Disclaimer: This story is based on characters created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoat Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.


Thanks to everyone for all the encouraging reviews – I've just re-read them and they motivated me to pick up this story again and write this chapter .

As I said in the AN of my new fic, Altered Times, I'll be working more on this story and Altered Times, than on Vindico Atrum. I would like to advance a bit on them, to leave them with 10-20 chapters each, before resuming my work with VA.

Mostly because the plot bunnies of these two new fics won't leave my mind and I'm currently enjoying them more. I feel like having a break from VA to develop these ones, for the time being. It's an author's whim, I know, and for that I'm sorry, but I'm more motivated by them at present – writing VA sometimes feels like a monumental task. So you'll have to be patient with me *winks*

Now, I know the first part of the previous chapter was quite confusing, but that was intended. This story will be a long one, since it will have two parts: the years spanning through Tom and Harry Riddle's childhood and lives in the magical world (in the 1930-40s), and then the years of canon (in the 1990s). It will be in this second part when the mysteries involving the grey-cloaked wizard, the Malfoy's second son, and the ritual Lucius Malfoy used, will be unraveled. So for now you should put it off your minds since it will take a long while before the story gets to that second part.

But I would like to clear up one thing; the timeline was changed and Albus Dumbledore –given his powers- wasn't affected by it (Hagrid and McGonagall were). He remembers the original past along with the new one created by Harry being raised with Tom Riddle – but this is the Dumbledore of the 1990s, who will be awaiting in such time to 'correct' the consequences of it.

The Dumbledore of the 1940s, of course, has no idea of what will happen in the future. And since his future self has no way of 'communicating' with his past self, he won't know. However, that doesn't mean that the Dumbledore of the 1940s will not suspect something about the Riddle brothers. He will certainly interfere.

Well, I hope that explanation made sense, lol.

And Merry Christmas to you all!

Part I: Chapter 2

It was a marvelous summer day, with the sun shining high up in clear skies and a pleasant London breeze bringing some comfort against the heat. The sounds of children enjoying their playtime in the backyard rose high and muffled the sounds from the street beyond and the passing motorcars.

The orphanage's backyard was nothing to boast about, with dried yellow grass and patches of muddy soil here and there, but at least it offered the children an open space in which to play under the sunlight and get some fresh air.

Alice always enjoyed her task of watching over them as they played the games she had taught them.

Some girls were jumping a rope, a few boys were casting stones to see who could throw them further, some others were jumping on one foot from one square to the other, drawn with a stick on the ground.

And four-year-old, little Harry Riddle, as always a bundle of energy, was playing 'knights' with two other boys, with a stick in hand and a short 'cape' tied at his back, made from a torn and tattered pillowcase.

Observing them with a soft smile on her face, Alice kept stitching a ripped hole in a pair of knee-length, small, second-hand pants.

It was always Harry's pants she found herself mending day after day, she thought with bemusement. The cheerful, rambunctious boy never seemed able to go through a day without coming back with torn clothes, dirty smudges on his cheeks, and a beaming grin on his face.

The little darling of the orphanage, having charmed everyone with his easy-going disposition, impish grins and warm, joyful smiles, always seemed to use all his considerable boyish energy to embark himself in some imagined adventure or other, easily pulling others into following his lead.

"He's up to it again," said Kathy with a frown on her face, who was by Alice's side with her own pair of children's clothes to mend.

Alice shot her a glance and inwardly winced. The years hadn't been kind to her friend; at twenty-two years of age, Kathy looked as if she was in her forties. She had deep dark circles under her eyes and already had creases along her forehead and the edges of her mouth. Kathy's marriage to Mr. Cole wasn't a happy one.

Expecting to be the wife of a relatively well-to-do older man who owned his own shop, Kathy had soon discovered that her husband was a greedy selfish man who hoarded any penny earned. She had hoped to be able to leave her job at the orphanage and have a good living.

Instead, Kathy's husband hadn't allowed her to quit her job and also made her work at the shop during the weekends, added to all the cleaning and cooking she had to do at their home and taking care of two teenagers from Mr. Cole's previous marriage, who quite despised their stepmother and made her life hell.

Alice pitied her but knew that her friend was stuck with her lot in life. Only wealthy folk divorced, and even then it was scandalous.

"I wonder what he does there," continued Kathy in a suspicious tone of voice.

Alice sighed, already knowing whom her friend was referring to, and gazed at the row of scraggly bushes at the far end of the backyard. There, a boy was crouching near one of the bushes, taking care of not soiling his second-hand clothes and with his back turned towards them and the playing children.

At four years of age, Tom Riddle had grown to be a very handsome little boy, yet quiet and solemn, who never interacted with other children except Harry. And unlike his brother, Tom didn't participate in any games or 'adventures', but spent all his time reading some book or other. And when they were at the backyard, he always remained near the bushes, doing who knew what.

Alice had once approached him, frowning when she had believed to have heard some hissing sounds. But as soon as she had reached Tom, the boy had frozen and then shot her a dark look, saying nothing and remaining crouched, his back straight and stiff.

"What are you doing?" had asked Alice in curiosity, her eyes darting towards the bushes, trying to see what could possibly be entertaining the boy.

"It's none of your business," Tom had said, his tone calm and his expression closed off.

His manner of speaking hadn't surprised her. Tom spoke like an adult, clearly enunciating his words and already having an extensive vocabulary from all the time he spent reading. And he always acted like an adult as well, which left many dumbstruck given that he still looked like a little boy. His conduct sometimes worried Alice, since such seriousness and cold behavior had no place in a boy so young. But she had become used to it.

Alice had hesitated then, but in the end she had left him to his own devices. Whatever he did, Tom hadn't even shared the secret with his brother. She had seen Harry trying to cajole his brother to join them in their playing, and Tom had always sent him away with curt and dismissive words.

"It's going to be Billy Stubb's birthday soon," said Alice, peeling her gaze away from Tom and changing subjects as she made another stitch on the pants she was mending. "I'm thinking about getting him a rabbit. Billy seems to like animals. Remember last time when we took them out, how he gazed at the display in the pet store-"

Kathy interrupted her with a disapproving click of her tongue. "You're always getting the children presents. You should better save your wages for yourself."

"I don't spend everything I earn on them, Kathy," said Alice coolly, her tone then mellowing as she sighed. "And they have so little that it makes me happy to see them enjoy the few things I can buy for them once in a while."

"Once in a while?" snorted Kathy, shooting her a pointed glance. "Maybe for the other children, but you certainly spoil your favorites-"

"I don't have favorites," interjected Alice feeling offended, halting her needlework to face her friend. "I love all children alike and treat them equally."

Kathy scoffed loudly. "You don't fool anyone. You treat the Riddle brothers as if they were your own. Buying sweets for Harry and always getting books for Tom. Gods knows why, the boy never thanks you for them."

Alice's cheeks reddened and she cleared her throat before she murmured softly, "Well, yes, but they're especial. Harry is such a sweet little boy and Tom is so smart." Her blue eyes gleamed with pride, as she added, "I think he's a prodigy, Kathy, the way his mind instantly absorbs and understands everything I teach the children. Just the other day he asked if he could have more books on Math and Science! Can you believe it? And only four years old-"

"Yes, yes," said Kathy drolly with a roll of her eyes, "he's exceptional, you always say that. But he's a weird one." She frowned darkly as she glanced at the far end of the backyard. "There's just something not right with him. Strange accidents happen when he's around-"

"Tom will do well in life with a mind like his, mark my words," stated Alice joyfully, utterly ignoring her friend's comment, as she usually did when Kathy insisted that there was anything wrong with Tom. "And little Harry too, with the way he unwittingly charms everyone without even trying. With his sweet nature and adorable looks, people just seem to flock to him-"

"We need a princess!" a piping voice suddenly shouted with eagerness.

Both Alice and Kathy turned their faces to gaze at the little boy who was wielding a stick and had a pillowcase tied around his neck like a cape. The boy's delicately handsome round face was smudged with dirt, his messy black hair was sticking in all directions and his green eyes were wide with excitement. Even Kathy couldn't suppress a fond smile as they watched Harry. Though Alice's sharp eyes didn't miss the new tears and holes in Harry's knee-length pants, and she inwardly moaned - she had mended those pants just yesterday!

"Me, me!" instantly cried out Amy Benson, leaving behind the other two girls with whom she had been jumping a rope.

Alice chuckled at that. Amy, a year older than Harry, always orbited around the boy. Shyly blushing but always wanting to be the object of his attention.

Little Harry ran towards her in his dirty tattered pants, showing knobby knees and thin short legs which made him look like a springing young colt. While Tom was already one of the tallest boys in the orphanage, his brother was the shortest, which made Harry look even more adorable, in Alice's opinion.

Amy flushed when Harry beamed a smiled at her and eagerly grabbed her hand to pull her towards his group of playmates.

"What are we playing?" asked Amy as she peered at Harry coyly.

"Dragons, knights, princes and princesses," announced Harry cheerfully, "like in the stories Alice reads to us."

Then he turned to Billy Stubbs and Eric Whalley, the two boys who always went along with Harry's adventures. His small button nose scrunched in pensiveness as he added, "Um, I think we need something to make her look like a princess." He grinned impishly and waved his stick in the air, "We have swords and capes. Amy should have a…er…" He bit him bottom lip and then his eyes sparkled as he chimed, "A veil!"

"A veil?" said Billy dubiously in his high-pitched voice. "Princesses don't have veils. They have crowns or something like that, no?"

Harry looked crestfallen for a moment, before he cheered up in the next second and shrugged his small bony shoulders. "We only have pillowcases. We'll use that."

He widely grinned as he untied the one around his neck and stood on the tips of his toes to reach Amy's head, haphazardly placing the pillowcase on top of her mass of blonde curls. If possible, the girl's cheeks reddened even further but she remained silent as she shot Harry a small shy smile.

"She doesn't look like a princess," piped in Eric Whelley, eyeing Amy with an uncertain frown on his small face.

"I do so!" snapped Amy furiously, grabbing the ends of the pillowcase and tying them in a tight knot under her chin, shooting a glare at the other two boys, defying them to contradict Harry and say that it didn't look like a veil or that princesses didn't use one. She wasn't sure about either but she didn't care.

"Looks good enough," said Harry excitedly as he turned to his two playmates. "Who wants to be the dragon?"

Puffing his small chest out, Eric Whelley eagerly raised a hand in the air and let out what was intended to be a mighty roar. It came out as a frail, high-pitched wail of some kind, but Harry clapped his small hands with approval and flashed a satisfied grin.

"And you'll be my prince?" suddenly whispered Amy, her soft brown eyes fixed on him.

The tips of Harry's ears turned pink and he shuffled his feet on the muddy ground. But then he nodded and timidly smiled. "Sure."

Abruptly, a frown crinkled on Harry's forehead, and he rubbed it with his small hand, shooting a brief, confused glance at his brother who stood in the distance.

It hadn't escape Alice notice how, meanwhile, Tom had stood up and taken a few steps away from the row of bushes, to stare at the group of children with a dark expression on his handsome face as he narrowed his eyes at his brother's playmates.

It didn't surprise her. Whenever Harry played with Billy, Eric and Amy, or throughout the day spent more time with them than with Tom, the boy would have looks like those – of annoyance, irritation, or sometimes, very briefly, showing anger.

The boy was quite possessive of his brother and only looked content when Harry trailed after him and engaged him in some sort of conversation or other, or even when Harry simply sat and amused himself with other things while Tom read in silence. It was plain for all caregivers to see that Harry worshiped his brother and also preferred to be in Tom's company rather than any other's, basking in his brother's attention which always made him toothily grin with happiness.

But such an energetic and high-spirited little boy like Harry couldn't help getting bored with his brother's serious quietness and adult-like past-times. So more often than not, he ended up engaging the other children of the orphanage in some made-up game.

As she watched Harry rub his forehead, Alice wondered about it as she often did. The scar which she had been so certain would heal and fade in time, was still there on the boy's forehead, as fresh-looking as it ever was, as if the cut had been sustained but a few minutes ago. And she had often seen Harry rubbing it, and it usually happened when there were dark looks on Tom's face.

It perplexed her, and it certainly confused Harry too. She had once asked him about it but the boy hadn't been able to explain it to her. He had only said that he sometimes felt pain or headaches but didn't know why.

Alice pulled out of her musings when she suddenly felt that peculiar tingle on her skin and she snapped her gaze back to the children, abruptly feeling apprehensive, especially when she saw that Dennis Bishop had stop casting stones and was approaching the smaller children with stomping strides.

The twelve-year-old boy was the oldest in the orphanage and certainly the tallest and strongest. It didn't bode well when Dennis decided to start bullying the younger children as he often did. He had a mean streak which Alice hadn't been able to subdue, no matter what she tried.

"I'll be the knight, then?" muttered Billy Stubbs, not looking at all happy about it or sure of what his role would entail.

"Yeah, and we will rescue Amy from Eric!" declared Harry with fierce determination in his piping voice, already playing the part of the valorous prince and brandishing his stick like a mighty sword.

"What stupid game are you idiots playing now?" demanded Dennis, brusquely shoving Eric and Billy to a side as he stomped to tower over Harry, bumping his chest against Harry's head and forcing the small boy to stumble a few steps back.

"We're not idiots," snapped little Harry, glowering up at the tall, broad boy whom he hated more than anything in the whole world. "And our games aren't stupid. They're fun-"

As they argued, Alice set her needlework to a side and started to stand up. She was instantly stopped by Kathy, who grabbed her by the arm as she said sternly, "Let them resolve it between themselves. You do Harry no good when you coddle him."

"But Dennis is thrice his age…" she murmured uncertainly, wariness coiling in her stomach.

"He has to learn how to deal with bullies," interjected Kathy firmly, tugging Alice's arm once more to make her resume her seat.

With battling feelings, Alice weakly nodded but focused her attention back on the boys, alert in case things got serious and she needed to intervene. Her skin continued to tingle and that wasn't a good sign.

"They're retarded. Only little children play games like that," sneered Dennis shooting the four children a contemptuous glance full of malice and disgust. "You're all babies and you–" he pointed a meaty finger at Harry, aggressively poking the smaller boy on the forehead and making him wince –"you're the babiest of all."

"That's not a word!" snapped Harry accusingly. He was quite certain that it wasn't. Tom always got angry and reprimanded him when he used words that didn't exist, so he was almost sure he was right. And using words that didn't exist was a bad thing according to his brother.

"It is if I say so, runt," spat Dennis, before his face contorted with gleeful malice as he added in a low, nasty voice, "You're a crybaby. I've heard you. At night, in your room, you cry and sob and wail."

Little Harry paled, his green eyes widening with hurt and no small amount of humiliation. Only Tom who shared his room knew about that, he had thought. And he didn't like thinking about why he cried; it still confused him, the things he saw when he was asleep.

"You have bad dreams and you scream and you cry like a little girl. You're a stupid little crybaby!"

"I'm not!" finally roared Harry angrily, in his humiliation feeling such sudden fury that he launched himself at the larger boy before he could even think about what he was doing.

A surprised yell tore from Dennis' throat as the two of them tumbled to the muddy ground, as Harry wildly failed his small arms and legs at him as he furiously shouted repeatedly, "Take it back, take it back!"

With a snarl, Dennis batted away the flailing limbs and swatted a meaty fist against the smaller boy's face, making Harry cry out in pain as he rolled on the ground.

The other boys and girls merely stood around with wide eyes and gaping mouths, too afraid to do anything.

"Dennis – Harry!" shouted Alice in alarm, already speeding towards the boys. "Stop at once!"

Neither paid her any attention and she continued screaming at them to stop as she ran towards them as fast as she could, while she saw that Tom stood motionless yet with an expression of building fury and hatred, his narrowed gaze fixed on Dennis.

The twelve-year-old boy had now gotten hold of Harry with an arm tightly wrapped around the smaller boy's throat, making Harry haggardly gasp for breath, his expression one of panic. In the next second, with his forehead scrunched, his green eyes flashed angrily as he opened his mouth and chomped down on the meaty arm that was choking him.

Dennis roared in pain and tried to pry his arm away but little Harry chomped harder, sinking his small teeth in the flesh, and mulishly didn't let go.

Just when Alice reached them and when Dennis was aiming a punch to knock out Harry which would certainly injure him quite severely, the twelve year old suddenly screamed and doubled over, contorting on the ground and attempting to wrap his arms around himself as if to protect his own body from some unknown force.

It was such a scream that it made the small hairs of the nape of her neck stand up. Some of the rest of the children were now crying with fear and Harry had stopped biting the boy. To her perplexity, the small boy laid whimpering, clutching his scarred forehead.

Alice stood there, dumbstruck, as Dennis kept shrieking for unknown reasons while Harry's whimpers mellowed but still continued. And then she saw Tom, who hadn't moved an inch, his penetrating gaze still focused on Dennis. Yet now, the boy's expression was one of gleeful enjoyment and satisfaction.

"He's the Devil's child," echoed Father Patrick's voice in Alice's mind, suddenly making her feel dizzy.

It had happened a year ago. Back then, she took all the children at least once a month to the small church two blocks away from the orphanage. She wasn't a particularly devoted religious person but she did believe that it would do the children some good to attend mass once in a while to listen to Father Patrick's readings and lectures about morality.

Though, most of the children didn't pay much attention. Only little Amy seemed to enjoy it. Harry always ended up falling asleep with his head on Alice's lap, snoring, albeit gratefully it was softly. And the small boy always looked so beautiful and angelic in his sleep that she never had the heart to wake him up.

On the other hand, Tom always wore a bored and disinterested expression on his face and ended up taking a book with him, to read it while Father Patrick animatedly ranted about Good and Evil.

Alice had felt a bit abashed since Tom made no efforts to conceal that he read a book and utterly ignored what was being said. When Alice had once seen Father Patrick shoot the boy an irked look from the pulpit, she had politely asked Tom to stop taking a book to mass.

"Then don't force me to attend. It's a waste of my time," had replied Tom curtly, leveling at her a cold glance. "I don't believe in God."

Alice had been struck speechless. For a three-year-old to say something like that, as if he had gravely pondered about the matter, seriously analyzed it from all angles, and had come to his own unwavering conclusions.

Nevertheless, Father Patrick was a good and patient man, and she had asked him to have a word with the boy. After mass, the warm-hearted man had herded Tom into his office and Alice had waited outside.

A mere fifteen minutes had gone by when the door was yanked open and Tom strode out, looking utterly composed and calm while Father Patrick stood trembling, his face pale and his expression horrified and fearful.

"He's the Devil's child," the man had shakily muttered to her as he thickly swallowed. Then he had pulled himself to his full height, pierced her with his eyes, and had added in a fierce and firm tone of voice, "Don't bring him to my Church again."

And with that, he had slammed the door shut on her face while Tom shot her a satisfied little smirk, which seemed to mock her for her efforts.

She never could pry from Tom or Father Patrick what had happened between them. But soon, the whole neighborhood was gossiping about how the Father had banned the boy from Church and they started giving the boy dirty looks whenever Alice took the children out.

That hadn't sat well with her. It meant that Father Patrick had said something about it. And her opinion of him had radically changed. No matter the reason, a man who could cause such discrimination against a child, however unintended, was no longer in her good graces. Orphaned children, especially, had to be protected from such prejudices.

She had never taken the children back to Father Patrick's Church but to another which, alas, was a bit farther away from the orphanage. And certainly, she hadn't insisted anymore about Tom coming with them. And since Tom didn't go, Harry had mutinously refused to attend as well. Where his brother led, little Harry usually stubbornly followed. It had made her sigh but she had yielded to the boy's wishes.

Alice believed in God or some sort of higher power, yes, but she wasn't quite sure that there was a Heaven and Hell. And no matter what Father Patrick said, she was sure that there were no such things as Devil's children. Children were born inherently good and innocent in her opinion, and no matter how Tom behaved, she would never believe otherwise – even now, when she was confronted with Tom's gleeful expression as Dennis laid on the ground.

Finally, Alice acted when she saw that Kathy was already tending to Dennis, helping the boy up and herding him towards the house. The boy still looked in pain and he walked awkwardly, but seemed too out of it to make any protests.

Kathy didn't leave before shooting Tom a glance, and then a pointed one at Alice, as if saying 'See what I mean?'.

But no matter the inexplicable strangeness of what had happened, her friend clearly wasn't seeing what Alice did as she gazed at the Riddle brothers.

Tom had carefully picked up Harry from the ground and was now embracing him, whispering hushed words into his smaller brother's ear as Harry whimpered against his chest. Tom's long fingers were carding the boy's mop of wild hair and it seemed to have a soothing effect on his brother, who soon quieted.

There was indeed inherent goodness in Tom if he cared so much for his brother, and that was enough for Alice.

At last, she cleared her throat, glancing at the other children who looked fearful and perturbed, and she said loudly with all the cheerfulness she could muster, "Who wants me to read to them a fairytale?"

"I do," said Amy softly, her brown eyes wavering from her, to the Riddle brothers, and back. Then she seemed to become even more confident and reached Alice, clutching Alice's apron with a small hand.

Soon, all the other children surrounded her, what had happened already forgotten in their eagerness for tales of doting parents who loved their princess daughter, and kingdoms filled with wealth where there was no poverty or hunger and the people were kind, and peasant boys who became princes and worlds filled with beauty and joy and laughter - everything they didn't have and yearned for.

As Alice started herding them back to the house, she glanced at the brothers and invited hesitantly, "Harry?"

Emerald eyes peered at her from above Tom's arms, and brightened. In the next second, little Harry was already squirming against his brother's hold, attempting to break free.

Tom shot Alice an annoyed, narrowed-eyed glance, but then nodded curtly, as if deciding to allow her to take his brother away from him - this time.

And with eyes which dried quickly and a skip to his steps, Harry joined the others, already piping his preferences, "I want the one of the house made of chocolate and candies and the bad witch that wants to eat the boy and girl."

Alice warmly smiled at him, though she now noticed the bruise around the child's left eye caused by Dennis' first punch. She would have to see if they had anything left to help with a blackened eye. The orphanage's supplies were scarce.

She chuckled and petted his wild mop of hair. "Then you shall have it."

"No! The one of the sleeping princess and the handsome prince and the kiss!" one of the girls voiced dreamily.

And amidst more requests for different tales, they left Tom behind. Alice knew better than to invite him to join them. While Harry was the child who most avidly listened to all her fairytales and bedtime stories, his green eyes sparkling as he envisioned himself as some prince with a life full of adventures with monsters to be defeated and princesses to be saved, Tom had disdained her storytelling from the start. And whenever she gathered the children for such purposes, he promptly vanished to his room to read some textbook or other.

A flickering flame from a short crooked candle bathed Tom's face as he flipped a page of his book. It was past midnight and absolute silence reigned in the orphanage; everywhere except in his small room, much to his annoyance.

A whimper reached his ears accompanied by the rustle of blankets, and Tom had to make a great effort to control his irritation. He focused back on the text, his handsome face with an expression of forced concentration and his dark blue gaze hungrily roving over the information.

Another sound of distress was heard and Tom's lips thinned. Nevertheless, he shot a glance at the small cot across from his. Harry was fast asleep but his eyes were moving wildly under their closed lids and his small body moved restlessly under the blankets.

Tom clicked his tongue but turned away and continued reading. A few minutes had passed by, when a terrified scream resounded in the room, followed by a gasped intake of air, more rustling of blankets and then breathing that was fast and panted, accompanied by a muffled sob.

Closing his eyes with supreme annoyance for a brief moment, he snapped them open to glance at his brother once more. Now, Harry was awake and had tightly wrapped the blankets around him in a sort of cocoon-like bundle, with his face burrowed into the tattered pillow, which muffled the sobbed sounds that came from the small boy.

As usually happened, in the next seconds, a tuft of messy black hair stuck out from the blankets and pair of wide, pleading green eyes peered from under them, looking straight at him.

Tom let out a suffering sigh, held his book up with one hand and lifted his blanket to a side with the other, invitingly.

In a flash, little Harry scrambled out of his cot and jumped into Tom's, fidgeting until he was comfortably settled against his brother's chest. Tom wrapped the blanket around them and gazed down at the smaller boy.

"The same nightmare? The green light?"

Harry sniffled and nodded before he nuzzled his face into the crook of Tom's neck, as he mumbled with a hiccup, "And the – the red eyes. They scare me."

Tom tsked. His brother had had the same nightmare for as long as he remembered, but it was certain that Harry's overactive imagination didn't need any more encouragement from that damnable Alice and her fairytales.

"Monsters don't exist," he assured his brother sternly.

He felt Harry shrugging his small shoulders before the boy peered up at him. "They do in my dreams."

Then he winced and brought up a small hand to rub his forehead. Tom's gaze followed the motion and he frowned as he stared at the reddened scar on his brother's forehead.

"Does it still hurt every time you have the nightmare?" he murmured quietly.

Harry nodded and then seemed to think about it carefully before he answered in his piping voice, "It tingles. Like pricks of small needles." He then peered up at him uncertainly and said in a small voice, "You could do that - what you always do. It helps."

Tom shot him a little smirk and threaded his fingers through his brother's mop of hair before reaching the scar, tracing it with a feather-like touch. He frowned a little bit when he felt a sort of pleasant warmth suffusing his fingertips and trailing up his hand and arm, but he was used to it by now, so he simply allowed himself to enjoy it.

When Harry sighed placidly, Tom's touch evidently soothing away any lingering pain, he stopped the caress as his gaze focused on Harry's left eye.

"No – don't stop," complained Harry with a disgruntled moan.

"Hush, let me see something," said Tom shortly as he lifted his brother's chin up with a finger so that the candle's flame could fully illuminate the boy's face. He frowned down at Harry as he gently traced the boy's left eye with a fingertip. "It's not swollen anymore and the bruise has faded. What did you do?"

Harry blinked up at him. "Nothing. Alice said she didn't have more creams for bruises."

Tom's frown deepened but Harry didn't bother wondering what seemed to surprise his brother and made him look so pensive and bewildered.

Instead, he grabbed his brother's fingers with determination, pulling them from around his eye and onto his scar, as he said a little miffed, "Do it again. And don't stop this time."

Tom resumed the caress but he nevertheless scoffed, "Demanding little brat, you've become so spoiled."

"I'm not spoiled," grumbled Harry against his brother's chest. Then, with a snap of his head, he looked up and bit out fiercely, "And I'm not little!"

Shooting him a mocking smirk, Tom intoned superiorly, "You are. You're my little brother-"

"I'm your twin!" snapped Harry taking deep offense. "We have the same age-"

"But I'm a full head taller than you. So you are my little brother," declared Tom solemnly. "Age makes no difference."

"Not true," piped Harry sourly, and with a huff, he burrowed his face against his brother's chest once more. He hated being the smallest and shortest boy in the orphanage and he hated his know-it-all brother who was taller than him and never let him forget it.

"One day I'll be taller than you," he started muttering darkly, "I'll be taller than... than a tree! And you'll be sorry, because you'll be all jealous of me and I'll laugh and rub it in and I won't play with you anymore -"

"Sure, as if that will ever happen," snorted Tom, then rolling his eyes at the idiocy of it. "Taller than a tree…"

Harry glared up at him and said with utter conviction, "Just you wait and see."

Tom scoffed dismissively and decided to ignore his stupid little brat of a brother. He opened his book once more and held it against the right side of his chest since Harry's mop of hair fully occupied the other.

"Not reading again," groaned Harry despondently. "You're always reading and it's boring." His expression darkened and he added accusingly, "And you promised you would keep touching my scar-"

"I promised nothing of the sort," hissed out Tom with angered annoyance, his gaze not leaving the page of the book. "Now shut up, I can't concentrate if you keep babbling. Go to sleep."

"I can't sleep with the candlelight," pointedly remarked Harry with a huff. "So there."

"Too bad for you," drawled Tom utterly unconcerned, as he flipped another page.

Little Harry scowled at his brother before he edged closer to the book, peering at it from a side. "What are you reading?"

Tom gathered what little patience he had left and snapped acidly, "Can't you read for yourself, you moron? Stop pestering me with imbecilic questions."

"I'm not a moron," gritted out Harry, his forehead then scrunching up, "and what's imbe – imbelic-"

"It's 'imbecilic'," bit out Tom shortly without looking at him as he kept reading. "And it's what you are. It means stupid."

Harry glowered at him but kept quiet as he squinted at the bookpage, now curious about what his brother was reading so avidly.

At the unexpected glorious silence, Tom shot him a glance and then frowned when he saw his brother pathetically squinting with a frustrated and confused expression on his face.

One of his eyebrows rose as he hummed calmly, "It seems you need eyeglasses."

Shooting him a wide-eyed glance, Harry scrunched up his nose. "I do?"

"Seems so," replied Tom dismissively. "I'll tell Alice. She'll surely buy ones for you next time we go out."

"I don't want Alice to buy me eyeglasses," whispered Harry in a soft voice, feeling bad and sad as he awkwardly shifted on their shared cot. "She's poor, like us-"

"If the woman is stupid enough to enjoy buying us stuff, then let her," said Tom crisply, glowering at his pestering brother, before his dark expression softened a bit - somewhat. "And no one is as poor as us, Harry. She earns a wage."

"But she has a younger brother and sister to take care of," mumbled Harry, playing with the hem of Tom's frayed pajama top.

"Fine, then remain blind for all I care!" snarled Tom, promptly turning to a side to face the wall as he stuck his book in front of his face.

There was a long silence as he heard his little brother shifting behind him on the cot. Then more rustling and more movement until Harry peeked his small face around Tom's shoulder to peer at him.

"If I have eyeglasses, I'll be called 'four-eyes'," he said with a little whine. "And Dennis will make fun of me-"

"Leave Dennis to me," Tom said briskly, but he couldn't refrain from casting a wholly self-satisfied and smug smirk at his brother.

Harry clammed his mouth shut and bit his pouty bottom lip, shooting Tom a glance and then looking away, and then repeating the action as he started scratching Tom's clothed shoulder with a short, bitten fingernail, nervously drawing little circles.

"What now?" bit out Tom impatiently as he observed his brother. "Just spit it out."

Harry glanced around as if expecting that some caregiver could be lurking in the shadows unbeknownst to them, and then took a deep breath before he pinned his brother with wide green eyes as he whispered, "What did you do today?"

"I don't know what you mean," said Tom shortly, turning his face back towards his book.

"Yes you do," said Harry stubbornly, still keeping his piping voice low and hushed as he insistently poked a finger into Tom's ribs. "What did you do to Dennis?"

After a moment of hesitation, Tom turned around to lie on his back once more, and he arched an eyebrow at his brother as he said nonchalantly, "What makes you think I did anything?"

Briefly nibbling on his bottom lip, Harry curled up against Tom and gazed up at him as he murmured quietly, "Because my scar hurt when you did that. You know that - you soothed it later."

"So what?" said Tom coolly. "I don't see the connection-"

"My scar always hurts when you're mad," interrupted Harry a little impatiently, shooting him a scowl.

Letting out a mocking snort, Tom drawled unfazed, "Scars don't do that. It's all in your imagination-"

"No, it's not!" snapped Harry, glaring daggers at him. "You know it's not. We don't know why, but it happens. And my scar hurts even more when you're mad and do something. Like today."

Tom shot him a cold look before his face shuttered down with a closed off expression as he inquired calmly, "When I do 'something'? How would you know if I do or not do anything. Today was the only day in which I-"

"Liar," breathed out Harry, his small short fingers jerkily tugging on the collar of Tom's pajama top as he pulled himself closer to his brother, his eyes widening as he continued in a hushed and secretive tone of voice. "You also did something a couple of months ago. When I was angry at you because you said I was retarded because I didn't understand Alice's math lesson and you said you didn't want a brother as stupid as me."

Tom's eyes narrowed before he scoffed. "I don't recall-"

"And you kept saying bad things about me and you made me cry," sniffed Harry, his bottom lip trembling before it stiffened as he glowered at him accusingly. "You made me so angry that I didn't speak to you for a whole day. And you got angry too because I didn't pay attention to you and played with Eric."

He brought his face closer to his brother's, almost nose-to-nose, their gazes sinking into each other's, as he continued breathlessly, "And when we were playing by the staircase, Eric tripped. There was nothing he could have tripped over. But he tripped. And you were there hiding in a corner. I saw you. And you smiled when Eric was about to fall down the staircase and my scar was hurting a lot then."

Harry's eyes grew large as he added in a low, uneasy whisper, "If I hadn't grabbed him he would have fallen. He would have died."

"People don't die from taking a tumble down a staircase," said Tom in a smooth tone of voice.

"They could," said Harry vehemently nodding his head. "Alice told us not to run down the stairs because it was dangerous and we could get hurt. So if someone falls down a staircase then they could die." His eyes grew large again, as he repeated with a sort of fearful awe, "Eric could have died."

Tom's jaw tightened as he regarded his little brother coolly, remaining silent as his expression turned blank.

Scowling, Harry eyed him closely as he said firmly, "You did that, I know it. And you did something to Dennis today." He bore his gaze into his brother's and breathed out, "What did you do?"

After a long pause of silence, which had Harry clinging on tenterhooks, Tom's face became a stoic mask as he said nonchalantly, "I made him hurt. He was hurting you, so I hurt him."

Then, Tom intensely pierced Harry with his eyes, making his face turn expressionless as he waited for his brother's reaction. A cry of dismay, a fearful gasp, a shudder of revulsion... He didn't know what to expect, but however his brother reacted, he wouldn't allow it to hurt or affect him. But still, he couldn't help how his heart thundered in his small chest and how his breath stuck in his throat.

Harry's eyebrows furrowed and he cocked his head to a side. "But how?"

Tom blinked at him. An amazed and joyous smile started to grow on his face before he caught himself in time, coughed, and then curved his lips into a superior smirk. "Because I wanted it so."

Harry's little forehead scrunched even further, the boy still looking baffled, confused, and clueless. But more importantly, curious – and Tom should have known. He shouldn't have been afraid of Harry's reaction. They were brothers! So of course Harry would understand and of course he wouldn't think Tom had done a bad thing. His little brother would see it as something astounding and magnificent, just as it truly was.

Tom perked up and he sat up straight on the cot, easily pulling his brother to his lap -since Harry hardly weighted anything- so that they were looking at each other with their faces inches apart. He grabbed his little brother's hands and rambled excitedly, "I can make things like that happen if I want to. I think really hard about it, I concentrate and I imagine what I want to happen and I repeat it in my head and then – it happens!" His dark blue eyes gleamed as he added gleefully, "And I've been practicing a lot when I'm alone in our room. If I concentrate really, really hard I can move things!"

Harry's almond-shaped, emerald eyes impossibly widened in awe and Tom felt as if he was soaring on high clouds. But in the next instant, he checked himself in time and pulled a composed expression on his face; he nevertheless smirked proudly.

"Show me!" piped Harry eagerly, his eyes still wide and fascinated, gazing at him as if there was no one cooler or greater in the whole wide world. "Move something, Tom!"

Tom nodded and turned his face to glance around the room. His eyes settled on Harry's pillow on the cot across from them and he intensely stared at it, his eyes narrowing in concentration.

Out of the blue, before Harry knew what happened, a pillow came volleying towards him, slammed on his face and knocked him over.

With his short legs flailing over his head, he yelped as he teetered over the edge of the cot and landed on the hard floor with a cry, more of surprise than pain.

A bout of amused, delighted laughter rang in the room, and Harry groaned as he crouched and rubbed his sore elbows and knees. Gazing down at him from the cot, Tom shot him a smug and taunting smirk. But Harry merely threw at him a mild scowl before all annoyance faded as he excitedly jumped to his feet.

"You're an idiot," he declared, before he flashed his brother with a wide beaming smile and laughed, and chuckled, and giggled happily, as he bounced up and down, rocking on his heels. "But that was awesome, Tom!"

"Of course it was," said Tom coolly, the corners of his lips quirking upwards.

"What is it called what you do?" said Harry animatedly as he sat back on the cot facing Tom, squirming with giddiness.

"I don't know," replied Tom, his face now turning serious. "I've read that there's something called telekinesis-"

"What's that?" demanded Harry instantly, unable to contain himself from the bubbling excitement he was feeling.

"The power to move things with your mind, supposedly," said Tom scathingly, waving a hand dismissively. "But I think it's a load of rubbish. The book said that there was no evidence that it was true. And I don't think so either, because I know no one who can do what I can and I haven't heard about it either. And because I can move things but I can also hurt people and speak to-"

He abruptly closed his mouth, pressing his lips into a tight straight line, before he shifted on the cot and then placidly rested against his own pillow as if he had said nothing at all.

Harry stared at him in confusion. "Speak to who?"

Tom ignored him and merely gazed up at the stained ceiling. But Harry was having none of that, of course. With a spring to his legs, he leapt on top of Tom, making his brother gasp and wheeze painfully and then snarl at him in fury.

But as Tom's hands shot forward to brusquely shove him off, Harry plopped the entirety of his body on his brother's, as if he was a sack of potatoes. Tom was larger than him but Harry had the advantage of gravity on his side and he effectively pinned his brother down in place.

"Get off, you little twit!" hissed out Tom angrily, making Harry's scar flare faintly with pain.

Harry disregarded it and pressed his small nose against Tom's, boring his gaze into his brother's dark blue one, as he piped with extreme curiosity, "Speak to who, Tom?"

"I'm not telling," spat Tom acidly, his eyes glinting with fury, "and it has nothing to do with you, anyway."

Harry darkly scowled at him, before he sat up on Tom's midriff, stiffened his back and crossed his arms over his small chest, looking away as he bit out, "Fine, see if I care."

Not one to lose a good opportunity, Tom shot up as he forcefully shoved Harry away from him. Utterly caught off guard, Harry smashed against the wall, his head painfully slamming against it.

A loud cry of pain escaped from his lips as he then fell forward on the cot, clutching the back of his head which throbbed and felt like it was burning and as if knives were viciously plunging into it. Feeling his eyes watering and tearing from the hurt, he shot his brother a deeply wounded look.

His eyes widening slightly at his brother's expression, Tom reached out towards him, hesitated, and dropped his hand. He made his face contort with a contemptuous sneer, as he spat, "Dennis is right, you know? You cry an awful lot. It's pathetic."

At that, Harry's tears rolled down his cheeks and he tremulously said in a small voice, "I hate you."

Tom frowned, before he scoffed unconcernedly, "No you don't."

With his bottom lip trembling, Harry scrambled on his hands and knees and then swiftly turned his back to his brother. Facing the wall, he sat crossed legged on the cot, his spine and small shoulders stiff.

Tom stared at him in silence, seeing his little brother's small frame shaking as he heard the boy's breathing heaving amidst sniffs, hiccups, and muffled sobs.

"Harry…" he said quietly, trailing off.

Abruptly, Harry snapped his head around to mightily glower at him, no matter if his tears and heavings hadn't subsided, and spat, "What?"

Eyeing him insecurely for a brief moment, Tom shot out his arms and grabbed his little brother's shoulders, briskly pulling the smaller boy towards him.

He wrapped his fingers around Harry's small chin and lifted it up, clucking his tongue as he used one of his cuffs to wipe the boy's tear tracks, while he murmured, "You're a little fool."

Harry sniffled once and remained silent as he peered up at him, while Tom kept gently cleaning his face.

At his tender age, not a boy who dwelled long on insults and offenses perceived, he rubbed his nose, let out a last hiccup, and then swatted his brother's fingers away from his face with annoyance, his mind already jumping to more important and exciting matters.

He glanced at the pillow that Tom had made fly and then stared at his brother with wide, emerald eyes shining hopefully. "Do you think I can do what you do?"

Tom sat back on his haunches and regarded him consideringly if not a bit dubiously. Then he shrugged his shoulders and picked up the pillow, hurling it back to Harry's cot as he said calmly, "Perhaps. Try it."

Harry beamed before he turned to face the other cot, his green gaze zeroing in on the pillow and his whole face scrunching up, as he thought, 'Move, move, move.'

Nothing happened and he tried again harder. 'Move, move, move, move, move!'

Still, nothing.

Little Harry gritted his teeth, highly miffed, and thought again, as fast as he could; very, very, very fast, 'Movemovemovemovemovemovemove!'

"I can't!" groused out Harry, throwing up his arms in the air. He glared at Tom with all the power of his frustration and snapped angrily, "It's not fair!"

Tom's lips quirked but he took care not to let out an amused chuckle. Tom had a nasty temper, but he was able to curb it if he wanted to. And it was rare the occasion in which his temper got the better of him and made him lose his cool composure. But his little brother had a quicksilver and fiery temper and a very short fuse, and the small boy could throw such temper tantrums that could make Tom's ears ring and his head throb with mighty headaches. And he rather not experience that if he could.

"It doesn't matter. I can," said Tom in a mollifying tone of voice, pulling the boy back to lie down on the cot with him. "You've got me, so you don't need anything else."

"It's not the same thing," grumbled Harry, crushed with disappointment, as he wrapped a small arm around Tom and rested his head on the crook of his brother's neck.

Abruptly, he momentarily tightened his hold on Tom, and glanced up at him, as he said with a very serious expression on his small face, "I don't want you to kill Eric."

Tom's eyebrows shot upwards before he rearranged his expression and drawled coolly, "And Billy?"

Harry's eyes widened and he quickly shook his head.

Arching an eyebrow and suppressing a quirk of his lips, Tom asked in a low, grave voice, "And Dennis?"

A small frown crinkled Harry's forehead, before he said slowly, as if giving it considerable thought, "No, don't kill him. That's bad and it's bad if you get caught too." He quickly looked up at him, a panicky expression on his face. "They would take you away!"

He breathed in deeply and then calmed down and slowly relaxed, before he continued quietly, "But, well… if Dennis hurts me, then you can hurt him. It's only fair." He let out a huff. "He's older and taller than me, so it's alright if you help me."

Anxiously, Harry quickly peered up at him to see if he agreed, and Tom merely shot him a wide smirk and nodded, as he started carding his fingers through Harry's locks of black hair, petting him just how the boy enjoyed so much.

As his little brother started to sleepily drift away, Tom threw the blanket over them and picked up his book, managing to flip it open with one hand while he kept threading his fingers through Harry's hair with the other. After all, the faster the boy fell asleep, the faster he would be left in peace to read at his pleasure.

"What you can do is just like in Alice's stories, isn't it?" murmured Harry quietly, letting out a small yawn. "With people who can do strange and wonderful things-"

"It's not," said Tom firmly, briefly glancing away from the text to shoot him a stern look. "Those stories are fantasy. None of it is true, Harry."

Little Harry remained silent, not at all convinced, but he was starting to get too sleepy to argue with his brother who could be really pig-headed and exasperating sometimes.

Tom enjoyed only a few minutes of blessed silence before his brother's piping voice was heard again.

"Your feet are cold," Harry complained with a whine, squirming his toes away from Tom's and not at all happy about it.

"Get out if you don't like it," snapped Tom shortly, his jaw twitching with irritation as he once more lost the sentence he had been reading. "Now shut up and let me read."

Disgruntled, Harry shot the book a nasty look, but in the next second his emerald eyes gleamed as his gaze flickered towards the candle. Faster than any little animal of the forest could move, Harry pushed himself up and forward and blew out the candle, and then quickly scampered back under the blankets, eeping as he ducked his head and hid under the covers.

"You little twerp!" roared Tom furiously, blindly flailing a hand around to grab whatever he could; if it was his brother's mop of hair, all the better - he would yank and pull and render him bald!

"I want to sleep!" chimed Harry, and with that, he quickly draped himself all over his brother like a determined octopus, clutched him tightly with all his might in case Tom made more attempts to move, and tightly closed his eyes, as a little smile curved his pouty lips.

Feeling effectively bound and shackled to his bed, Tom's lips thinned with dark annoyance, but as soon as he heard soft, placid snores, he stopped attempting to break free and he glanced down at his little brother.

The moonlight which speared through the frayed curtains of their small window dimly allowed him to see that Harry was already fast asleep, or better said, pretending to; but he couldn't make himself disrupt him.

The mischievous little smile on the brat's face didn't escape his notice, but the smaller boy looked so awfully… Tom's lips twisted with disgust though his eyes softened - a smidgen. Yes, Harry looked so awfully 'cute' and 'adorable' -just like all the adults pathetically cooed about- that he ended up resigning himself to his fate.

He finally set his book beside the flameless candle on the tiny ratty nightstand, and closed his eyes with a defeated sigh. It was just his luck to have an impish little urchin for a brother.

Tom dozed off with his arms snuggly wrapped around Harry and with an upward curl on his lips, his sleeping sly mind already plotting his revenge.