he was protected from the murderous gaze, he opened his eyes, jubilating.
Those who are afraid of Basilisks obviously have never sought to meet them. This one is much more amiable than the countryside's snake we bumped into when I was a child.
He's so nice, so sweet, and his eyes are so deadly and his canines are so sharp, Harry ironised , but Tom did not take offense, so busy was he mentally praising the monster's qualities.
Tom, if he's so helpful, that's because you ar-
I know, Tom cut him. I am the heir of Slytherin.
He just had figured it out, but again he felt like he had always known. So Harry had nothing to do with Slytherin, so it was he, Tom Riddle, raised in a Muggle orphanage, who descended from the illustrious Founder. How could he have ignored it until then, when it was so obvious?
When they saw the hole of light above them, Tom patted his mount's scales. The Basilisk wove more gently than a boat on a lake. If he controlled such a powerful creature, his future could only be remarkable. Perhaps could he even use his mortal look to ...
~ Thank you, ~ he hissed, jumping on the bathroom's floor. ~ I'll come back. ~
He watched the door. If someone came in ...
~ I'll wait, ~ said the Basilisk.
Tom, send him back to the Chamber, Harry whined, without taking off their eyes from the door.
They suddenly heard a clinking at their left. The door of a cabin opened wide, showing a girl wearing large round glasses and whose eyes were filled with tears. She was about to say something but did not have time for Harry had thrown himself on her:
His school bag opened accidentally and Tom's notebooks fell on the floor around them. Just as Harry spotted Tom's diary under Myrtle's leg, the Basilisk, probably attracted by their chaotic fall, turned his head towards them. Harry immediately closed his eyes and shouted to Myrtle to look away but it was too late, all the elements were already in place.
The big yellow eyes met Myrtle's. The girl let out a small cry before her heart withered and died. Harry had kept his eyes tightly closed, but he had felt as if he had been torn from himself all the same. He had shaken incontrollably. Beneath him, Myrtle had also been squirming in all directions, struggling against an invisible force.
And then, it was over.
Harry came round several minutes later. A glance at the sinks informed him they had taken back their former places as if by enchantment. The Basilisk had disappeared in the meanwhile. Since he did not have a clear head, he tried to adjust his glasses and eventually remembered Tom Riddle did not need any.
Tom, are you there? Tom?
His head was dangerously silent.
Tom! Answer me, Tom!
Distraught, he looked for his other self around him but, of course, he was nowhere to be seen. On the other hand, a few inches from him, there was a corpse.
"Holy shit," he breathed, feeling Myrtle Warren's wrist, looking for her pulse, finding none.
He got up at full speed, rushed into Moaning Myrtle's cabin and find the ghost quietly floating above the throne. Harry thought this shape suited her better but it was most likeky because that's this way he had always seen her.
"Myrtle, you're dead," he said in a whisper.
The young girl opened her mouth wide, and began to cry loudly, calling him names between her hiccups. Harry apologized, gathered his belongings and left the crime scene, looking for Tom in every corner of his skull.
Why was I in such in pain, while my eyes were closed? Where has Tom gone? Is the Horcrux ...?
He rushed into his dorm, jostled several students in passing without apologizing and emptied his bag on his bed. He drew the curtains and eagerly skimed through the diary, looking for the current date.
The page was blank. He then realized that the previous ones were as well. The diary was good as new.
If it has worked ... No matter how, if there is a piece of soul in this Diary, if Tom is inside ...
Harry grabbed a pen and wrote hurriedly, full of hope and fear: 'I am Tom Marvolo Riddle.'
The paper absorbed the words but no one answered him, even to call him a liar. For one reason or another, the contents of the diary had disappeared, along with Tom's soul. Harry did not try to understand why and began to weep, locked up in the body of a boy that no longer existed.
Night fell. At dinner, professor Dippet announced that a Gryffindor girl had just been found in the bathroom, dead. Rumors quickly spread and students and teachers were indiscriminately accused. The Slytherins asked Harry for his opinion, but he was totally out of touch with reality.
Tom could not have died. They were born under the sign of a blessing – or of a curse, he did not know – but in theory, neither could die as long as the other was alive.
And yet, Tom was dead.
That night, when Harry, stuck in a body that was not his own, saw the Diary on his bed, he cast a Reductor Curse on it, unable to bear his sight.
It doesn't work, he thought, and immediately he exclaimed "Tom!”, as if the notebook was going to reply.
If Reducto had had no effet, it meant the Diary was no longer a common diary. Something had really happened in the bathroom.
He reverently opened the birthday present he had hated so much one day. If Tom was in there, then Harry would protect the Horcrux all his life. If Tom's soul lived between these pages, then the Diary was sacred. But if he could get Tom out of there ...
He wrote 'Tom?', his quill barely touching the paper, fearing at the same time to hurt his friend and to be deluding himself.
The words faded away.
“Where were you, tosser?” Harry read out loud, imitating Tom's disapproving tone.
Tears slipped out of his eyes – of Tom Riddle's eyes – and were absorbed by the paper.
'You're so gross', the Diary commented.
It took many days to figure out how to get Tom's soul back. Tom's soul had completely crept into the Diary. Harry tried countless spells but none worked. Through the paper, Tom repeated to him several times he was not in a physical place, so it was useless to shout ' Accio Tom Riddle!' at the drop of a hat.
Eventually, Harry understood he only had to hold the Diary without believing it, as if it were not an object but something immaterial, as if he really had a soul in his hands, and Tom could slip away. Every time he felt Tom climbing into his arms, he thought he had succeeded, but Tom always went back to the Diary, as if he could not quite get out of it.
One night, finally, his friend's reassuring voice echoed again in his head and Harry collapsed with relief. He had reincorporated a piece of Tom Riddle's soul, in exchange for a little bit of his own. He was not sure how he had done that, but when he had felt in his veins Tom coming back to his heart, he had mentally projected his own soul towards the Diary. And the charming Horcrux had agreed to give back most of Tom to Harry at the cost of a big chunk of Harry's soul. Henceforth, two fragments of soul cohabited in the Diary.
Neither Tom nor Harry had emerged unscathed. However, the main thing for them was that, be it in their body or in the notebook, they were finally reunited.
Harry, I was so ...
Me too Tom, I thought ...
Yes, I know.
They spent the rest of the night exchanging words of comfort, promising themselves to never be separated again, and repeating how scared they were for each other. The next morning, though, reality caught up with them. They listened in silence to Professor Dippet's speech, which informed them of the school's potential closing down.
Aurors had been searching the castle and the girls' bathroom for five days, Mediwizards were analyzing Myrtle's corpse. But nobody, except Tom Riddle, had some idea who the culprit was.
Harry was vaguely surprised that they had not thought of questioning Myrtle's ghost, but he did not feel concerned by the investigation. He had sacrificed a bit of his soul to have Tom back and this half suicide had taken him away from the world of the living. Myrtle's death caused him no pain – after all, he had always known her in her ghostly shape. He felt like his heart had been grinded. There was nothing left of it but crumbs.
He knew what he had to do, though. With unusual callousness, he suggested accusing the Acromentula Rubeus Hagrid was keeping in a trunk.
Tom did not need to be asked twice. He felt nothing about the half-giant but disdain. Hagrid had the reputation of being an idiot who did not care about laws and who was partial to the bloodthirsty creatures of the Forbidden Forest. He was a perfect culprit.
Moreover, Tom would be relieved to not see his silhouette again, for it constantly reminded him of an unexplainable moment, a year and a half ago. Harry had called out to Hagrid as if the latter was an old friend he had not kept in touch with. Tom did not like inconsistencies and this episode of his life was definitely one.
If on top of that it was Harry, the Seer who knew everything, who suggested it ... If the expulsion of a single student enabled him to keep his only home, Hogwarts, open, Tom did not have to hesitate.
Dippet listened to his story and believed it. Rubeus Hagrid, with his giant blood, his liking for monsters and his barbaric manners, oh yes, it could only be him. The Headmaster sent the Aurors back to their offices. He declared that Myrtle Warren's funeral could be organized. He also explained to the Daily Prophet that the involuntary assassin's identity had been discovered thanks to the testimony of an excellent student, the Slytherin's Prefect.
Tom was given a decoration and all the professors congratulated him for his courage, for it was not simple to denounce a fellow student. Only Dumbledore believed in Hagrid's innocence. Every time Tom met Dumbledore's eyes, he had the impression the wizard suspected him, but Harry himself told him not to worry. If one were to discover the truth one day, it would be decades later. They had nothing to fear.
In reality, Harry just did not care. Nothing mattered to him except, perhaps, Tom's delight when a small plaque with his name on it was put in the Trophy Room. The first Riddle to leave his legacy at Hogwarts!
To Be Continued ...