Harry was seven when Tom Marvolo Riddle appeared on top of his heart. It was etched in a deep dark black, the l's and d's interconnecting with their loops in cursive. It was utterly beautiful, and little Harry spent the better part of the night tracing over them with his pointer finger in front of the mirror.
He couldn't wait to tell his twin, James Potter, about his soul mark in the morning. James had gotten his soul mark when he was only five, and had crowed on about it for the better part of the two years. Against All Odds featured prominently on his right shoulder, and James had taken to repeating the phrase whenever possible. Harry figured it was a beautiful phrase and that James had a wonderful soul mate that embodied those words.
His parents weren't so pleased when they saw his name. In fact, his mother had shrieked with horror and not the joy that had accompanied her shriek when she had seen James' soul mark.
She had buried her face into her husband's chest, almost as if she couldn't bear to see the black markings on her son. Harry stood, dumbfounded, his little arms outstretched as if he could somehow comfort his mother.
His father's eyes were hard, and his body stern as he knelt in front of Harry. "Listen," he had said, his mouth drawn into a hard line, "Never let anyone see your mark."
Harry nodded, still confused; he had learned this rule a long time ago when they had first lectured James on it. He knew he had to keep his soul mark hidden; soul marks were a private thing and bad things happened when your soul mark was left bare to see.
His parents left almost immediately after the parting words, grabbing their cloaks and kissing James good-bye on the forehead before departing with a loud crack.
It wasn't long before things changed. Harry tried not to blame the changes on himself; it wasn't his fault that his parents didn't like his soul mark and subsequently didn't like him as much. He had used to be the favorite of the two brothers; with James' rowdiness and tendency to cause trouble, it wasn't difficult to like Harry better. But suddenly, his parents had started to shower all their affection on James and seemed to like to pretend that Harry didn't exist. They didn't ignore him, per se; they still hired expensive tutors for him and tried to teach him magic to the best of their ability. But they didn't give him the same warm affection they had used to, and Harry didn't understand why.
Harry tried his best not to mind; he spent the better part of his days in the library with the practice wand his mother and father had bought him. Magic came easy to him, and it always delighted him whenever he accomplished a spell on his first try.
It was a hot summer afternoon that Harry conquered his fears and looked up his soul mate.
It didn't take long to find Tom Marvolo Riddle; Harry had first tackled the history books and had found him listed in the index of the History of Hogwarts. Harry had traced the name on the page for a minute with a quivering finger, his heart beating erratically in nervousness. He flipped the pages until he saw his soul mate's name, and read on until the lights in the sky had died.
There wasn't much on his soul mate. However, there were glowing accolades about how he was Head Boy during his studies at Hogwarts and one of the best professors of Defense against Dark Arts the school has ever had.
Harry hungered to know more, especially since his parents had reacted so unfavorably when they had heard his name.
He devoured the words within a few minutes, and was left sorely disappointed.
Still, it was a lot to digest. His soul mate was obviously much older than him. However, age was no matter to soul mates, so Harry tried his best not to let that fact bother him. And his soul bound was obviously very skilled in magic, something that had thankfully passed onto Harry.
He found a book on soul mates next, finishing it in a couple of hours. Soul mates were destined to share the same proficiency of magic, which made sense considering it was magic that had destined them to be together in the first place. The marking was known to be obscure; it was only special cases that one soul mate was given the full name of the other. Harry worried quite a bit over the fact he had been given his soul mate's whole name; he suspected that they were destined to have quite the harsh fate in the future if this part was made so easy for them.
The most gruesome part was the line that read if a soul mate ever turned a wand on his bonded, the soul mate would suffer a fatality. To little Harry, who hadn't known violence or death yet, the sentence was chilling. To think that someone would ever reject their soul mate was something that Harry didn't want to comprehend.
He wondered what mark Tom Riddle had, what words could possibly encompass who Harry was.
His dreams that night consisted of no one but Tom.
Tom Riddle became a saint in Harry's eyes. Whenever things got tough, Harry would turn his dreams inward, hoping that one day his Intended would save him from the harsh looks and environment that housed his family. He wondered constantly what kind of man Tom Riddle was, and searched desperately for any kinds of information he could find on the man.
He was eight when he finally got his answer. Charlus Potter, his uncle and a man that was more of a father than his real one, had finally told him the truth one cold winter night. They were in front of the fireplace and Harry had just withstood a scolding from his mother for using too explosive spells. It wasn't Harry's fault that Bombarda reacted so well with his magic. He had blasted the tree from its roots, and the wood had turned into ashes a second later, melting the snow it had fallen on.
Charlus had praised him after his mother had left, and then had continued on a vein that Harry hadn't expected.
His intended was a Dark wizard. And not just any Dark wizard, but the leader of the faction that his family was firmly against. It was no wonder his parents had reacted so horribly when they had learned his intended was Tom Riddle, and it suddenly became clear on why they favored James Potter so much more than him.
Harry couldn't stop the tears from rolling down his cheeks, and was shocked when Charlus pulled him into a hug. "Harry, being Dark isn't something that you should fear," he had said, gently. "My wife, Dorea, she's a Black, a family known for being Dark. She's Dark, but I'm still Light. Your parents are too narrow-minded to look past that, but you can prove them wrong."
Harry kept those words close to him in heart the next couple of years, even though his mind was still whirling at the fact that his intended was the Dark Lord. He had learned more about him from Charlus, and had been horrified at the amounts of Unforgivables the Dark Lord was known for using. Dark Magic was scary, and Harry was absolutely terrified that he would turn Dark despite his uncle's reassurances. After all, he was sharing magic with the Darkest Wizard of them all.
Things got worse. When he was eleven, his parents did something that no pureblooded family should ever do; they designated James Potter as heir even though Harry was twelve minutes older. Harry had hidden that night, tears falling down his cheeks and hands covered over his ears as the shouting from down below floated up into his bedroom.
"You idiots," snarled Charlus Potter, the younger brother to Harry's father. "You never should have done this."
"Please, Charlus," said Harry's mother, "think of your health. There is no reason to be so worked up over it."
"No reason...!" There was a pause, and then a loud sigh was heaved. After a long pause, Charlus continued in a significantly calmer voice. "Everyone will know that Harry Potter was deemed unworthy of being heir! Is that what you want for your son?"
"My son?" asked Harry's father, and Harry could imagine how his father's face was contorted into one of deep disgust because of how often it had been aimed at him lately. Harry shivered violently at his father's next words, a new onslaught of tears making its way down his face. "He is no son of mine! He's destined to be the Dark Lord's mate!"
"You don't know that," argued a female voice, and Harry vaguely recognized it as Charlus' wife, Dorea Potter.
"He's marked with Tom Marvolo Riddle," spat out his mother. "The next Dark Lord."
"Yes, but that doesn't mean -"
"It means he's destined to be Dark," scorned his father, "and no son who is Dark is a son of mine."
"In fact, if it wasn't for Dumbledore, we probably would have disowned him already."
"I'll have you know," spoke a quiet, but no less deadly voice, "my family was also Dark."
There was a long pregnant pause before Harry's mother continued, "Well, yes, but you married Charlus."
"I am still a Black, even if my last name is now Potter," continued Dorea, her voice dripping with scorn.
"You can't be feeling sympathy for the boy," said Harry's father, incredulous. "We are a Light family, we can't be off raising a Dark son. And besides that, knowing what we do, it hardly seems plausible for us to waste resources on a son leaning toward the Dark when we have one so firmly Light."
There was a long pause, only to be broken by his mother's stern voice. "The heir naming ritual has already finished and there's nothing left to be done. Let us get ready for the celebrations."
Harry ended the eavesdropping spell with a simple wave of his wand and was promptly startled by a sudden sound. He turned, blinking wet, glistening green eyes at the envelope that sat in front of him, a wry smile crossing his lips as he looked at the crisp parchment.
His Hogwarts letter had arrived at last.
Harry got his first glimpse of his soul bound in Diagon Alley. He was tall, handsome, and absolutely stunning. True to the pictures he had seen in the history books, Professor Tom Riddle possessed silky brown locks and piercing red eyes all set into a truly regal face. But beyond the expensive robes and the fit physique lay a haze of magic power that seemed to permeate the surroundings around him. It was simply intoxicating and Harry found himself in a daze as he got his first feel of his mate's magic.
Even though he knew that the man in front of him was a Dark Lord and certainly dangerous, Harry couldn't help himself. He had to hear his mate speak.
Luckily his parents weren't paying much attention to him; they were too focused on buying James Potter the newest broom out, certain that their favorite son would be on the Quidditch team in no time. He was easily able to slip away from them, getting through the crowd fast enough to catch another glimpse of the Dark Lord entering Flourish and Blotts.
He was just following his soul mate down a corridor filled to the brim of books when he was suddenly ambushed by the very person he had been following.
Up close, Tom Riddle was even more stunning. Harry was close enough to see the stunning quality to those red eyes that seemed to entrance so many others, and close enough to inhale his scent. Harry was struck dumb by the way the man's magical power seemed to surround him, and he felt instantly inferior even though he knew magic had made them equal.
He stuttered and stammered out a series of words that he was sure didn't make sense, a heavy flush making his way to his cheeks. The Dark Lord looked indulgent of his actions, a sense of amusement in his expression. Harry only blushed even harder when he noticed; he must look a right sight next to the taller Lord when he was only eleven and reached up to the man's chest.
"The Potters' disgraced son, hm?" asked Tom Riddle, and Harry shivered at the sound of it. It was every bit as delicious and wonderful as he thought it would be and despite the amount of absolute danger he was in, found himself not regretting his impulsive action. After all, he could now memorize the husky voice of his Intended and imprint it into his memory forever.
"Have you come to regain your honor for your family?" continued the Professor when Harry made no move to reply. "You're many years too early to be a match for me."
"I," stammered out Harry, his mind searching frantically for a reason for why he had been following the older man. He half wanted to just lift his shirt and show the words printed on his chest; the words that had been a burden from the very moment they had appeared. He wanted to tell the Dark Lord that Harry was his and that they were meant to be forever and ever, but ...
Harry couldn't betray his family like that. Even though he knew his mother and father were extremely disappointed in him, he couldn't help wanting to prove them wrong. That he was Light and not Dark, and he could be the son that they had always wanted him to be. And besides his parents, he couldn't leave James behind like that.
James had pulled him aside before they had left on the shopping trip, his brown eyes fierce and determined as he spoke, "You can't turn Dark, Harry, you're my twin. You can't let Him win. And forget Mom and Dad, you're Light, Harry, and I don't care what they say."
The warmth of his brother's hug stayed with him all throughout morning, even when the sting of his parents' rejection had gone down to his very core.
Letting the Dark Lord know would ruin everything. And there was no guarantee that he was even the Dark Lord's soul mate; there had been instances of one sided loves, and with the way Harry's luck was going in the world...
"I wasn't following you," ended Harry, and immediately turned red at the sight of Tom Riddle's delicately raised eyebrow.
"You weren't," said the Dark Lord flatly, and although Harry squirmed under his heavy gaze, Tom Riddle's lips were suddenly upturned. "I am curious, though, why do your parents think you'll turn Dark?"
Harry frantically strengthened his barriers, thanking the Heavens that any mentions of soul marks and soul mates were protected from Legilimency. How could he forget that he wasn't dealing with a regular Hogwarts Professor and dealing with a very intelligent and intrigued Dark Lord. "That's - you're not allowed to use Legilimency on a minor!"
"And who do you think they'll believe?" asked Riddle, and this time his lips were definitely in a smile, even though it looked more predatory than happy. "The esteemed Professor of Hogwarts or the young Potter who couldn't even muster up enough magic to be considered as Heir?"
In that moment, Harry hated his soul mate.
"You're a right git," he snarled.
"Tsk, tsk," mocked the Dark Lord, a slight feral grin on his face, "Young children like you shouldn't be using such language."
He was suddenly grateful that he hadn't lifted his shirt, that Tom Riddle had no idea that his name was currently etched onto Harry's skin. He clenched his hand into a tight fist, wanting to use magic to lash out at the arrogant Lord, but knowing that it would be useless against his soul mate.
"Answer the question, little Potter. I am growing impatient."
He knew he shouldn't; he didn't want the Dark Lord to know how truly proficient he was in magic or else he would know that Harry shared his magic. He wanted to stay hidden, but at the same time, he really didn't know how to answer and he wouldn't put it past the Dark Lord to kidnap him. After all, he wasn't even sure if his family would care enough to search for him even if he did go missing. And he could always blame it on accidental magic later.
When he opened his eyes again, he was back in the Quidditch shop. Luckily, no one had noticed him, not even the shopkeeper who was busy interacting with a large family.
Harry breathed a sigh of relief, hoping that the Dark Lord would forget about the encounter within a couple of days. It didn't take him long to find his family again, and he was grateful that James had finally gotten his broom. James gave him a funny look, probably having noticed his disappearance, and then locked arms with Harry, silently forbidding any more running off. Harry didn't mind, he certainly wasn't planning to confront the Dark Lord one on one anymore. After all, he wasn't sure he would live to see the end of the day if he was stuck in such a bad situation anymore.
But...it was worth it, because his intended was utterly beautiful. He would never forget those red eyes as long as he lived.
Back in Flourish and Blotts, one Tom Riddle stood with his lips turned upward into a lazy smirk. "Harry Potter, hm?" he murmured, and lost in thought, departed to finish preparing for the now more interesting school year.