The first time Tom Riddle saw her had been an utter fluke, and as one who didn’t believe in such things as coincidences, Tom preferred to call it ‘fate’ that brought him to her that afternoon. Fate that a customer at Borgin’s wanted someone as ridiculous and particular as a cursed Muggle rubber duck; the request given was the reason Tom was walking past a Muggle restaurant, a place he would never have been caught dead ordinarily, that afternoon. He had, at the time, been plotting that specific customer's untimely demise in a rather excruciating manner, when he happened to glance across the road and catch sight of a mess of ebony locks unsettled by a burst of wind.
His first thought had been: ‘finally.’ His second, which he’d never admit to anyone but her, had been an uneducated: ‘wow.’
She was a vision of messy black locks pulled into an even messier braid. She had a large pair of circular glasses perched upon her nose, but they did nothing to disguise the killing curse green eyes; which Tom most certainly had no idea they were the same shade, none at all. Her attention was on a book that Tom noted was on incredibly rare and incredibly dark magic, which pleased him endlessly to see. She was perched cross-legged in her chair in a pair of obnoxiously short shorts that showed off her shapely legs. Her tanned skin was dangerously eye-catching to the point that while Tom stood there another man, closer to her than him, walked straight into a pole after he’d been unable to tear his eyes from her. Tom at that moment knew soon that man would die at the end of his wand for daring to gaze at what was his; and she was precisely that, his.
This woman, this daring witch sitting so calmly in the muggle world. This vision boldly reading about dark magic despite the bans placed on such books after Grindelwald’s defeat. This stunning creature that caught his eye and refused to relinquish it, who would have even wearing full coverings was his. His soulmate. His chance at true immortality, his fated equal.
Ever since he’d been a child first hearing about soulmates and the benefits of them he’d hunted for his. Sought tirelessly, endlessly for her. For the woman could match him in intelligence, wit, and power. The being who would bond with him and together would allow them both to attain true immortality. To give them both eternal youth and immunity from the claws of death. A power unlike the philosophers stone which slowly whittled away at youth, unlike that of the vampires who were cursed to flee the sun and drink blood and nothing else for the rest of time, unlike Horcruxes which steadily cost sanity and magic to trail away as time ran. A soulmate bond was perfect, and the only way he would allow himself to attain immortality.
He’d finally found her, the woman who would give him what he’d always desired. She was his, she wouldn’t resist him.
“My Lady, would you allow me the honor of courting you?”
She lifted her gaze and scanned him from his stomach upward. Tom offered her his most charming of smiles, watched as she took in the face that he admittedly thanked his sire for. It was well framed and easy on the eyes, quite unlike the being that was his male relatives on his mother’s side. When her eyes hit his, they narrowed, and her lips pressed together as she answered a single certain word.
Tom’s mouth dropped open unattractively as he stood gaping before his soulmate, who had lifted her eyes long enough to see him, hear his request to allow him to court her; before she’d returned to her book answering with a single deafening word. Taken aback Tom was momentarily at a loss for words while he lost all sense of cunning and rational before a single woman, his soulmate - and unfortunately, that would be far from the last time she’d do that to him.
“I beg your pardon?!” Didn’t she know? Didn’t she understand? She’d looked at him, surely she’d recognized him for what he was. Her own tie to immortality, her own chance at eternity. She should have sensed it, accepted it, embraced it. He knew he wasn’t incorrect, he knew exactly what she was, his entire being screamed it at all. She was his soulmate, his magic danced with the knowledge of it.
But she’d said no!?
“No.” She repeated, lifting her killing eyes to his own as she crushed his every expectation since childhood about his soulmate. “I can assume you aren’t deaf?”
‘What? No- she can’t- how dare-’
“Do you have any idea who I am?!” he sounded pitchy, it might be due to the panic of losing his one chance at immortality because his soulmate was an obstinate little-
“Yup.” She popped her ‘p’ and snapped her book closed, “and I don’t care.” She grumbled under her breath, muttering about ‘teaching another moron that no means no’ while she packed up her things. She was packing up- she wouldn’t dare just leave-
“I am your soulmate.” He hissed out the words allowing himself to slip entirely too close to parseltongue in his stressed state for anyone who didn’t speak the language to understand. She paused for the shortest moment, her face turned away from him so he could not read it. Tom felt himself begin to settle in that splint second realizing that perhaps she hadn’t known. When she turned back, her expression unchanged and revealed just as perfect she was by answering in full Parseltongue.
“Like I said, I don’t care. Bye-bye now.” She stuffed the priceless book into her bag, tossed muggle coin on the table and without a single care to the muggles surrounding them, apparated.
Tom gaped at the spot she’d been standing moments before as he snarled, his nostrils flaring and his magic cracking under his fingers. How dare she! She was his, his tie to immortality, his soulmate. She was not supposed to resist him, that wasn’t how that worked. They were fated to remain together, fated! She could not resist him, she would not, he would not allow it!
He was back again. Really Holly wasn’t all that surprised by that fact; she knew Tom Riddle intimately and knew it was well within his personality to be obsessive. Holly was aware from the moment he'd appeared and told her what they were that she would not be getting rid of him without a fight.
True, Holly could have fled that particular reality the moment she’d caught his attention and could have tried for a timeline where Riddle wasn’t around. However doing so would mean going to a timeline when he was dead after either war, and during both of those periods 'Holly Potter' was too much of a public figure to go unnoticed. Really, shortly after Tom graduated was a perfect time; he wasn’t Voldemort yet, would spend the next two decades traveling the world, there was no war in the Muggle or Magical worlds yet, and the technology in the Muggle world was advanced enough that she could be comfortable.
Holly had been in this reality for a year, long enough to discover soulmates existed for both Muggles and wizards. Personally Holly had been intrigued, but she had assumed that being from another world would mean she didn’t have one. A miscalculation apparently, as it resulted in Tom Riddle’s attention. Tom Riddle was one of the few individuals she had been avoiding like the plague, and he was one of the many reasons she’d stuck exclusively to the Muggle world.
Technically, Holly could have left that reality at a moments notice. And while a part of her wanted to the instant Riddle had appeared asking to court her, Holly recalled she’d been there for a year. A year was long enough to put down roots, roots she didn’t want to rip apart once again. A year allowed her to find and decorate a lovely little apartment precisely the way she wanted it. It was long enough to open a library/book-shop with books from all different realities and times placed upon the shelves. A year was long enough to make friends with her neighbor and long enough to gain loyal customers who greeted her by name. Holly did not want to be chased away from all that just because Tom Riddle now thought she and he were destined to be - in a thankfully different way than other realities.
Sitting in her behind the register, Holly was pretending to read one of her books, in reality, her attention was on Tom Riddle in disguise inside her shop. He was becoming a regular customer under the guise of polyjuice and glamours, which disguised his face yes, but not his general obnoxiousness. He was at a disadvantage, he was unaware that Holly could and would recognize him anywhere, anyway. Disguises meant nothing to her when it came to him.
Internally she sighed as Riddle perused her books, he was actually reading some of them she knew. The magical section intrigued him, especially considering he knew nearly all of the books there hadn’t yet been written. The first day Riddle had actually bought her out causing her to copy more from her personal stores. Holly still had no idea how he’d managed to locate her shop and her so quickly. She had taken great effort to ensure he couldn't track her magical signature when she'd apparated away from him, and Holly also knew that she hadn't given her name at the restaurant to anyone, so that option likewise was closed. Yet here he was.
As she pretended not to watch Riddle dropped his disguise and finally strode toward her as himself. He moved with the confidence and smooth motions Snape would eventually copy to create his dungeon bat persona. The walk had been impressive enough to see on Snape, as much as it had been to see on Voldemort.. But there was something different about Riddle doing it. Well Holly could admit the young man was intensely attractive, a thought she was quick to shove away as he stopped in front of her.
“How can I help you.” She said in her best ‘screw-you’ sales voice. His eyes narrowed, he worked a similar job to her currently and recognized the tone for what it was. But he pushed on.
“I have brought you a gift.” He pulled a small collection of flowers from behind his back and Holly sneered. Petunias, a dozen petunias mixed with roses. It was a beautiful arrangement if one didn’t understand flower language as she did and hadn’t had an actual Petunia as a relative. “I hope you’ll accept-” he cut off when the flowers burst into flames thanks to a swiftly cast wandless and wordless spell. Riddle instantly dropped them as they burnt to nothing in her shop full of books and Muggles, which was significant enough to display how displeased she was.
“Petunias mean anger and resentment. I despise them,” Holly told him as plainly as she could, “leave.”
Tom straightened his spine, his mind working quickly. He had bought the flowers because they were ‘pretty,’ something he’d seen girls in Hogwarts get and squeal over. Tom had always been disgusted by those girls, but if flowers were the traditional gift, then he could deliver. It seemed, however, his soulmate was a touch pickier than the average girl and understood there was a language of flowers Tom hadn’t cared about. However, while he’d lost this particular battle with his poor choice, the war was still on. His soulmate had revealed she had been open to the potential of a gift, he’d just chosen a poor one. Her challenge had been set, and so further research was required.
He would simply have to do better.
Nodding sharply Tom turned and left already thinking about his next attempt, he took care to observe everything in the shop itself while making a mental note to look into the flower language so she could see the effort he put into things he truly cared about. Holly shot a suspicious look at his back as he rounded the corner and vanished immediately thinking… that had been too easy.
A week later she was proven correct as Holly walked up to her shop and discovered a collection of flowers with acorns set for decoration and snorted. She knew acorns meant immortality. It was better, but if he genuinely wanted to impress, he’d give her lilies set with holly leaves which she couldn’t help but adore. Kneeling Holly checked the note which simply said: ‘eternally yours,’ and scoffed bypassing them.
He’d have to do much better than that.
He was back again. Holly stared Riddle down with her lips pressed together, and her fingers linked, waiting for his next attempt. She remained deadly silent, as did the various customers that had been in the shop when he’d come in, no one could avoid watching. Everyone stared at the clothing Riddle had elected to come in this time, a suit, with his hair slicked back, fitting exactly right to show off his attractiveness. They watched as Riddle bowed at a complete ninety degrees, before straightening and presenting her a small gift box with a flourish. Women behind him tittered as her customers eagerly started to whisper about this development. Holly and Riddle heard them clearly, their comments about what an attractive couple they were and what beautiful babies they’d make were hardly subtle.
Holly quickly assumed this latest gift was jewelry which was unimpressive. She had never liked to wear any kind of jewelry; earrings alone Holly held an exception for to due to Sirius. When Holly turned fifteen Sirius had gifted her a pair of simple stud earrings set with her birthstone. He told her at the time that it was a tradition in the Potter family to receive one, and hadn't wanted her to miss out.
Holding the box out to her Holly knew then that Riddle was currently trying to gain her favor with typical gifts. Flowers and jewelry were both things most men assumed women wanted, things Riddle thought she’d like without actually trying to get to know her. Though if she were kind about it she would have acknowledged that such gifts were his only choice. Holly had made it a point not to talk to him or reveal anything about her intensely painful past. So Tom had no idea what she liked or could want, he was going in blind. Holly despite that expected more, he’d found her by some miracle, so the least he could do was try to learn about her.
"A gift, I hope from this you can see my intentions toward you are pure." Holly nearly snorted, nearly. Instead, she stared Tom down as he presented her with the extravagant jewelry box. Holly watched as he opened it, revealing a jeweled necklace no doubt paid for with a large chunk of his minimal paycheck. The ladies in the shop squealed as they leaned forward to see how Holly would react; they assumed she’d embrace him, and they’d all see an adorable moment between the two, but Holly didn't give the box a second look.
Deadpanning ruthlessly Holly stated: "I don't like jewelry." Before she addressed the waiting customer. The man shot a hesitant look between them, before slowly handing his purchase over while shooting Tom a pitying look. Tom fumed snatching the box off the counter. He stormed away with a slam of the front door and Holly alone didn’t jump to it as she internally cackled.
Another battle lost.
Holly rather liked her neighbor, who was a wonderful young woman who had lost her husband in the war and was raising two children on her own. When she’d first met Elizabeth Granger, the woman had been attempting to get her screaming son into her apartment. The child had been crying at full volume because he’d had an ear infection and the doctor had been too 'busy' to see her. Holly had pretended to be a nurse and quickly healed the infection with a disguised spell earning the woman's eternal loyalty. Now Elizabeth was continually bringing Holly home snacks from the cafe she worked at, in return Holly was a willing babysitter since the kids could stay in the shop without much trouble.
Promising to watch the kids for the next weekend while Elizabeth picked up an extra shift. Holly strode toward her own door and stopped dead when she saw it. Meticulously wrapped and wearing a bow of silver and green was a package. Holly knew instantly who it was from and pinched her lips together. Mostly she did so because to deliver it meant that Riddle now knew where she lived, he was stepping up his game, especially considering what the gift was. The book shape gave it away, and annoyingly, Holly always had trouble resisting a book. A habit she blamed entirely on Hermione.
She had to know what book it was, she simply had to. Which meant for the first time she’d have to open a gift from Tom Riddle.
Clicking her tongue, Holly snatched the bloody thing from the ground and entered her apartment with it. She set aside her purse and kicked off her shoes, her hand flicked toward the kitchen as a pot of tea started to brew itself, and the chicken she’d pulled out started to thaw at a fast rate. As that happened, she placed the book on her kitchen counter and ruthlessly ripped open the packaging.
Then she grumbled.
It was a well-chosen gift. Riddle had gone for a rare book this time, one she actually wanted and didn’t yet own. The problem was Holly was aware that to get the book Riddle would either have had to sell his soul for the cost - unlikely - or had killed the previous owner - very likely. Holly made a face to this knowledge, torn between desperately wanting the damned thing and the awareness that someone had probably died to get it to her. Accepting it meant she was condoning Tom’s extracurricular activities, but denying it meant she wouldn’t get to read it.
Maybe she could copy it and pretend to destroy it? Would Tom notice that? Probably. She'd have to give it away then; oh she very much did not want to do that. She could cross universes for another copy, but that was a lot of effort just to annoy Tom, and she’d be coming back afterward which meant he’d be winning. Not to mention Tom had actually done well with this one and she was woman enough to admit that he had. It was only the method that truly bothered her, which she could pretend ignorance on?
Holly scowled deeper at the book before snatching it off the table and tucking it under her arm. She refused to continue plotting out her increasingly convoluted plan. The moron the originally had the book hadn’t even cared about it anyway, and he certainly hadn’t been a kind mind. Actually, he’d been a racist, sexist brute; the world was probably better without him in it.
Besides, the deed was already done, and it had been done without any say from herself. There was nothing Holly could do about it now, so she might as well enjoy the spoils.
Holly flopped onto her couch and cracked open the book started to read and promptly forgetting about everything else as she did. While across the city Tom Riddle smirked as his carefully crafted spell went off. He smirked victoriously.
Finally, some progress.
"A date?" Holly knew taking the book had been a terrible idea no matter how rare and how good of a read it had been. She knew Tom was a Slytherin and would take advantage of her momentary lapse in restraint. Still, Tom must not be paying attention if he thought a single accepted gift meant she’d actually date him, well she might have if Riddle hadn’t been who he was, but since he was a version of the man who killed her parents Holly wanted to test him far more.
She wanted to see what he’d do when he was denied, wanted to see what he’d do once she set off his famous temper. Which caused her to lean on her shop door and arch a brow. “Accepting one gift doesn’t mean I accept you. You’ll have to do much better than that Riddle.” The use of his name, which he hadn’t yet given her, showed him she was paying attention to him.
The expression that crossed his face was furious, but still not as angry as she expected from the Riddle she’d known in her past. Holly admitted this Tom Riddle had far better control than the other incarnations she’d met. In theory, this meant his soul had not yet been ripped to pieces. She approved, especially considering he was her soulmate in this world, and by tearing apart his soul, he was ripping apart part of hers as well.
She watched Riddle struggle with his annoyance and pride before determination won out, and his expression smoothed over. No matter the age Tom Riddle was the type to take what was his, but Holly was not something he could just take or possess. She had her own mind, her own personality, her own dreams, thoughts, and emotions. He couldn’t control or overpower her, and Circe help him if he tried.
The only way to claim her and get what he wanted was to win her over, he understood this even if he didn’t like it. So Tom straightened, inclined his head, and said: “Very well.”
In another time he might very well have said: ‘Challenge accepted.’
A year into her life in her new reality, Holly had attempted to avoid precisely three people. One was Tom Riddle for obvious reasons; the second was Albus Dumbledore for equally apparent reasons; while the third, the third was admittedly out of nervous fear. The third happened to be the Potter family, her currently living grandparents who were approximately her physical age. Fleamont and Euphemia Potter whom Holly had already learned the names of in her early twenties were presently alive, and Holly was terrified of them. She had no idea how they’d reacted to her and refused to contact them in the case that they didn’t accept her. Likewise, her great uncle and aunt, Dorea and Charlus Potter were also avoided.
Until they came looking for her.
A week after Riddle’s date request a knock came at her door, assuming it to be Elizabeth Holly answered while sipping her tea. It wasn’t Elizabeth, and Charlus Potter would forever tell the family that Holly spit tea all over him when they’d first met.
“Can… err… uh- can I help you?” Holly asked as Charlus clean and dried himself with a spell. As he did, he cheerfully rocked on his heels and gave her a big nod that frankly reminded her of the twins when they were nervous but also up to mischief.
“Yes you can, I’m looking for a miss Holly Lily Potter. Can you direct me to her?” Charlus eyed Holly in a way that screamed he knew exactly who she was and was only waiting for her to confirm it for him. Holly meanwhile was more bothered by the person she’d been avoiding showing up at her door knew her name, her full name, which she hadn’t given to anyone in this reality.
“Speaking.” She stated with narrowed eyes wondering what he was planning. She kept herself closed off, wary of how he’d treat her, wary of how he’d react.
Charlus surprised her as he surged forward and without warning at all snatched her and yanked her into the most energetic bear hug she’d ever been subjected too. Holly squawked as he pinned her arms down, causing her to spill the rest of her tea all over the floor and flail in surprise at the abruptness of his action. “It’s fantastic to finally meet you!” he told her while trying to kill her with his hug, “I’m Charlus Potter, and I’ve been looking for you for ages!”
“Can’t- breathe-” she choked as he finally released her and stepped back with a laugh.
“Sorry about that, I was just so excited! The others will be thrilled; honestly, when you popped up on the family tree last year, we were ecstatic! But then you didn’t come to meet us, and we figured you must not know we were around, so off we went to search for you and-, and here you are!” he launched at her again with a tearful sob and clung like a spider-monkey. Holly gave an inaudible whimper as she pry him off and escape.
“H- Uhm, how, did you know where to find me?” she gasped.
“Ah, that would be all because of that Riddle boy.” Her face pinched as Charlus released her.
Of course it had been.
Trying not to give away her displeasure to the grand-uncle she’d never known Holly plastered a smile on her face and gestured toward her door in a show of opening up. “How about you come in, I think we have some things to discuss.”
“I’d love to!” He bounced forward like Holly had seen Sirius do and flounced into her apartment eagerly, honestly, she could practically see the canine tail. Holly followed her great-uncle into the room and closed the door wordlessly behind her as she quickly mentally prepared for the conversation she was about to have.
Ten minutes later, Holly sat across from Charlus as he explained a bit of why he’d been looking for her, which had been a rather simply said. ‘We’re family, so naturally, we went looking.’
“Dorea realized it right away, that’ll be my wife,” he added in explanation, “when your name popped up it had no attachments, which normally means you were a child born out of wedlock Not that that is a problem, we’ve had a couple of those - my great uncle was a naughty old fart. But since you popped up fully grown Dorea figured that you had to be from another time, which meant you were a Potter but connected at a later date to someone who wasn’t born yet. And Euphemia is dying to know how you did and it and why; I personally just want to know whose kid you are. How far apart in relation are we?” he leaned forward eyes bright and curious.
“Er… you’re my great-uncle, sorry… the time travel doesn’t surprise you?”
“Not at all, not at all.” He waved her off and took a swig of his drink, “you aren’t the first, we had a girl oh about six generations back that did the same, though she never did get connected when she said she would. We assumed she changed time too much and erased her birth from history. She was supposed to be Fleamont and my sister, and she gave the family quite a few warnings about Grindelwald’s war, part of the reason we haven’t gone extinct. Did you use the family spell as well? Not that it matters how you did it or why mind you, you're family, 'a Potter is a Potter, is a Peverell.'”
“I did, but I tweaked it a bit…” Holly made a face, she’d love to get more detail on her apparent great-aunt, but first- “sorry, Tom sent you to me? Why?”
“Ah that, well the boy showed up yesterday afternoon asking about you. Dorea answered and pretended we weren’t utterly clueless, which is how we got your address.” He grinned innocently, “as it turns out he was out and about trying to convince me to give him permission to marry you-” he cut off as Holly angrily growled, and he rushed to add, “-we’d never! You are your own person, and we don’t know you yet, none of us would dream of interfering with your life like that unless you asked us to.”
He shuffled a bit guiltily, “but err… well… Dorea was a bit annoyed with him, and she might be pranking him a bit, she’s trying to get him to ‘prove’ himself to us. As if we had any real say in whom you married or not. Which we don’t! Anyway, the truth is I wanted to be involved, and when Euphemia and Fleamont discovered what we were doing they well, they might have had a few suggestions.” He wrung his hands, waiting for her to respond to what he’d said.
Holly relaxed a bit, though she was still furious at Tom for trying something so stupid to convince her to allow him to court her. As she sat back, curiosity burned in her chest: “what exactly has she been making him do?”
"Oh you'll love this, we started with house-work, to prove he could do it without magic in case there came a time where he couldn’t use it."
Holly barked a laugh picturing Tom Riddle in a cleaning outfit with muggle chemicals in hand: "Did you get pictures?"
"Of course!" Charles personally thought it would be a wonderful thing to tell his great-grandchildren one day, who was Holly it seemed.
Personally, Charlus hadn’t been impressed with Tom Riddle even though he was Holly’s soulmate. The man had been trying to find a short-cut to Holly’s heart by going around her to them which had annoyed himself and Dorea immensely no matter what information he gave them. Charlus had been set on sending him away until Dorea decided pranking him would be better. What better way than to test him while also not angering his potential son-in-law too much, or rather his potential great-grandnephew-in-law. Merlin time-travel made family relations so complicated. As Dorea said, it was only a matter of time until Holly accepted the determined young man, and they shouldn’t turn him and by extension her, away from the family.
She’d probably kill him in his sleep if he screwed this meeting and that future up for her. Dorea had already learned she couldn’t have children and yet desperately wanted the largest family she could manage. Holly was hope for that future, to have a full table during the holidays and Dorea refused to let it slip away.
Charlus would make sure Holly accepted their family, anything for his beloved mate.
“Would you like to see them? He’s working right now if you’re curious.” He baited Holly gently sensing her timid nature and internally squealed when she accepted.
So far, so good.
The Potter manor had not survived the first war, it had been burned down while Voldemort had been hunting James and Lily and was one of the reasons James and Lily had ended up in Godric’s hollow. Holly was also distantly aware that the manor had been the location that her grandparents had lost their lives, the very same grandparents she was going to be meeting for the first time in the place they’d eventually die.
Charlus led her into the manor bouncing on his feet as he showed off the estate. He presented to her the art pieces painted of her distant relatives, many of which greeted her as they whispered about her ‘Potter hair,’ and that she was ‘definitely one of ours.’ Charles explained to her the history of her home, the place where his father proposed to his mother, the place he’d tripped and fallen cracking open his head one afternoon, the burns from one of his mad second cousins who had purposely set fire to the location. Holly followed picturing the areas where her own father would have been raised, where she might have been.
“Oh, here I am telling you all about this nonsense! I’m sure you’ve probably heard about it a dozen times already.” He glanced at her, and Holly tried incredibly hard not to react or give away just how not true that was. A nervous laugh escaped her lips, and Charles’ expression wilted as he inferred the truth from her face. To his credit, he didn’t push, he simply changed the topic and moved on while making a mental note to ask about it at a later time, when Holly was more open to them.
Charlus led her to the backyard where Dorea Potter was laid out in a lawn chair with a muggle dress in bright pink, and an extravagant sun-hat was perched upon her hair. Spotting them, Dorea lifted her equally colorful drink their way. She lifted a finger and tipped her sunglasses down eying Holly specifically before she squealed and slammed her drink down to launch to her feet.
“Holly!” she like Charlus grabbed Holly around the middle and embraced her with as much strength as she could manage. Holly was bounced a few times before Dorea pulled back: “let's have a look at you then.” Dorea looked Holly up and down, she cupped her face, and she beamed, twisting this way and that to look. Then after several seconds, she nodded in approval. “Oh yes I can see, can’t you see it dear? That’s Euphemia’s nose right there, and the Potter hair without a doubt. You’re beautiful love, and I am so very pleased to meet you.”
“Er… thanks.” Holly blushed as Dorea released her face and carted her toward one of the chairs laid out. She was gently pushed down and given a drink by an elf who popped in and out with a curtsy. Charlus sank into his own seat with a smile poorly hidden behind his own glass as his wife drilled Holly for information.
“Now! Tell us everything! How did you get here? When? What was your life like? Do you have a significant other? Where do you live? Work? School house? Oh, what about a favorite subject in school-” she eyed Holly, “and how old are you dear? You have wonderful skin, must be from your mother, goodness knows Euphemia’s skin is terrible, not like my own. She is related to Euphemia and Fleamont right love?”
“She’s their granddaughter.”
“I knew it! Well, they’ll be thrilled to meet you.”
Holly nodded faintly as her hands wrung together. Dorea was a bit… more than she expected, but it was nice to be so openly welcomed. Looking at Dorea wearing her muggle clothing, with her personality as it was Holly distantly thought she and Sirius would probably have gotten along quite famously at one point. If they’d ever met, that was.
“I was in Gryffindor.” Holly latched onto one of the questions she could answer, she dared not admit her age and couldn’t explain much about her family purely because she didn’t know much.
Dorea snapped her finger, “darn. Unless your father was a puff Holly? Or that soulmate of yours?”
“Like Euphemia then; no Hufflepuff’s yet dear.” Charlus said as he leaned forward to speak to Holly: “Dorea wants a full set, but unfortunately myself and Fleamont are both Slytherin, and Dorea is a Ravenclaw.”
“Both my parents were Gryffindor.”
“And Mister Riddle?”
“He’s a snake, the biggest one I’ve ever met,” Charles stated, he knew this because he’d gone to school with the young man, Charlus had been older of course, but he’d still seen Riddle around.
“Well considering he’s related to the Gaunts and can speak Parseltongue,” Holly added as she sipped her drink and relaxed back into her chair.
Dorea perked up, “Was he? That’s interesting; related to Morfin then? No, perhaps Merope. That poor girl… and boy, no doubt with those relatives he was heavily abused. Terrible people the Gaunt’s.”
“You knew her?” Holly asked curiously.
“Oh, I met them when I was quite young, my father wanted to bond our families as he was hoping to create a contract between the Black and Gaunt families.”
“Thank Circe he didn’t,” Charlus grumbled from the side.
“Indeed, I don’t like to gossip overly much, but the way that family treated themselves and others was frankly frightening. I’ll be forever glad Father realized no tie to that family could benefit our own. But what I’ve seen from them, I feel sorry for that boy, I can’t imagine Morfin ever accepting him.” Her expression turned pensive as she looked to Holly, the girl hadn’t known how to accept her embrace, and then Tom that hid everything behind a practiced Slytherin mask. They both needed family she decided, one to relax and the other to open up. After all, the Slytherin mask was something all snakes learned, but it was meant for public only, no one could smother their emotions forever, it was a measure of madness to try.
“Not to worry love, we’ll be family enough for both Holly and Tom.” Charles whispered to her, as he grinned and said with more volume, “speaking of, look who’s here.” He gestured to the yard beyond them. Holly turned her attention along his finger to discover in the distance a figure. There, mowing the lawn the muggle way, was a currently shirtless Tom Riddle. Holly swiftly lifted her glass, and copying Charlus, hid a smile behind it.
“Oh, Merlin,” Holly exclaimed in sheer delight.
“Nice view isn’t it,” Dorea commented eying Tom even as Charles shot her a playfully cross look, Dorea personally thought Charlus looked better without a shirt as her husband was tan and muscular from his active lifestyle. But for Holly, she rather appreciated the pale but not ice-white skin and the lesser levels of muscle built from intense dueling practice. “I keep wondering how far he’s going to go. You should have seen his face when I asked him to mow the lawn the muggle way because of my magical sensitive lilies.” The woman cackled loudly, a laugh that had Holly cringe because of its resemblance to Bellatrix. Tom shot a look their way eyes narrowed as he noted the new addition to the group. While Dorea added: “I had to send Ivy, our elf, to buy a muggle lawn-mower, we don’t even have magical lilies.”
Charles barked a laugh and Holly squealed in delight as Tom paused before forcefully turning away determined to show them he was a good match even without the blood-line and the money. Holly could have told him neither mattered to her, but Tom was used to Slytherin politics and was working on what he knew. Which meant proving himself to Holly’s family and ensuring he could bring substance to their mating.
“I wonder if we can make him clean the pool next.” Dorea mused.
Charlus arched a brow: “Dear, we don’t have a pool.”
Holly relaxed back turning toward her new/old family as she volunteered a touch of information to show them she was willing to try. “Did you know, my mothers' name was Lily?”
“Is that so?”
Holly enjoyed her time with her family, she enjoyed meeting Dorea and Charlus, then Euphemia and Fleamont when they’d arrived later. Holly had learned Euphemia was soft-spoken and kind, while Fleamont was professionalism with a secretive glint in his eyes that screamed he was internally amused.
Holly was also practical enough to admit that being accepted by her family was technically due to Tom Riddle who’d pushed her to meet them. And he had in fact delivered on every request that her now cousins had placed upon him. Even the more insane ones that Dorea kept coming up with. So, as annoyed as she was by his interference, she could still admit the end result was positive.
She could also admit, his next gift had impressed.
Tom was not a wealthy individual by any means - he was an orphan just out of school and was working in a shop - still he’d finally delivered a gift that proved he was paying attention to Holly's likes. As she arrived at her store a few days after meeting her relatives she’d found a field of lilies all over her doorstep. Holly knew then that he must have been paying intense attention to her conversation with Dorea and Charlus. Added with the flowers was a handwritten book on lesser-known dark magic and spells she knew he’d invented but had never shared with anyone in her homeworld.
As she accepted the gifts and placed the flowers around the shop in strategic locations, she opened and idly read through the priceless book he’d gifted her. And when Tom arrived later that afternoon, her expression was admittedly less harsh when she shot him a look that said simply: ‘yes?’ Tom returned with his own that screamed, ‘you know very well what I want.’ While he respectfully answered.
“Will you do me the honor of accompanying me on a date Lady Potter? Will you allow me to show you how perfect of a match we truly are?”
Holly’s fingers tapped the book in her hand, she smelled the lilies around the shop, and she felt her own magic attempting to twist with his own. Her only hesitation then was who he could grow to be, and she knew it wasn’t fair to him. She was judging him based entirely on the potential path he could walk. So perhaps it was time to give this version a chance, without taking into account who he could be.
“One date.” She accepted watching in intrigue as Tom’s expression changed for the quickest moment. For a brief second, the Slytherin mask on neutrality vanished, and real pleasure lit up his eyes- and her heart gave a traitorous little thump. ‘Oh,’ she realized.
“How exactly did you find out?” Holly asked while she kept her arms up. Behind her, Fleamont was idly reading one of her books from the future on potion advances, many of which include Severus’ work. While fluttering around her and casting a plethora of spells was Euphemia. Holly was surprised to realize Euphemia was a seamstress, and upon discovering Holly had a date, had insisted on creating a dress for the occasion for her.
“That would be Dorea.” Fleamont said eyes intent on the book, “this boy is a potioneering genius, he was friends with your mother you said? I might have to take him on for an apprentice when he’s old enough.”
“Would probably be good for him.” Hollysaid, she was about sixty percent sure Snape and his mother had been abused, and if she were going to stay in this world, she would have to do something about it, if only to spare her counter-part and Snape some grief. “And how did Dorea know?”
“She knows everything.”
“Absolutely everything.” Euphemia agreed and stepped back, admiring her handy work, “as I thought, green really is your color sweetheart.” She’d left Holly in a stunning emerald gown that was practical enough to allow her to duel in, but fashionable enough that Holly looked positively stunning. It was some of her best for Euphemia decided since it blended the current muggle fashion and the fashion from the books she’d found from Holly’s time. Euphemia had left Holly’s jewelry to herself understanding quickly that Holly didn’t wear any but the studs in her ears.
“Now, you're done, and just in time to that young man should be here in a few minutes.”
Fleamont snapped his book closed and tucked it under his arm, Holly had gifted it to him when he took an interest, and he’d be taking full advantage of the future discoveries to throw the magical medical field into the future several decades early. He could only imagine how far ahead they’d be by the time the boy who wrote it was born, and what the boy would do once he was adequately trained and encouraged. The stagnation of their world might actually be prevented with this.
Fleamont joined his wife side, admiring her work, and nodded in approval. “You’re stunning dear, Riddle won’t know what hit him.”
“Family photograph! Come along, come along. Missy, I need you!” an elf popped in and Holly was jostled until she was between Euphemia and Fleamont as an elf held up an old yet brand new camera. The picture was taken the moment she’d adjusted, leaving a permanently moving version of her pressed between Euphemia and Fleamont Potter. The image shifted, and her expression changed to one of love and realization, that for the first time, Holly had a family to gush about her going on a first date. That she had someone that cared, that wanted to have pictures and memories put up on the walls. It was a picture Euphemia and Fleamont would forever cherish due to the heart-breaking joy on Holly’s face.
“Now remember if Riddle does anything untoward that we can destroy him like an insect, in seconds.” Fleamont stated looking calm as can be while he said it, “and if that doesn’t work Euphemia has an… interesting spell repertoire to punish any wandering fingers. Though, she usually builds those into the dress, did you add the spells love?”
“Of course, it’s in the runic thread work.” Euphemia floated forward and kissed Holly’s cheeks, “we’ll be waiting to hear how it went.”
Holly’s doorbell went off down to the second Tom told her he’d arrive, causing her grandparents, or cousins she supposed, to smile and mozy toward the floo. They bid her a final goodbye before vanishing in a swirl leaving Holly to handle her own emotions. She was going on a date, a first real date outside of the disastrous ones from her past. It was her first date in this reality, and it was with her soulmate, Tom Marvolo Riddle. She had plenty of reason to be a bit twitchy in panic. She had no idea what to expect and hadn’t known how to prepare. All she had was a vague knowledge of Tom from their brief interactions and the Tom of her past, which she was beginning to see were far from one and the same.
Still, Holly was Gryffindor; so she bucked up, straightened, and marched to her door answering it with as much confidence as she could muster.
The sight of Tom at her doorstep was the one thing that relaxed her. He started off nervously shuffling, his eyes darting around in a way that revealed how truly wary of this date he was, showed how human he was in this world. He had personally never been on a real ‘date’ not one that mattered to him anyway. He’d never had to work for a relationship, never had actually liked the girl he’d asked out. Nor had he ever had to face someone as annoyingly complicated as Holly Potter. So yes, he’d was nervous, and his Slytherin mask was cracking at the seams long before he’d arrived to pick her up. As he became silently convinced he’d ruin his one chance at Holly’s hand, and his own immortality.
Then he saw her. She was a vision that stopped his mind from working. He stood speechless before her, lost for words as only Holly could make him. It was this humanity in him, the open emotions, and the blankness of his brilliant mind that drew Holly to him. The same thing Tom hated about himself, Holly loved. The same thing he wanted to hide from her was the same that allowed her to tentatively trust.
He finally reigned in his mind and twisted his hand. In a show of powerful magic, he wandlessly and wordlessly conjured a set of permanent crystal roses from only his magic. It was a blatant show of his power, a promise that he was strong enough to defend her and any family they would have, and it was utterly wasted on Holly. She was just as strong, just as talented, and magical strength didn’t attract her as it would so many others. Still, she meant the night to go well, so Holly reached out and accepted the gift, before gaining a smirk Tom had quickly learned as her mischief-making expression.
Tucking the flowers in her arm, Holly twisted her own hand, just the one when Tom had used two, and built from her own magic a pair of crystal snake cuff-links designed in Nagini’s image. Which she then presented to Tom who had once again been silenced in surprise. He hadn’t thought- hadn’t imagined- Holly was a shop keeper for Merlin’s sake. She did nothing but read all day, and yet he’d never seen her use such magic before. Holly had been suppressing her power, suppressing her strength, and Tom was dry-mouthed with attraction, desperate to devour those perfect lips, to see her lose control completely, to feel her magic in the throws of-
“Shall we?” Holly asked as she set her gift on her counter.
“Yes.” He attached her own gift and offered her his arm.
Tom apparated them, and Holly was quickly surprised to realize he’d brought her to a Muggle town, shocked more so when he escorted her through a Muggle based date. Dinner as a small family-owned restaurant, a walk through a park and along the river seeing the Muggle sights. They stopped at little shops and stalls so Holly and he could browse, and watched several street performers. The city was still recovering from the war, and she knew it would be for a while yet, but the fact that Tom did not show her the magical world was a show of thoughtfulness toward her that was thrilling. And as they walked, they chatted, and Holly learned more about this Tom than she had ever imagined.
He was… idealistic, and she found it shocking.
He told her about his desires for their world, the concerns he had with the way their world was run and how he wanted to change it all. From a proper program for magical orphans, more security against their secrecy - considering the technological advances in the Muggle world soon to come, Holly was in agreement to his suggestions. He spoke about the ignorance associated with mental illness and damage, most obviously discovered in the way cruciatus victims from Grindelwald’s war were treated. He also briefly touched on the way magical creatures were secondary citizens at best and how he wanted that to change.
Shockingly most of what Tom suggested were issues she and Hermione had tried to change in her own time, fifty years later. All of what Tom spoke of, she ultimately agreed with and had tried to alter. But two Muggle-raised women trying to do so, even with Holly’s prestige… they’d been ignored at best. Despite the fame Holly had, the old bastards stuck in their ways had refused to cooperate, and the girls had accomplished little to nothing. It had perhaps been the very same problem that had affected Tom in the past of her world, it might have been the reason he’d turned to more aggressive methods, she didn’t honestly know. What she did know, however, was what she told him.
“The fools in the ministry are stuck in their ways, they’ll never allow us to make a single change. They’d sooner let us be discovered and wiped out with their heads still in the dirt than allow these changes.”
“Oh, I’m aware,” Tom sneered before his eyes darkened with sadistic amusement, “that is the exact reason I am building, shall we say, a list to use against them.”
“Blackmail?” she asked in amusement. Tom inclined his head, watching her reaction, and was pleased to see she was amused rather than upset. For as much as he wanted her, as much as he knew they were matched, he still was uncertain how well they were. Would she accept the darker parts of himself? The dark magic she read about so obviously was a fair sign that she would, but he had to be sure. And so he tested her in these simple ways.
Holly meanwhile was amused because she had personally attempted to do the very same thing in her home-world. She’d blackmailed the hell out of the old bastards knowing full well most of them had been Voldemort sympathizers which was most ironic now. “Well, I can assure you my family will assist you.” And they currently had the power to do so, unlike what had become of her family by the time she’d tried the same in her past.
Their conversation trailed off a bit, and they swapped topics to discuss future plans. Tom personally wanted to travel, to learn as much magic and culture that he could through the world. Which to Holly meant he hadn’t yet claimed the latter Horcruxes, a thought she shoved to the back of her head for the time being. Tom meanwhile avoided the topic of children and family, Holly suspected he was uncertain about both. Uncertain about sharing his power with someone, about caring for a child when Tom had no experience at all with them. She didn’t blame him for that. Holly knew, in the long run, she wanted a family because of how much Holly had adored Teddy. But her focus was more on her new cousins and whatever might exist with Tom for the moment.
Eventually, Tom returned her home. At her door, he bowed and kissed her knuckles remaining a gentleman. Once she reclaimed her hand she bid him goodbye and went to go inside, when he called to her.
“Lady Potter, may I take you out again?”
Standing halfway in her door, she glanced back mischief in her eyes that made his mask crack once more in exasperation. “I’ll think about it.”
She watched him inhale, and the irritation made his eye twitch. Holly’s eyes crinkled, and she gave a giggle, “thought about it… I’m free on Friday.” And with that, she spun, hair swinging, into her apartment “night Tom.” As she used his first name for the first time and let the door click closed behind her.
It was fun she decided, but there was still one crucial thing holding her back from a future with him.
Perhaps it was time she talked to someone about that.
Holly sipped her tea looking for all the world as calm as can be, and she was; Holly was used to the chaos of her life, Potter luck they called it, though it seemed the name was inaccurate and the other Potter’s of the family did not have to deal with such chaos. Charlus would later tell her that the ‘Potter Luck’ was more of the chaos they brought onto others, and not the other way around. The term, however, got a bit muddled when it was a Potter bringing chaos onto other Potter’s.
“Wait wait wait, no, hold on, wait-” Dorea had her hands up trying to wrap her mind around the story Holly just dumped on them. Euphemia was utterly silent, her mouth bobbing like a fish at her side. While Charlus was nursing his drink relieved the family elf thought to bring plenty of wine for this particular tale.
Fleamont was the one who adjusted the fastest, as he often did: “So in your past and another version of reality, Riddlen murdered your parents and was a dark lord worse than even Grindelwald.” He leaned back inhaling deeply, “I can see why you were resisting him, still… soulmates are neigh impossible to resist forever.”
Charlus nodded his agreement to that, “If you truly wanted to avoid him, you would have left this world right when you met him. That tells me you were willing to try, at least on some level.”
“Perhaps because in this world he hasn’t done these things yet… that we know of.” Euphemia finally said while Dorea continued to repeat ‘no, wait, what?’ on repeat. “So it’s likely easier to accept the boy now, on a subconscious level.” To them he was just a young man, the soulmate to Holly, soon to be a member of their family. To them, he wasn’t this dark figure who had murdered children, ripped apart their world, and destroyed everything they held dear. Even knowing that he had, they didn’t have the proper context to feel those emotions and concerns as Holly did. All they could do was worry for Holly, for her state of mind, for her choices.
“So, why bring this to us?” Fleamont wondered, “to vent perhaps? Or do you wish for our advice and counsel?”
“I suppose I wanted to come clean to someone, I wanted to… to…”
“To be absolved of the guilt.” Euphemia said, “to know that despite everything he has done, it is alright to fall for him, to accept him. To know that we, as your 'grandparents,' accept your choice and do not blame or judge you for it.” She drew in a long breath, “I can assure you, Holly, we do not.”
Charlus looked up and smiled her way: “We love you regardless, we accept you regardless, and the truth is, we don’t see Riddle and this Voldemort character as the same being.”
“And if we have anything to do with it, he will never become that person.” Euphemia added in, “Tom will not suffer as he did in this world purely because you exist, he will be given love and family, he will be given support for his plans which we greatly approve of.” She already had plans to chat with the young man to implement the magical fostering system suggested for their recently war-torn country. They should have done it years ago to be truthful, but better late than never.
Charlus filled his class again: “He did have some wonderful ideas, I’m curious to know how similar our Tom and that one was to have fallen so far. Certainly, one person can make a huge difference, but Tom is quite polite and progressive. That is a drastic difference to this Voldemort character.”
“It’s likely the immortality thing.” Holly sighed, gaining all their attention, “in this world immortality can be granted through a soulmate, and he would have been aware of it from early on. In my world, however, immortality is an impossible concept for most. The only ways to gain it is there was vampirism, a philosophers stone, or a Horcrux. He went with the latter.” The Potter’s all hissed at the same moment causing Holly to nod in confirmation, “he made seven. Two before he was in his twenties.” She gave them a general overview of what they were excluding herself from the list.
“That would have positively destroyed his mind.” Dorea finally spoke up, “Horcrux magic taints everything, soul, magic, mind, everything. It’s no wonder madness took him so firmly.”
Euphemia made a confirming sound: “Bonding with Holly would do it, he’d have the immortality he wanted… still, we don’t want her bonding with him just because of that. A bond is sacred and could fail if your intentions are born from anything but love. Which he ought to be aware of.”
“Well, he’ll no doubt fall for Holly sooner or later, it’s impossible not to love her.” Fleamont winked her way, and Holly quickly ducked her head.
“Otherwise, with Holly as an option, there is only a sliver of a chance he’d dare with that magic…” Dorea’s eyes glowed, “we could remove that temptation entirely?”
“So, we intercede any potential plans, we remove the items he would have chosen, we claim them before he can.” Charlus agreed growing excited as Dorea started to bounce in her chair. Euphemia noticing the pair, groaned and palmed her face. Fleamont rolled his eyes as Holly looked on bemused.
“What’s with you two?”
“They want to do a-”
“Heist.” Dorea sang out, “we’re going on a heist!”
Euphemia scoffed: “try to contain your excitements dear, Holly’s still getting used to the madness.”
“But heist.” The woman whined.
Holly glanced toward Fleamont arching her brow as she deadpanned: “What?”
“Basically,” he said, “we steal these items and prevent Tom from getting them at all. That way, he won’t be tempted with Horcrux magic, and he retains his sanity, allowing you and him to have a proper bonding and relationship.”
“Besides, that batty Smith won’t even notice if we… replace a few items.” Cackled Dorea.
Five figures stalked through the night, well, two stalked, the rest sort of… mosied
Fleamont led the way in a pair of dueling robes ‘for emergencies,’ he strode forward with his guard up and his attention sharp. Directly at his side stood Euphemia in her best robes, she hadn’t explained why, and Holly hadn’t dared ask. Holly behind them was in a pair of plainclothes, she’d done enough stealing and adventures to know she never had the time to wear anything but the clothes she was currently wearing, so Holly hadn’t bothered changing from her outfit she wore to the shop. Behind them, was Dorea and Chalus dressed in what could only be described as a costume from a Muggle spy movie. Dorea was in latex with, high heel boots, with a utility belt at her waist, black goggles, and her curled hair pulled in a tight ponytail. At her side, Charlus frankly looked like James Bond.
While the three at the front walked calmly, Dorea and Charlus were jumping from shadow to shadow with a spell playing soft theme music. They were thoroughly enjoying themselves and going all out.
Holly glanced at her now cousins: “I’m afraid to ask but… they uh…” she trailed off.
“They love costumes,” Euphemia said trying to ignore them, “you should have seen Dorea the day she discovered what Halloween was. They went and bought a Muggle home in Godric’s Hallow just so they could dress up and hand out candy every year.” She shook her head tiredly, “unfortunately, the dressing up doesn’t end there. One year we caught them at a bad time, Dorea was dressed like a school teacher… and you don’t really need more details than that.”
Fleamont swore: “And to think we’d gone five years without mentioning that. I’ll have to pull this memory out as well.”
“It’s fine,” he waved her off as they reached the front steps of Hepzibah Smith’s home, which was currently dark inside. “I sent the bat an invitation to a play tonight, she’ll be gone for hours.” He told Holly quite pleased with himself.
“If that woman got any closer to you then I’d have saved Riddle the effort of murdering her in this universe.” Groused Euphemia under her breath which made Holly scowl. The very idea of the wooing Tom had done to that woman in another reality had her jealousy rearing it’s head. A jealousy she was surprised to have.
“Right, let's get this over with.” Euphemia stepped forward her dress heels clicking against the sidewalk, a stark contrast to the comfortable trainers Holly was wearing. Euphemia, however, was stopped by Dorea and Charlus who rushed to reach the door first.
“Allow the professionals,” Dorea claimed and yanked a lock-pick from her hair while grinning like a loon.
“For Merlin’s sake Dorea.” Euphemia scowled at the woman, “we have magic, a simple spell would do-”
“Don’t mess with my fantasy Euphemia.” Dorea snapped then turned to her husband and whispered: “it’s tricky, but I can crack it.”
“I believe in you gorgeous, but remember we only have minutes before we’re caught, we must be swift!”
“Morgana’s tits, the two of you.”
Fleamont reached up and massaged his forehead while Euphemia’s heel tapped irritatedly on the ground, she did not appreciate wasting time when one spell would have them in and out in seconds. Dorea wasn’t budging, she and Charlus had built their entire night around this, and she was going to enjoy it!
Holly looked away from her relatives and scanned the windows. She frowned at the living room recalling the general design from a distant memory Dumbledore had shown her. Why did Holly feel like she had forgotten something important about that? Her brow creased together when she noticed, something was moving. Then it clicked - the house-elf! “Wait!” she called just as the door miraculously clicked open to Dorea’s surprised yelp.
They all glanced up in the doorway to see, not a house-elf as Holly expected, but a grown man looking as horrified to be caught as they did.
“Tom?!” Holly blurted out aghast.
Tom stood there wearing, like Holly, everyday clothing in dark colors. He had his hand on his wand, and his other on the door having expected to be obliviating the old biddy who’d finally left her house for the first time in months. Instead, he’d discovered the entire Potter family trying to break into the very building he’d just broken into… with a Muggle lock-pick? Tom arched a brow at Dorea Potter: “You know, Alohamora works perfectly well… there are no wards on the building.” Anymore that was.
Dorea grumbled and tucked her lock-picks back into her hair before straightening: “it’s called a fantasy Riddle, open your mind for goodness sake.” Charlus patted her on the back to comfort her as she continued to pout, while Holly took charge of the situation.
Holly calmly ignored Fleamont who groused out, “well damn, I guess we were too late,” loudly.
“Evening.” Tom returned, lowering his wand as he stared at her with growing curiosity, “I would craft an excuse; however, I find myself curious why we are both obviously not supposed to be here.” They both knew it, Tom surmised it from the way Dorea and Charlus were dressed. While he had been most obviously inside the building when they’d discovered each other.
Holly calm as can be said without a hint of tact: “We’re attempting to steal a few precious items as a family bonding experience, you?”
The other Potter’s all gave her a look, while Tom arched a brow: “stealing a gift to bring you for our next date, but considering you’ve caught me.” He fished a hand in his pocket and stepped forward in front of her family, and he revealed an item from his pockets, a familiar one. “It belonged to my mother and was passed down in my family until she was forced to sell it. The hag bought it and refused to relinquish it to me. So I went around her.” The locket glinted in the light as it spun lightly in his hands, “It’s well known as a… a gift in the Slytherin family, I wished for you to have it.” A courting gift he knew, but he doubted Holly was ready for that yet.
“Ooh, nice,” Dorea stage whispered.
“What about the cup?” Charles whispered back. Dorea looked sharply at him, then grinned, and the two took off into the building.
“Will you accept this gift Holly?” Tom asked her holding out the locket, clueless to what it meant to her. It was a formerly whispering, clawing, Horcrux she’d carried around for months before Ron stabbed it through the middle. A tainted soul-fragment, part of seven. The item that killed Regulus Black. A tie to insanity that had needed to be destroyed. It was too much, it was- “I am aware you don’t like jewelry,” Tom continued, “but the sentiment… I had hoped…”
‘I had hoped.’ Holly’s chest gave a wiggle, and she felt her cheeks heat.
“I’ll accept it.” She blurted because Tom and Voldemort were like night and day. This way, a young man filled with dreams of change, with powerful magic, desire, and clarity to his actions and mind. A man who had grudgingly made her smile and laugh, who hadn’t ripped apart his soul in a bid for immortality and instead hoped for something as complex as a soulmate. In this world, there was no diary to poison the mind of an eleven-year-old girl. And there would be no cursed locket, diadem, or cup. No child born of prophecy set to destroy an insane being.
There was hope.
Tom smiled at her, it was so bright and happy that Holly nearly felt her knees give out. Too attractive, he was too handsome and… and she might just fall for him- she might allow herself to- Holly turned to enable Tom to take hold of her hair, to tie the locket around her neck. And she locked eyes with her grandfather and grandmother who looked entirely too proud. The pendant dropped around her neck, lighter than it had ever been, warm in a way that had to be magical. Tom’s elegant fingers lingered on her neck, they brushed at her collar bone giving her a preview of the future and-
“What is going on here?!”
Tom’s hand froze on her neck, Holly’s eyes went wide as they both turned and found Hebzibah Smith standing a few feet away.
“Run?” Holly asked Tom.
“Run.” He agreed, he quickly released her hair, snatched up her hand, and the two of them apparated away. Fleamont and Euphemia were right behind them. All four of them fleeing the wrath of an enraged witch who was quickly distracted by the two left behind in her home. She caught them red-handed, with a dozen priceless artifacts in their hands.
The next day Dorea tackled Holly forcing her under a tickling spell in revenge: “you left us!” she hollered, “we had to get bailed out of jail.”
“Oh calm down, it was the ministry jail, and you were only in there for four hours max.” Fleamont drawled. He’d personally gone to pay off the right people with a large donation of galleons to free Dorea and Charlus both.
“My night was ruined! We were going to-”
“I don’t think we need details, cousin.” Holly interrupted playfully as she escaped the spell and fled Dorea’s grabbing range. As she did, the locket swung on her neck and Holly reached up to brush her fingertips against it.
She’d have to tell him. They’d get nowhere in a relationship if she kept so much of herself and her past secret. She knew she wouldn’t be able to withhold it to herself for long, she knew that eventually, Tom would find out, or he’d become frustrated with her inability to fully trust him.
She had to do it now; before she got attached, before she could lose and miss him with the revealed information.
She’d do it on her next date and hope it ended without blood.
“There’s something I need to tell you about my past.”
For Tom, a soulmate had been something he’d desired since the moment he’d known they’d existed. Initially, he desired that being, the perfect individual who was designed to love, treasure, and adore him. Tom wanted a family, he’d wanted proof he wasn’t a freak, he wanted his soulmate to adore him, and he desired them like every other childless orphan without family. Tom had been aware even back then that he wouldn’t get adopted and his only chance at love and family would come from that unknown person.
Then a child had been forgotten outside and had frozen to death one unfortunate winter. Tom would always remember the expression locked on his features as they dug him free, as the ambulance arrived to take him away, as the adults tried to shoo them. The matron’s didn’t explain death well after that, trying to hush the incident up instead of console them all. The matron installed an eternal fear into him, of what happened to people who didn’t find their soulmates, the permanent end. Tom still woke in the middle of the night every night that year, unable to breathe from the fear of it.
Immortality and his soulmate, they became his obsession. As he defended himself from the beastly children he was trapped with. When he was judged in an instant by the words of the matron who’d allowed a child to freeze to death. His soulmate remained his obsession even when he realized he wasn't a freak, he was magic. Even when the man known as Dumbledore would eternally judge him because of what the matron said. That the Slytherin’s would, the pure-bloods, the entire world would never accept him no matter what because his father had been a Muggle. It was fine, it was okay because his key to immortality, his soulmate would accept him, love him, cherish him-
Absolutely nothing could have prepared him for Holly Lily Potter.
Holly was nothing like he’d expected or dreamed of. She wasn’t this passive, vague idea in the back of his head. Holly wasn’t the blank face in his imagination; always accepting, blindly loving, and never questioning. Instead, she was... frustrating, unimaginably so, and was obstinate, argumentative, and frankly oppositional toward him explicitly. But, but Holly was also powerful, able to match his level of magic effortlessly and made him desire to grow more. Holly knew about the magic he had never even dreamed about and yet never bragged or taunted him over his lack of knowledge. Instead, she offered him a path to find the information himself and challenged him to find it. Holly was intelligent, matching him with ease. And she was oddly connected in a way that would bring forth his dreams when he had no hope of accomplishing them before she'd entered his life, and didn't ask for anything in return.
She wasn’t a blank canvass in his head, perfectly accepting and boring. Holly was her own person, the woman who bit the tip of her quill when she was deep in thought. She was the woman who couldn’t even reach the top of the bookshelves of her shelves, and instead of using magic or a ladder to put books away, she’d perch on her tiptoes and reach. Holly was the woman who would always try something new, activity, food or otherwise. Whose eyes lit up when he finally found the correct gift for her and whose eyes softened in fondness when he kissed her fingers in farewell during their date- and- and-
Bloody hell, Tom was actually in love with Holly.
He’d been fond of her when he’d gone behind her back to the Potter family. Managing to give her the ties to a family he lacked and always would with the Gaunt family. For the Potter’s were open, welcoming, and kind. They were everything Morfin and Marvolo were not. And while they had teased him, he’d been… pleased, to make that connection between them and Holly who for some unknown reason hadn’t contacted them. But after seeing her with them, between her accepting that first date and seeing her outside Hepzibah’s house to steal for a family activity, somewhere between those two moments he’d fallen. Suddenly the immortality she offered wasn’t as important as her being at his side for that time.
“-And you aren’t going to like it.”
He didn’t. Tom could admit he very much despised the story that came from her lips, but as much as he hated, he did reach an understanding. It was no wonder she had denied him, no wonder she’d held herself so close, no wonder she resisted him time and time again despite the fates decreeing their match.
Horcruxes, murder, insanity, the death of everything she loved, the end of their magic, traditions, and family lines surviving centuries destroyed by a being so horrifying that Tom couldn’t imagine it. Voldemort, a version of himself that could have destroyed everything, including the young man named Tom Riddle.
In Holly’s homeworld, he had done it, created a Horcrux, chased immortality into insanity, and had done that to her- his eyes flicked to the scar upon her brow and away.
“Voldemort and you…” Holly told him in her own quiet realization, “you are the same and yet so very different-”
“I will never be that thing.” Tom spat finding immediate offense. “I knew of this magic, I saw it, and I am not so moronic as to rend apart my soul, mind, and magic for such a false version of immortality.” His nose scrunched in complete disgust and he told her imprudently: “I will never become that creature, even should you deny me. I will simply have to craft for myself an artificial soulbond.” Not that he had to worry about it, he knew how this was a sign of her growing trust. He knew from one orphan to another, this was a test, her final test. A trial he would easily breeze through.
So he swore it to himself and to her upon his own magic, Voldemort would never exist in this reality. Ever.
“Oh.” Holly breathed her eyes full as she realized- as she understood-
Tom watched her cheeks tint pink and smirked; he’d been correct. A final test, a final barricade to her heart, the last thing holding her back from opening herself to a relationship and a future with him.
Tom reached forward and cupped her cheeks, picturing the future. He imagined the life they’d have, the discoveries they’d make, the world they’d build. He pictured the bond waiting for them, a family willing to accept them both. A life which ran endlessly into time. He imagined it all and knew that it time what he believed would one day pale in comparison to the real thing.
So he asked once more:
“Will you do me the honor of allowing me to court you Holly Potter?”
And Holly’s answer was as sure as the first time: