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Breathing In

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Summer comes in a breath of stifling air. It’s hot in the orphanage, especially the upper floors where Tom’s room is, but a little wandless magic makes it bearable—somewhat. For five damned years he’s been returning to this place when he rightfully shouldn’t be, and this little fact irritates him to no end, but he’s powerless against an old man with a little too much power, so he always comes back.

Much to the hatred of all the residents. Tom isn’t welcome here—either because he’s made sure to threaten them with his actions or because he’s strange. It’s stupid and all he wants to do is go back to Hogwarts.

…Not that he was accepted there either. The only thing that welcomed him was the old castle’s magic, warm and comforting like the touch of a mother he never knew. It just goes to show how terribly fickle human nature was, that a pile of stone would be more accepting of one of their own than they themselves… but Tom knows that isn’t particularly true in the first place.

He’s a freak here in the muggle world and a freak in the wizarding world too—wizards, perfectly human wizards didn’t sprout wings, after all. Part of this makes him feel superior, but usually the feathery appendages are more trouble than their novelty was worth. Other than physically being a hassle, they give him… urges. To fly, to taste the wind, to give himself to the sky and never look back again.

It makes him feel weak, because dreams are a weakness as long as they stay dreams. He refused to let himself become one of those fools reaching for the unattainable—rather keep his goals of conquest to the ground instead.

Tom suddenly feels restless. Being cooped up in such a small room—even if it’s all his, the matron wouldn’t dare give him a roommate in fear of what would happen to the unfortunate soul—has always done this to him. It’s a side effect of his wings, he’s sure, even if he can barely remember what life was like without them. They had begun to grow when he was very young, and by the time he was eleven, he already was experienced with binding the small fluffy things.

He needs to get out. Get out of here. The sun is beating down on the window, on the wood of the house, cooking all of its residents inside like the building was a pot and everything else was the stove. Though being outside meant running out into the open flame, Tom finds it preferable to staying inside with his wings tightly bound to his back. The fact that they take up the whole expanse of his back and some is terrible to think about—the mass of feathers makes him feel hot, and he knows it’s not just his imagination because the beads of sweat dripping down his forehead and neck and back are proof.


Tom gets up and leaves the orphanage. No one questions it.

Normally, being outside meant an even closer exertion of caution in regards to the wings on his back. But Tom’s not just any normal human with wings—ignoring the fact that anyone with the addition certainly wouldn’t be labeled as normal in the first place—he’s a wizard, and a damn good one at that. Wandless magic is effortless; a muggle repellant barrier and a few illusions complete his makeshift foretress.

He takes the opportunity and removes the tightly wrapped bandages. His wings spring immediately, stretching against his own will and flapping lightly in joy. They’re somewhat sentient, Tom likes to think, because there was no way in hell he lacked that much self control. Annoyed, he reaches one hand in back of him to press into the feathers, steadying his extra appendages.

Still, it feels good to let them free.

Tom sighs, relaxing against his tree. It’s his own little slice of heaven here, so difficult to find in the city full of smoke and pollution from factories. The orphanage is a few meters away, but the tree he claims is in the back and at a good vantage point. No one can see him—regardless of illusions—and he can see them. That’s the most important part.

He stretches his wings again, this time willingly, and then relaxes them to curl forward and act as a shield against the sun. They’re large, white, fluffy things—sometimes he wonders how he’s able to hide them at all, but then the ache and pain from having them constantly bound beats in the back of his mind, and he doesn’t wonder anymore.

It’s at least an hour more of mindless resting until a familiar figure makes its way past the orphanage gates. Tom recognizes him instantly—the boy is around his age, certainly not a resident, and comes to visit often. He watches him sneak in, looking around to make sure no one’s in position to catch him—why would they, when it’s so hot outside and they can hardly do anything more than roast in their rooms?—before making a bee line to Tom’s tree.

It’s one of the anomalies to Harry, Tom thinks fondly. The boy passes through his protections without flinching in the least, performing a feat most of his pureblood peers at Hogwarts could not do. He stands at the base of the tree, looks up, and smiles boyishly.

“Tom!” Harry exclaims, and he reaches a hand upward as if to help the other boy down. “You’re here today!”

“Of course I am. It’s summer, after all,” Tom says, and shifts into a better position to look down at his friend. “How hard was it to sneak out?”

Harry’s lips twitch. “Not as bad. I think the tutors are exhausted with me anyway.”

Harry Potter is from a rich family. He is the son of a minister, the perfect heir with his looks and his attractive personality. He is part of the privileged class in a time where everyone suffers from fear and poverty—war time, and they are losing.

Tom doesn’t think about it much. There is the wizarding world for him, after all, but Harry is a different matter. Harry doesn’t have magic, as much as Tom’s heart swears he does, to bewitch him like that—no, he’s a muggle, caught up in muggle affairs, living his life in the muggle world.

He is the only muggle Tom will stand to tolerate, if only because more often than not, Tom finds it hard to think of Harry as someone beneath him in the first place. Not even wizards have earned that particular right.

“Put more time into your studies,” Tom says, an automatic response and something he swears to have said a million and one times before.

“I do,” Harry insists, “just not during the summer. Because during the summer, I want to be here with you.” He is the only one who does.

Something flickers across Tom’s face—a wisp of a smile, so fleeting not even Harry can catch it, but its trail is clear as day in the way fatigue and tension fade from his form. His shoulders relax, wings flutter lightly to adjust, and his hands ease their grip on the tree bark.

“Are you going to come down, or am I going to have to climb up there and get you myself?”

“Impatient,” drawls Tom. “I’ll come down, since we both know what happens when Harry Potter tries to climb trees.”

Harry flushes. It’s hard to tell because the heat has already turned his cheeks a delightful pink, but Tom’s used to watching Harry and picking out all the little details. “You said you’d never speak of it again!”

“I don’t remember saying anything remotely close,” Tom smirks, and then jumps off the high branch he had originally perched on. His wings instantly spread, eager to feel air press against their expanse, and Harry watches on in affection and awe.

“I love your wings,” he says, once they’ve both settled on the ground with Harry tucked sweetly into their feathery embrace. Even though it’s hot, and the body heat coming off of his friend should surely make it worse, Tom finds he never minds. The way the boy gently runs his fingers through his feathers is enough compensation.

Harry continues. “They’re beautiful—so white and soft…”

“Don’t fall asleep,” Tom half-jokes.

They both know neither would mind a nap, and it almost happens until Harry fights a yawn to say what he wants to say.



“Will you take me flying?”

 It’s a serious question Harry always asks, and Tom always says no to. He’s never practiced true flight—hovering a bit, maybe a few strong flaps—and the thought of taking Harry on the first one is as appealing as it is a bad, and dangerous, idea. Because Harry is a muggle, he’s fragile in the way Tom usually would take as weakness. Physically fit, emotionally open, and without a hint of magic to protect him. Even now, with Harry within the safe expanse of his wing, he knows it’s not enough.

“You know I won’t, Harry.”

“I have to ask every time, just to make sure you’re not going to change your mind,” the boy yawns.

They’re hot and sticky with sweat, two teenage boys who can’t find it in themselves to move an inch from their comfortable arrangement. There was something charming in the way they loved—innocently, earnestly, as the best of friends and the only two who ever mattered when they were together. It’s times like this Tom forgets Harry is a muggle, or human at all—and he forgets the hassle that are his wings and ignores the uncomfortable weather.

These days are the best, when the sun pulses down and there’s sweat dripping down the back of his neck, when it’s so unbearably hot that he can’t even tell the difference between wearing clothes, when not even magic could shield him from a terrible warm breeze, when there’s no one else in the world—not at Hogwarts, not in Diagon Alley, not in the Orphanage, not in the entirety of London—except for he and Harry.

Even when his mind yearns for the world of magic, to stay there and never leave, his heart is glued to the days of his return, of summer and the whimsical nature of boys like Harry, who make hating so hard and kisses disgustingly sweet, lazy and wet and with more tongue than teeth.

“I’ll take you flying one day.”


“I swear it.”

That day never comes. Tom comes back from his sixth year of Hogwarts with the high of discovering the Chamber of Secrets and opening it—he wants to tell Harry about it all, wants those captivating eyes to be the one snared this time by stories of magic and power and history—but Harry never comes. Tom waits and waits and waits in his tree, eyes watching the orphanage gate, for a week then two, then three, but the boy never appears.

Something is wrong. Tom knows something is dreadfully wrong.

He goes into the main parts of town, fading off the radar of muggles using his magic, which strained out to find the boy it grew so fond of. Tom knows where Harry’s house is. He goes there, ignoring the decorated, ornamental style in favor of finding out what’s going on. He doesn’t know how long he stands there at the gate, but probably long enough for his firm grip to slip and magic leave him exposed.

An old man walks up to him and kindly asks if he’s here to see the Potters.

Tom says yes.

“Oh dear, here to pay your condolences then? You’re about young Harry’s age… a friend then, I presume?”

“Yes,” Tom replies politely. “We usually spend time together with the rest of our friends… but he hasn’t shown up for awhile. I was wondering what was wrong—he never misses a day.”

Tom’s chest constricts like a large snake has wound its way around his body in a deathly grip. He sees the way the old man’s face falls, pitiful and drenched in sorrow. Words form before the man can even open his mouth.

“The best of doctors came to see him,” the old man finally manages to get out, “the best medicine. The best treatment the minister could afford…”

There’s nothing Tom can say. Nothing that he wants to say.

“He was so young… his future to be bright, even in this bleak time we live in…”

Tom doesn’t want to hear it. He swallows, turns, and walks away. The minute he’s out of sight from peering eyes, his magic washes over him in a powerful disillusionment spell and his wings break free of the bandages he had meticulously wrapped a few hours prior.

He’s flying for the first time, but there’s nothing to it. No novelty, no joy, no rush of excitement. It’s as if his wings know—because they are solemn, obeying his command without playful, childish additional action.

Tom Riddle Sr. is dead by evening. The rise of the Dark Lord Voldemort officially begins.

Tom burns down the orphanage, including his tree. Though he is loathe to do it, he knows sentimentalities will get him nowhere in life. The memories are there, all in his head—he doesn’t need any physical attachment.

His heart knows it’s a lie. It’s too painful to think about, that he doesn’t even have a token of Harry to keep with him. Just goes to show how the world didn’t want him to own anything.

But that’s fine. If the world gave him nothing, Tom would take it all.

His wings are a nuisance he mechanically takes care of these days. When Harry was still around, Tom was always sure to preen them and wash them kindly, even when he was at Hogwarts and it was ridiculously hard to do so without alerting his peers of his secret. They meant something, to someone—someone important. It was always in the back of his mind then, secured away in his subconscious. Harry loves my wings. I need to take care of them.

Now, there is no mixed affection and hatred in his care of the appendages. They are a part of his body, Tom accepts that. He’ll have to deal with them the rest of his life, yes—in retrospect, trying to cut them off the first time only to have them re-grow again was stupidity he’d not want to repeat—but there was nothing stopping him from continuing on with his plans as usual. So he did, keeping the wings bound for most of the day. Tom’s back aches, but he deals with it with minimal effort.

There is a time in his progression when Tom Riddle truly becomes the Dark Lord Voldemort. He can’t pinpoint exactly when that is, as it’s not very significant at all to him, but there is a change. Tom believes it near to when his wings changed color, no longer the unbelievably white fluffy bundle. They darken with every ritual he takes in order to modify himself, to become stronger, to obtain immortality. Soon they are completely black, like a crow’s feathers, like his magic.

Voldemort doesn’t care. Tom wonders what Harry would say; if he would still love his wings now.

He doesn’t bat an eye when a prophecy is revealed to him from his faithful, nor does he hesitate in practically ordering the death of two magical families. Immortality. That is all he wants, then the world could follow. The Dark Lord Voldemort fears death, cannot bear to think that he may fall to nature’s wrath and the cycle of life.

He doesn’t want to disappear, like the muggle named Harry Potter, whose disappearance caused an old man to look close to tears, for a family to be torn apart, for a tree and a building to burn and a boy to chase after power

There is no use in weakness. No merit to it. Voldemort sneers at what had been, and Tom never quite stops mourning.

When the killing curse is reflected and he is reduced to no more than a spectral wrath, Voldemort simply considers it a minor interruption. His plans are still strong, his protections solid in place, and soon he will regain a body and continue on as usual. It takes ten years.

There is something eerily familiar about the Boy-Who-Lived. Something indescribable, something one cannot hope to put a name to. His eyes, maybe, he decides at a later time. Hidden behind glasses, they are the most expressive eyes he has ever seen—a lie, Tom insists, there is one other—and to Voldemort, that only means Harry Potter is weak and easily crushed.

All the better. Obstacles should be rid of as soon as possible.

It is only in the graveyard does he see it, when their spells connect, when Tom vehemently denies the idea of harming this boy does Voldemort see, and understand. Later in his old, run down manor it will make him laugh, cold and desperate and all sorts of things that usually do not define a laugh. Fifty years, was it?

He always wondered. Life after death was supposed to be impossible—reincarnation a vague hope of the failing and the regretful. But it figures. Harry always wanted to be a wizard.

And perhaps Tom will finally get his answer—what will Harry think of him now, when he has no wings, in this new, foreign body of his, when there is no white and there is no warmth, no comfort in the uncomfortable heat of summer…

When there is no hope of a lazy, wet kiss, innocently sweet with more tongue than teeth?

Voldemort doesn’t want to know. He knows he will find out anyway.

The Boy-Who-Lived grows up, not necessarily well but at the least he doesn’t die. To the magical community of Britain he is fated to be their savior, the one to vanquish He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. It is a shame that he is only seventeen in the Battle of Hogwarts.

Staring at Harry now in the Forbidden Forest, Voldemort compares him to his previous incarnation. Their looks are strikingly similar, no—identical. Harry will always be Harry, it seems. Tom’s memories conflict with those of the dark lord. Harry, precious Harry, muggle Harry—but no, this Harry will be his doom, his downfall, the end of his immortality—

This Harry will bring death, as Death was the one who had stolen him away from Tom in the first place.

But he has no memory of Tom, no want, no image of a boy with wings perched in a tree beside an orphanage. This Harry isn’t his Harry, Voldemort knows, and that was the only reason why he was able to proceed so far with his plans. Victory is practically in his grasp. Dumbledore lives no more. The only opposition is—

He raises his wand. This Harry is not his Harry. The mantra repeats in a loop in his head, Tom’s smooth baritone the lead to the choir.

The boy’s eyes are green—terrifyingly, hauntingly green. They are as green as the curse he casts to fell the boy, and it’s over, just like that.

It figures that the Dark Lord Voldemort would fall mere hours afterward, to the same curse, cast by the other prophecy child.

The blinding white is familiar. It’s the white of his old wings, if he still had them. Voldemort looks around. He knows where he is—King’s Cross Station.


The voice and tone are startlingly familiar—nostaligic, even. How long has it been, since he’s heard that name, said precisely the same way, light and inquisitive and filled with the fond affection that he only briefly touched in his youth? Tom. That one name, the very one he loathed… And yet, Voldemort found himself wanting to drown in it.

“Is there something on my face?” Harry cocked his head to the side.

Voldemort blinks. He looks around again. Where was the train station?

“Toooom!” Harry whines, and it catches his attention.


“Hello to you too, dearest best friend of mine. I was scared you’d left me there for a second! You usually don’t zone out like that—are you okay? Not catching a summer cold, are you?”

He resists the shiver threatening to crawl down his spine. Cold. Sickness. That hits a little too close to home. Voldemort replies anyway, trying to remember what Tom would say. “Only fools like you would catch a cold in this heat, idiot.”

Harry pouts. The expression is again, familiar, and yet he had not seen that very same pout for over fifty years.

“You know, if I’m that boring, maybe I should go and leave you to your staring contest with the air,” the boy remarks. He makes a move to get up and leave.

Voldemort moves before he even knows what he’s doing. In a flash, his hand is tightened in a grip on Harry’s wrist, firm and tugging him back to sit down. There’s a flurry of movement in the corner of his eye, and belatedly, he realizes it’s his wings. Wings he hasn’t had in forever, because they’re white not black and they’re actually there.

“…Tom?” This time, Harry sounds concerned.

In that moment, he forgets how to speak English. How do you say don’t go? Voldemort wracks his brain, but he can’t remember how to make his mouth and lips and tongue move the way he wants them to, but he tries anyway. It comes out as a bunch of hisses. Parseltongue.

Harry smiles. It’s impossible.

I’m not going anywhere, Tom,” slides out, smooth and sibilant, in the distinct tone of the boy’s voice.

It’s impossible.

It’s impossible.



“Do you want to go flying today?”

A smile.

A kiss.

And the summer’s heat beats down on them, unbearable and merciless.