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Eternal Return

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Ecclesiastes 1:9: That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.


He is born in the orphanage, screaming in horror and rage and confusion.

It takes Tom two years to stop responding automatically to a yell of 'Harry'. He doesn't know how or why he's in Tom Riddle's body, and he doesn't know what he's supposed to do, and the fear that changing anything might erase his future self paralyses him.

Awful things have happened when wizards meddled with time, Hermione whispers in his head.

He is an odd child, rarely crying, and magic whispers things in the ears of those around him. He wonders if the children can sense something wrong about him, if that is why they strike with all the cruelty they have at their disposal.

The first time he lashes out with his magic and hurts one of the other children he runs to the bathroom and vomits. He spends a long time staring into the mirror, looking for red eyes.

McGonagall told me… truly awful things have happened to wizards who meddled with time.

Harry Potter was a beaten child, unaware of his own strength, of the magic that protected him. Tom Riddle was a fierce, solitary boy, one with strong magic and a need to control it. Harry is no longer a beaten child and he will not let himself be made into one again. That is what he tells himself. By the time Dumbledore comes he has more control than he would have thought possible as a helpless boy locked in the cupboard under the stairs, ignorant of everything that made him.

He wants to jump up and spill his secrets the moment Dumbledore walks in. He wants to let Dumbledore carry the burden of what he is not and will never be ready for, he wants Dumbledore to tell him what to do, just as he masterminded his entire life before, he wants Dumbledore to take this knowledge from him and keep it, for the greater good.

But Dumbledore looks at him – kindly wise Dumbledore – with blatant dislike, contrasting so utterly with the smiles he had for equally orphaned, equally oppressed Harry Potter, and Tom realises he can tell this man nothing.

For the Greater Good, his memories murmur, spitting with distaste. Magic is Might, whispers the face of Lord Voldemort.

He says nothing, says only what he can remember seeing in a Pensieve. He feels Dumbledore's rejection sting, bite deep and wriggle under his skin like the snakes he befriended out of loneliness. He can't trust Albus Dumbledore, and if he can't trust Dumbledore he can't trust anyone.


He knows that no one will ever believe it of the young Lord Voldemort but the first time he sees Hogwarts he feels tears threaten and has to clench his eyes tightly shut, pretending he can't quite believe what he's seeing, muggleborn that he is.

Inside, delirious with joy, he is screaming. Inside, he is kissing the stone floor, inside he is pressing his hands to the walls and swearing he will never leave, he will always come back, this will always be home. Outside he is calm and watchful, impressed but not overawed. This is where he will learn magic, this is where he will find the means to become great, nothing more.

He bites his lip as he sits under the Hat, whispers Slytherin over and over, because if he knows nothing else, he knows what Tom has to be.

Bad things happen to wizards who mess with history, he thinks, and if the Hat hears him it gives no sign, only puts him in the house it once told him would set him on the path to greatness.


Tom Riddle is quite possibly the most brilliant student Hogwarts has ever seen. Well, he has heard it said, so he must make it true, and can't quite believe it when he does.

He is more powerful than he should be at his age, quick to learn and years beyond his classmates. He works hard for his teachers, drawing from them with charm and cunning all the magic he can logically query about. He wishes he had bothered with this when he was Harry Potter, surrounded on all sides by deadly witches and wizards with years of magic over him.

(How, he wonders, did Tom know what a Horcrux was? Where did he find a whisper of it, to ask Slughorn? He's looked everywhere for an excuse and he can't find it, even among the densely worded and black marked books in the Restricted Section.)

He learns to charm and beguile, he draws people to him. He calls to those he recognises in pensieve memories, wizards of pure blood and cunning and power. They are not his friends and he views them with disgust, remembering reports of their trials, recitals of their deeds. They are Death Eaters, scum – wizards with more power than sense, following a madman and killing people he cared about, destroying lives, destroying families.

He charms them, though, because Voldemort is nothing without people to follow him, his faithful. He enthrals, cajoles, lies through his teeth, and in some cases, teaches them fear.

He didn't mean to kill Myrtle. He wasn't surprised that she died, however. He tells himself he couldn't have avoided it, that history clings to its truths. He doesn't ask himself why he didn't just leave the basilisk to its sleep after the spate of petrifications. He wonders instead how Tom ever got the idea to look in the girl's bathroom for the entrance to the Chamber.

He doesn't ask himself if the fascination exerted by the creature was worth the death, or Hagrid's expulsion. He doesn't wonder if he can sleep at night. He is Tom Riddle now – of course he can. He can. He will.

"I shall be great," the real Tom Riddle said, Ginny lying cold-skinned and barely breathing at his feet. And Voldemort was great, in his terrible, narrow-minded way, and this was the first step. First steps must be taken, otherwise how else is he ever to start and see this through to its inevitable end?

Good intentions. Isn't that always how it begins? Well, Tom has nothing but selfish intentions. He wants Harry Potter to live; he doesn't want to inadvertently erase him. He is afraid to mess with history and time and his fear keeps him on a narrow path.

No one is going to take this burden from him, as he hoped, he prayed early on, the terrible things he'd heard of Voldemort filling his dreams with horror that left him sobbing.

So he follows a path already written, and can't even lie to himself about his reasons. He knows what he's doing – going to do – is wrong. He can't justify himself and he doesn't particularly want to. He drowns himself in magic, and it shuts up his past self nicely. If there's a truth to be found in that, he can't see it.

He remembers the spells of the Death Eaters, thinks hard about them and reconstructs them from memory, crafting them with intent and purpose. Morsmordre, he whispers, and a glittering green skull, snake protruding from its mouth, is made. It's easier than he thought it would be, and it makes him think: these spells, they want to be made, they've already been made – memories of them exist in his head and want out. So he makes them, knowing the mere sight of the least harmful will make people scream.


He stands confronting the Riddles, and his anger and contempt is not counterfeit. These – people, muggles, fools – they are responsible, in their way, for Voldemort.

Voldemort. He wonders what Tom Riddle might have been if Merope had returned to the Gaunts.

He rants for a while, he tells them exactly what they have created, abandoning Tom Riddle's infant son, forces himself into a situation where he leaves himself no choice but to follow history and kill them.

He has to get used to it, he needs to create the diary-horcrux, first of seven – and he needs to let Harry Potter go and take the role he has been forced into by his own history. Even Harry has used the Imperius curse, the Cruciatus – two out of the three 'Unforgivables'. He can do this.

There is only power, the memory of the true Lord Voldemort tells him. There is only power, and if he has enough he can alter this fate. He must do this.

He takes the contempt and hatred and casual arrogance of the Tom he met in the diary, so sure he could do anything, would make the world tremble – and how sure he is! – and he casts the killing curse three times. If his hand shakes it doesn't affect him enough to make him miss.

Later he vomits, later he wakes in a cold sweat, later he weeps for lost innocence, for the empty ache inside him. Later, later, later, and then never again.


His reflection unsettles him, even now, even at sixteen when he should be used to the handsome face that greets him, smiling with empty eyes. There is too much similarity to Harry Potter there, though his hair will lie neatly and his eyes are dark. He will be glad when he is free of Dumbledore's oppressive gaze, when he can seek out those rituals, those arts and lowest of the low that will remake him.

He will lose this handsome face and his conscious slick charm that will beguile a twelve-year-old child so utterly as to believe a diary memory over a friend of two years.

He understands how Voldemort could regard his beauty as something willingly thrown aside in exchange for power. Harry wouldn't be able to hate this face and its friendly smile. No wonder the first of his blows had been I've seen what you are now, and you're nothing but a wreck.

Red eyes, Harry thinks, suit a murderer best.


These are the truths now ingrained in his being: bad things happen to wizards who mess with history. Terrible things must be done for the Greater Good.

I'm sorry, he tells Dumbledore's memory. I'm sorry I didn't get it, I judged you so harshly. I understand now; you did what you had to do – or you will.

He is almost – almost and yet never – used to it, to splitting himself to pieces; used to the pain, the emptiness, the echoing, the weight.

He likes his reflection now, the blurred look of Tom being painted over, the cruel shape of Voldemort – so easy to hate, so true to type – breaking through. He looks in the mirror and thinks, this is a face Harry Potter can fear, can loathe, can feel disgust for. This is a face that will teach him that power corrupts, that he must stay as golden as war will allow.

He likes that with every bit of himself he sheds, it gets easier to play Voldemort. He likes Dumbledore's reaction to him, his denial of a very simple request. He wonders if Dumbledore might have given him the job if he still looked like Tom.

No matter, because Harry is not Tom, who might have been dissuaded from his task by simple acceptance and the opportunity to stay in the place he loved. Harry knows how things must go. He casts his curse and places the diadem with great care upon the bust of the warlock on top of the cupboard in the Room of Requirement.

It doesn't matter that Dumbledore has denied him his home; part of him is there nonetheless. Sweet Hogwarts, holder of his divided soul and beaten heart, where he will face death and bow. He can't think of a better place to die, Dark Lord or not.


He has never been quite sure of Voldemort's methods and motives. He can guess, he decides, because if he was nothing else, Voldemort defined an entire generation of witches and wizards. He can't let history fall apart around him for lack of direction, not after everything else he has already done.

For power, for the Greater Good, he tells his followers. He remembers vaguely the fist-to-the-gut realisation of how he had been played, and he remembers enough of the real Voldemort's cruel sense of humour that he finds bitter amusement in his words.

If his reasons are vague and his followers' predations grow steadily more monstrous it doesn't matter, because he is only following what he knows of history. Perhaps the reason he knew nothing was because there was nothing to tell him but 'there was a wizard who went as bad as you can go.' He actually hopes that's it, and more than the growing deaths, the torturing, the darkness, more than anything else that sentiment tells him just how far he has fallen.

Awful things have happened to wizards who meddled with time, Hermione says. Hermione who will not be born for years yet, who will be one of his best friends, his wisdom and his crutch, his caution and his common sense.

Who is he to argue with Hermione Granger, he thinks darkly, twirling his wand between his fingers – yew and phoenix feather, still a little strange when he picks it up in the middle of the night and wanders the halls wondering where and who he is.


The first time he sees Regulus Black he sucks in a breath and cannot think. He looks like an echo, a watered down reflection of Sirius, and he feels something he has long taught himself to ignore. He's not sure if he hates Regulus for not being Sirius, or if he cares for him for being the closest thing it's possible for him to have any more.

But he knows his fate. So until the time comes to rip the scales from his eyes, he ignores Regulus Black, that self-righteous facsimile, pureblood scion. But Bellatrix, fierce Bella…

It is not Sirius he thinks of when he looks at her, though he recognises that effortless arrogant beauty that belongs to the Blacks. He thinks of Ginny and her blazing eyes, her mouth against his. Ginny who will write to Tom Riddle and be charmed out of her wits. Ginny who would tell him when he was being foolish, who would not let him walk away. Ginny who he might have married, if he had lived (he is dead, he has begun to think, and this is his hell, what comes after the station).

"Bellatrix Black," he says and touches her hair, thinking of Sirius' grey eyes and laughing face. He watches her eyes widen and knows he has caught her and held her. Unlike Sirius, she will never leave, and he kisses her then. He misses his godfather, so close, so far, so here and not, the only family he will have. "Bella," he says, and thinks of the laughter both will never lose before they fall, the madness that touches all the Blacks.

He has lost his godfather, and he will lose Regulus, that pale shadow of bright Sirius, but he can keep this one. He will not care for her, not ever, but he will keep her nonetheless, because it has been so long, and she looks at him with Sirius' carelessly given devotion. "My Bella," he murmurs under his breath, tasting the idea, and pretending he can't see her expression.

She killed Sirius. I'll kill her!

And will he not?


He walks into the home he will never remember, bats his father aside like an insect and stares for a long time at his stupefied body. But no, he remembers, he grows up with the Dursleys, he finds his home in Hogwarts, who will open her doors to him as she did to Tom. He grows up without James' arrogance, without Sirius' puckish delight in rule-breaking, without Lily's sense of worth; without tradition to guide him or love to shelter him.

"Avada Kedavra," he whispers, and walks to the stairs, taking as long as he can spare to remind himself that this must be done. He should not need to, not after so long, but he does.

She probably thinks he does it intentionally, to stretch out the kill, to make her heart beat faster and her fear render her helpless. Lord Voldemort does not have doubts, does not stand outside a door for five minutes simply to persuade himself that he is doing a terrible thing for the greater good, because he must.

He tells her stand aside, knowing she won't. He doesn't ask for Snape, who will betray the man he has become. In this moment he has forgotten all about Severus Snape, bravest man he will ever know, who will suffer for years for the betrayal of the only friend he ever had, a friend who had barely looked his way since that summer day when humiliated and past his limit he had snapped without thought mudblood.

Mother, he thinks, and feasts his eyes upon her, this vibrant terrified woman he has never truly seen in the flesh before but for a glimpse or three in battle, when he thinks of nothing but curses and never looks his enemies in the eye. "Stand aside," he whispers, he snarls, he roars, hoping she will, knowing she won't, feeling time and fate tighten about him, driving the breath from his throat, and when he kills her he laughs, and laughs, for what else can he do? All the pain in his life, everything he hated Voldemort for, and it is upon his own account.

"Avada Kedavra!" he roars at his younger self, and welcomes the agony as a just punishment.


Years pass, filled with nothing but an eternal mantra – survive, survive, survive. By the time Quirrel blunders into his path he has grown to regret his sentimentality – he is half-mad with self-recriminations and fear; terror snaps at his non-existent heels as he moves restlessly, afraid that to rest, to pause in the slightest would mean ceasing to exist as he knows he must.

He reaches out, he possesses, he turns Quirrel to his side with all the force and eloquence he has at his disposal and binds him tight, for he must live, must make sure Dumbledore is aware of his continued existence, of the need to wonder why. He must not let go of his fragile ties to life, he must not fail here and now of all times.

He is Lord Voldemort, who fears death, and he is Harry Potter who mastered it, and for him, this bizarre mix of one trying to be the other, there is no good and evil, only power. Only power that he must find, hold and keep blindly without understanding, so that a boy may kill him, so that a boy may live and be happy and grow old, and have everything he has lost. Only power.

Merlin, the boy is so young. His eyes are so green, so – naïve, so unaware of the forces that control him. No wonder Dumbledore cannot bear to tell him he's going to die for the greater good.


He knows the plan and its every step. He doesn't need to hurt Bertha Jorkins with her damaged memory, her magic-scarred mind. He doesn't need to break her, to hear her screams and begging for mercy. He doesn't need to ransack her mind and leave it in pieces; he doesn't need to leave her witless. Voldemort does, because he knows Wormtail, who might run if he thought he could get away with it. He knows he needs the details only Bertha can provide, security details and minutiae that could undo him, could render the whole thing pointless. He knows, he knows what he must do, and he is too old, too broken and his innocence far too lost to feel regret for it.

He is Lord Voldemort, after all, and Voldemort regrets nothing.

If he does this right it won't matter what he has done, because Harry Potter will live, will live in his own time and his own body and will not fall. That is worth one witch, led to his arms by a cruel fate. It is worth the countless lives he has taken to keep history on its course.

It is worth it, he tells himself, staring at the frail hands of his hideous makeshift carcass of a body. It must be worth it.


The body is exactly as he remembers it, and he examines it raptly, exultant. Yes, yes, yes, perfect. This is what he remembers, this is what he knows, he hasn't strayed far from history, he hasn't destroyed everything.

He remembers the speech, and recites it word for word. He prowls, he moves with the deadly grace that terrified him when he was fourteen years old and tied to a grave.

Let it die, just let it drown.

He hisses at just the right moments, uses the names he remembers he will yell at Fudge, prompting the split between Minister and Dumbledore. He laughs with just the right amount of malice, with just the right hint of detachment that will burrow into his skin and linger to become the memory the Dementors call.

Please, just let it have drowned.

Then he turns, and tells Wormtail – never Peter, never his father's friend, the filthy rat – to cut him loose and give him back his wand. His followers think he is playing a game, batting his honoured guest like a mouse between his paws – he thinks, get up, get up, face me, be ready to run when I give you the opportunity you little fool.

"Crucio," he says, and watches himself writhe and scream without feeling – the boy must learn, as he did, he must understand what it is he is fighting, he must become stronger, and this is the way things must go.

He remembers the humiliation, remembers the blissful nothingness, "Imperio" and he is telling himself to bow and knowing he will not, faintly pleased at his own resilience, contemptuous of his naivety and helplessness.

Pathetic, he thinks, watching himself dart and roll and hide, hearing his sobbing breath, smelling his pungent fear. He must be stronger. Voldemort must be defeated. This pathetic child must learn. He must be able to use these spells as easily as Voldemort without the frivolity.

He must be able to strike without betraying himself, he must crucio for the honour of Minerva McGonagall, that fierce lioness, he must imperio to reach the Horcrux within Gringotts, he must watch and feel and understand exactly what it is he must do and be to destroy the enemy.

"Stand aside, he is mine!" he yells, not because he remembers it, but because he fears one of his Death Eaters might get overzealous, might kill him and then he alone will live, immortal and trapped in this snake hybrid body.

Run, run. We'll meet again soon enough, for yet another lesson.

He didn't know it was possible to be so tired.


He arrives at the Department of Mysteries in time to see Sirius fall through the veil. He wonders how long it has been since he forgot Sirius Black's face, why he never noticed when he could no longer remember with clarity the wasted look, the glittering fire in the back of his eyes, burning itself out. He wonders if it is peaceful behind the Veil.

Then he remembers he is supposed to be somewhere nice and obvious, close enough that people will be able to follow the noise of the upcoming battle, and moves.

Is he happy, that he will lose the advantage, be forced into the open, be faced with opposition? He can no longer quite recall what the emotion is. He is pleased, perhaps. Another year, two, and he will be dead. Dead, and Potter will still be alive, and if he has lost himself, the other has not.

He loathes himself as much as Harry ever could, he thinks, and it's no big deal to sabotage himself. After all, hasn't this already happened? Isn't he already dead?


They circle a moment more in silence, and he lets himself dream of all the things this Harry will have that he never will, that he has bought for him with cruelty and suffering and endless pain.

He is killing himself, but he says it, and the world is gone in a flash of green while he dreams of marrying Ginny, of the children he will name for the greatest people he knew, children he will send off to Hogwarts like his mother and father would have, like their parents sent them. Little enough dreams, dreams the man-boy he once was would have – will have – will live. He dreams of Ron and Hermione, happily married, their children sharing his children's childhoods, of Ron telling him he confunded his driving instructor...

They fall together.


He is born in the orphanage, screaming in horror and rage and confusion.