He did it.
Finally, after months of trying and failing, Harry succeeded. He'd been searching for ways to initiate permanent time travel, and after scouring the Black library from top to bottom, he found a ritual that suited his needs.
Given that the Battle of Hogwarts had only been a couple months ago, it was still fresh in everyone's memories, and he needed a way to escape it all. Harry was hounded by wizards and witches whenever he stepped outside the safety of Grimmauld Place's wards, and it had been incredibly tasking to even visit Diagon Alley.
The statue of him in the Ministry Atrium, the numerous gala invitations, the speaker keynotes, the Aurorship offers, the interviews one after the other, the adoring masses— Harry wanted none of it.
He simply wanted out. He wasn't apathetic nor depressed, necessarily. No, Harry was still the same stubborn, bold, Gryffindor as ever, even if he wished to escape all the fanfare that came with winning the war.
Was that too much to ask?
(This would later become a cause of frequent teasing.
"You hated the fame, so your first solution was to travel back in time by half a century?"
"Oh shut it, Riddle.")
Sometimes Harry thought of Tom Riddle. Though Voldemort was gone, there were remnants of his presence still impressed deep within Harry's soul. He'd been the Dark Lord's Horcrux for over a decade, and that was bound to leave some lasting effects.
And as the weeks passed, Tom Riddle started to occupy Harry's mind more and more. But even still, Harry hadn't expected the time-travel ritual to bring him here.
"What the fuck?"
Harry stared agape at the newspaper in his hands. September 12th, 1942.
The ritual instructions had said that it would bring the user to whatever point in time they most needed. Vague, yes, but Harry figured that it would send him to the future when the war celebrations were over.
Instead, it sent him back by multiple decades. Interestingly, Harry's body also seemed to have de-aged a few years as well. Judging from the unscarred back of his hand, which no longer bore the marks of Umbridge's quill, Harry's body was barely fifteen years old.
This certainly hadn't been in the ritual's description. Then again, nothing ever went to plan, so was Harry really all that surprised? Not really, no.
The sound of someone clearing their throat jolted Harry from his thoughts. He glanced up from the newspaper and stared blankly at Dumbledore, who was sitting before him.
Ah, right. The ritual had not only de-aged Harry and sent him back to 1942, but also dumped him in Dumbledore's office. He was going to have words with whoever designed this stupid timetravel method.
"Mr. Evans, is this sufficient proof of today's day and date?" Came Dumbledore's voice.
"What? Oh, I guess." Harry mumbled as he looked downwards, unable to meet the old man's gaze. He still didn't quite know what to think of Dumbledore after the whole revelation about being raised like a 'lamb to a slaughter'.
"Albus, if I may," interrupted Dippet, "If Mr. Evans is indeed telling the truth about being an accidental time traveler, we should take him in for now."
Dumbledore gave Harry an unreadable, assessing look. "His story does seem probable."
"So can I stay?"
"I suppose so." Dumbledore said finally after a long pause. He gave Harry what seemed to be a nod of approval, evidently deciding that Harry passed some test.
An hour later, it was dinnertime. Dippet stood before the Great Hall gave a flowery introductory speech about "welcoming new peers" before proceeding with Harry's Sorting. And much to Harry's not-really surprise, he was placed in Slytherin. The Hat insisted upon placing him in the "proper house finally", and Harry conceded that his time-traveling stunt had remarkably Slytherin motives too.
Harry would have been fine how things had turned out, but he had a nagging suspicion at the back of his subconscious that he was forgetting something important.
Almost immediately, the mystery was solved, because when Harry glanced down the table, his gaze landed upon a certain handsome individual that made him freeze where he stood.
Their eyes met; indigo bored into emerald, and time stood still. Then, Riddle gave Harry a coolly assessing look before glancing away in apparent dismissal.
And that was that.
How had Harry missed this? He'd seen memory vials of Riddle's Hogwarts years. He'd seen Riddle's Special Services award. Merlin, he'd even interacted with Riddle's diary.
And yet, it'd completely slipped Harry's mind that he was a fifth year student in 1942, which incidentally placed him in the same grade as the teenaged Dark Lord.
Harry mentally cursed all the fates to hell and back. Why must he run into the irritatingly attractive sociopath everywhere he went?
Back in the security of his dorm —which he shared with Riddle and a few other boys, damn him— Harry fumed quietly. He didn't necessarily want to kill Riddle or anything. Nothing that I haven't done seven times already, he thought drily to himself. But, he certainly was still a bit irked by the Slytherin. It rankled that Riddle would go on to kill countless innocents, and by extension, predetermine that Harry's life would be living hell before he was even born.
It was only fair that Harry do a little something to annoy Riddle back. How exactly should he go about it, though?
He knew that Tom Riddle hated being looked down upon. The egotistical maniac would probably tear his stupidly perfect hair out if someone powerful didn't look twice his way.
That meant Harry had to become a person that Riddle would respect. Otherwise, Riddle wouldn't care about Harry's opinion.
The more Harry thought about it, the more defined his plan became. He would work diligently in all his classes and rise to the top. It couldn't be too hard either, since he'd already learned all the material. Once he'd attained a status of reasonable dignity, he would do his best to snub Riddle at every turn, indifferent and oblivious to Riddle's presence the entire time.
Maybe, if things were going well, Harry would advance to the second stage of his plan. That is, he would start talking to Riddle, but he not quite in a civil way. Riddle was so used to being fawned over that he might burst a vein in an apoplectic fit if Harry did that.
Things were looking better already.
("That was your plan? Darling, you're so moronic."
"Excuse you! My plan wasn't dumb. It worked, didn't it?"
"Mmm. Keep telling yourself that, Harry.")
Harry had been in this castle for less than a week and he already felt like he was going out of his mind.
Aside from Riddle, Harry also shared the dorm with Orion Black, Altair Lestrange, and Abraxas Malfoy. It was fairly awkward, given that Orion was Sirius's dad, and Abraxas was Draco's… granddad? That alone was enough to give him a headache. Plus, even if Lestrange and Bellatrix weren't related by blood, they were a bit too similar for Harry's tastes.
On the bright side, they hadn't yet attempted to dunk Harry's head in a toilet, or whatever was the pureblood equivalent of schoolyard bullying. So far, Harry only heard few muttered words of 'mudblood', 'pathetic', and 'unworthy'. That was pretty civil, considering that these were the predecessors to Voldemort's first Inner Circle.
Orion was actually pretty decent, relatively speaking. He was a cheerful, outgoing person, and Harry would have pegged him for a Gryffindor at first glance. Orion's boisterous ways and incessant jokes certainly would have indicated so.
Anyways, Harry had approximately one friend at Hogwarts, and that was Orion. He didn't really mind the solitude, and he wasn't fazed by the comments on his blood status either.
The whole time-travelling affair would have been considered satisfactory, had it not been for Riddle. Harry had concocted his two-stage plan with great anticipation, but as it turned out, he may have overlooked some things.
Harry found that it was insanely difficult to ignore Tom bloody Riddle. The entire point of the first stage was to pay Riddle no attention, and by Merlin was that hard.
Tom Riddle was everywhere.
Harry was an early riser thanks to years of living with the Dursleys, and much to his displeasure, Riddle happened to get up at a similar time. He also tried to escape Riddle during meals at the Great Hall, but even when Harry sat as far away from Riddle was possible, everyone around him chattered about the poncy Slytherin anyways. During classes, Riddle's stupidly attractive face somehow managed to wind up in Harry's line of sight frequently too. And when Harry sought refuge in the library from Riddle's adoring masses, he discovered that apparently, Riddle enjoyed the solitude of the library as well.
("I was 'in your line of sight'? More like you were staring at me."
"Out of all the things I said, you choose to focus on that?"
"Admit it, Harry. You were infatuated from the start."
"You're delusional, Riddle."
"And you love me anyways.")
Harry eventually got better at keeping his distance, though. Soon, he was able to tune out mentions of Riddle in passing conversation, and he'd gotten used to Riddle's presence in classes. He resolutely refused to talk to Riddle, but that didn't really matter since it wasn't as though Riddle was initiating any conversations with him anyways.
Now that the whole ignoring-Riddle part of stage one was in motion, Harry also had to address another subcomponent: classes. He needed to excel in as many subjects as possible, so that he could best gain Riddle's interest and thereby make his future rejection of Riddle all the more sweet.
And oh, classes. Those were going… well?
"Today we're learning the Reductor curse. Who can demonstrate the wand movement? Ah yes, Mr. Riddl— well by my stars! It seems that Mr. Evans has volunteered. Maybe next time, Mr. Riddle."
Harry nodded politely at Professor Merrythought as he made his way to the front of the classroom. Without hesitation, he flawlessly executed a Reducto. Defense Against the Dark Arts had always been his strong suit, after all.
"Marvelous job, Mr. Evans! Five points to Slytherin. Now, class, who can tell me why his Reducto was so strong? Mr. Lestrange, if you would."
Harry tuned out Merrythought's voice as he sneaked a look across the room at Riddle, who looked as composed as usual. However, Harry was certain that he saw the boy's eye twitch almost imperceptibly. Clearly, Riddle didn't like being shown up.
And so Harry continued this pattern throughout the rest of the day, given its apparent success.
"Wonderful explanation of dittany, Mr. Evans."
"Oho! Mr. Evans is a clear natural! Ten points to Slytherin for a perfectly brewed Strengthening Solution."
"Good summary of Grognuk the Gregarious, Mr. Edwins…"
"Why, Mr. Evans, that was a perfectly executed transfiguration. Five points to Slytherin."
"Your astrology maps have greatly improved, Mr. Evans! Good intuition."
By the end of the month, all the teachers were singing Harry's praises. Admittedly, Harry wasn't the best at Ancient Runes and Arithmancy, given that he hadn't taken the classes before he'd gone back in time. But, he was still decent at the courses, and he was performing very well in the rest of his subjects. Even Dumbledore, who had been somewhat wary of Harry, now reluctantly conceded that Harry was one of the best students in the grade.
Harry thought it was all hilarious, especially when Slughorn started referring to him and Tom as the "Slytherin Superstars". Tom's jaw ticked whenever Slughorn said it, and it looked like he was going to eviscerate the potbellied man where he stood.
("Well, how was I supposed to react? Slytherin Superstars? It's a stupid, tacky moniker, and I was rightfully annoyed."
"Says the angsty boy who created a Dark Lord persona from an anagram of his name."
"It was actually quite clever, I'll have you know. 'Voldemort' incidentally means 'Flight of Death' in Fren—"
Odd nicknames aside, Harry really had established a reputation for himself. The same Slytherins who'd once mocked him for his muggle last name now nodded respectfully when he passed by. Riddle himself seemed to be reevaluating his initial assessment of Harry.
Sometimes when Harry did his homework in the Slytherin commons, he'd see Riddle quietly observing him from across the room. Similarly, he'd caught Tom staring contemplatively a few times in the library. He was tempted to call the boy out on it, but his plan hadn't yet reached the confrontation stage. He'd have to settle for driving Riddle mad for the time being.
In fact, Harry befriended literally everyone in his year except for Tom. The pureblood heirs and heiresses of his House practically fawned over the 'adorable Evans child', and Harry loved the attention. They cooed over his lithe stature and vivid green eyes, as well as his flawless doll-like visage. See, Riddle? You're not the only one can charm the masses.
It was all going very well, and for the first time in ages, Harry felt alive again.