The art to being a Hufflepuff is this:
Individuals who go against the best interests of the house are not welcome.
A member of Hufflepuff is never alone, never without protection.
If you are worthy of respect, you will have it – but first you must prove yourself.
If you then overstep yourself, the house will withdraw its support and bury you.
If you cut a Hufflepuff out from the herd and let them hold the banner for their house, they will shine.
Tom Riddle enters his Sorting with an open mind and bites his lip as he sits under the Sorting Hat.
I recognise that blood, the Hat tells him, but blood is not all.
Good, Tom says, because he refuses to be second-class for being an orphan, refuses to be less just because he cannot name his great-great-great something grandfather. He cannot even name his mother, after all. He is better than that, anyway. He does not need to rely on whether or not his parents were magical in order to surpass them. When the other children on the train talked about their accidental magic, Tom wondered how they could be so pleased with 'accidental', why none of them seemed to want to go further, to harness it properly instead of waiting for the wands that they at least had known were coming.
Hunger for knowledge, hmm, the Hat says, and Tom feels it, strolling through his mind as if it has every right to be there. Tom has never felt more violated in his life, sitting on an old stool with a magical piece of headwear looking into everything he is and everything that has made him. He cannot stand this thing, this other just slipping into his head, through his memories, through his thoughts. Worse, it doesn't even care that it sits on Tom Riddle's head, reading Tom Riddle's thoughts.
Thirst to prove yourself, oh yes, but how exactly do you plan to do so? Do you plan to use your cunning? Will you win glory with courageous deeds or innovative spell work? Do you desire to be right at any cost, or is it simply winning that will assuage you?
I will change things, Tom says, pushes to the forefront of his mind the desire he felt, listening in on conversations all around him, about the merits of this house or that house, having the right blood, the right connections – the desire to prove them all wrong.
Certainly you will do that, the Hat chides, ignoring his thought. No matter how small the change, everyone who has ever sat beneath me has changed the world in some way, simply by existing.
Its presumption, even knowing what is within Tom's head, irritates him. I mean to do more, he says.
Ahh, the Hat says, sounding smugly amused. Tom feels a flash of anger, quick and fierce, like the first time Dennis Bishop pushed him into the mud for being weirdwrongfreak. Well, he learned not to do so again. So, Tom Marvolo Riddle, where to put you…?
Tom thinks upon it, remembers the brashness of the students in red and gold that made him think of the other children at the orphanage with their hurtful words and even more hurtful stones. He doesn't like the idea of being ruled by his emotions, by public image and what others think, or spending seven years around people who allow themselves to be ruled so.
Slytherin, then? The place that will recognise the blood in your mouth, the drive to succeed in your eyes?
He likes the snake upon their shield, and the mention of blood, of knowing where he came from, where the magic that is in him came from… it fills him with a desperate kind of hunger. But he thinks about the evaluative looks of the students in green and silver, the power plays that he watched them struggle with throughout an hours-long train journey, the boasting of centuries old tradition and blood that hasn't made them any more powerful. He doesn't like the idea with being content with now instead of future, with it's always been done this way, with my blood is strong so I am content to be less than I could be. Success, yes, he wants that, but there's no point if he's going to stop at what other people consider success. This new world seems to have atrophied standards.
Ravenclaw then, the Hat states with certainty.
Tom wonders at that certainty, and is distracted by the way his head itches and he can feel the people in the Hall moving restlessly the longer he sits, but he will not rush into this. Seven years of his life is worth the consideration. Though he craves to know everything about this new world where he is not weirdwrongfreak but magicrightwanted, the Ravenclaws seemed too interested in their books and theoretical problems, not interested enough in the application, in the social and political means necessary to see their advances make it through the mire of wizarding tradition. Each seemed to be content with being a leader of one, alone in their righteousness. Tom doesn't want to be merely one individual among many; what is the point in that?
Are you sure? the Hat wonders, insulting in its doubt.
Tom pushes once more to the forefront of his mind, the memory of conversations flowing around him, this time, the specifics: the merits of this house or that house, always ravenclaw wouldn't be too bad, but I'd prefer gryffindor/slytherin; Hufflepuff the butt of every joke. In him, the desire to prove them all wrong. Beneath his egotistical wish, an old, near-forgotten sense of longing: a desire to be valued, to have a place of his own, to be among people who won't sneer at the sight of him.
Didn't you say every house is worthy? Tom says, soft like the grass snake that once bit him on the wrist because he forgot she was wild and not a plaything to do his bidding just because he could speak her tongue.
Very well, the Hat says, and Tom senses pride for a moment – no one has ever been proud of Tom before, he might even forgive the Hat for its invasion of his mind, his very self – and it announces loud and clear: "HUFFLEPUFF!"
During his first few weeks at Hogwarts, Tom wakes automatically in the middle of the night, afraid. Of the shadows, of the idea that he might be dreaming and was really in the asylum, just where he had always been told he would end up.
Crazy Tom. Monstrous Tom. Tom who moved like a hungry ghost, detached from the world and with no way to make people see him, no way but pain and fear.
There are no trophies to hold and remind himself that he is more powerful than those that hate him, no familiar shadows, nothing at all like the orphanage and while that delights Tom in daylight, in the dark he is only frightened of unfamiliarity, like any other human being.
The difference that reassures him until dawn is this: he is not alone. No child at the orphanage would willingly share a room with Tom and he doubts an asylum would be any different. At Hogwarts, in the house of the loyal, he sleeps in a dormitory and nobody (yet) has flinched or tried to stay awake all night in an attempt be aware at all times of Tom and what he might be planning.
They are all so terribly trusting.
For instance: the first advantage he notes to being Hufflepuff is that Dumbledore stops looking at him like something he would scrape off his boot. Instead, if he looks at Tom at all he looks bemused, as if he cannot understand how someone so clearly destined for a house with a brain could end up in Hufflepuff. He seems to forget everything he heard of Tom at the orphanage, everything he despised without thought, simply because Tom now wears black and yellow.
(Everybody knows Hufflepuffs are loyal, dedicated, honest, willing. Even if the individual beneath the badge was solitary, cunning, sneaky, cautious.)
Tom knew – no, merely expected, it now seems – that Dumbledore would keep a close eye on him. He knew he had been careless in his excitement at the discovery that he was magical rather than 'a funny boy', he had revealed too much of himself. He shouldn't have been surprised by an utter stranger's rejection, it was just that this man was the first person he'd met that was like him, magical, and he thought – he had wanted to be welcomed, to know that finally he was going to belong. Instead, he was still the child nobody could stand.
But now, wearing a badger as camouflage, Tom receives almost exactly the same carelessly benevolent glances as every other Hufflepuff. This is enlightening in more than one way.
The second advantage to being in Hufflepuff is not an advantage – Tom realises he is looking at things from a 'Slytherin' viewpoint and must stop if he desires to succeed here – but something that he can benefit by.
Hufflepuff, quite simply, plays as a team, thinks as a tribe. It is curiously refreshing. Tom has never had people on his side before and now he does, just because a hat said Hufflepuff.
The motto of his new home is nobody left behind, and Tom notes that though they frequently finish last in the race – Hufflepuff goes by the pace of the weakest member – they always finish. They band together against outsiders (a ready made army, Tom thinks, and imagines that ferocity turned against those who harmed/will harm him) and will follow readily if it is proven that the one doing the leading is worthy of respect.
There is power hidden here, and Tom remembers a snake – he called her Amaunet and meant dark-scales-like-shadow-on-moonless-night – who taught him the most vital parts of being a snake: to be patient, to stay hidden, always know your own strength and make sure enemies underestimate it, strike and give yourself away only when you must.
He made a better choice than his contemporaries in other Houses credit him with.
He could be happy here, something he did not imagine for himself when the transfiguration teacher made his possessions rattle like Marley's chains to teach him a lesson.
(The lesson Tom learnt was not you should be moral because
It was: this is how it is because I say so, and if you don't follow these rules I will hurt you or make you afraid. So don't let me catch you. Very good advice, he found, when he stopped flinching at a certain wand movement.)
Tom is a natural Legilimens, though he doesn't know to call his ability that until his third year. The thoughts of others touch his every time he meets their eyes. Among Slytherins of a certain type he feels the unthinking loathing for mixed-bloods and mudbloods and muggles, feels among all of them their appraisal of him – their intent to use him. Among Gryffindors he can see their dismissive contempt and belief that a badger means weak and naïve and foolish. Among Ravenclaws he feels the curious, instinctive desire to dissect him whenever he shows himself to be unthinkingly brilliant, seek out the origin of his intelligence, his ability to do and be more than they themselves could hope for.
The thoughts of his housemates are unique in his experience. Certainly there is jealously and dislike and all those petty emotions he despises, but there is also a strong sense of house and clan and ours even when the person thinking dislikes Tom personally.
It is an intriguing puzzle, almost enough to balance out the bone-deep need in Tom to make sure nobody ever again thinks of him as something to use. He has never forgotten those times in the orphanage when his ability to influence the feelings of others backfired, resulted in ugly thoughts that made him flinch, made him hate, made him determined to stand alone and never be forced to depend on those with power over him.
He is forced to depend in Hufflepuff. Nobody has (so far) used it against him. The idea that he might get used to that unnerves him.
When Tom acted incorrectly for a Hufflepuff – when he didn't attend their first Quidditch game of the season, when he lashed out instinctively when another boy mocked him, when he didn't let himself be drawn into card games to pass the time – he knew immediately he had made a misstep. He felt in their heads their incomprehension of him, of his secrecy and detachment, his coolness in the face of friendship, but beneath those thoughts there was always the hat said Hufflepuff so he must belong here. Allowances would be made because regardless of how he acted he was still a Hufflepuff, a member of a select group, he belonged with them. He just needed help adapting, and no wonder, poor orphan, probably alone all his life.
That sort of unthinking allegiance is… useful.
He will adapt as he must, because he believes it will be worth it – that the strength hidden in Hufflepuff house is the kind to wear down mountains. It is simply a matter of working out how he must adjust. He cannot network as he would as a Slytherin, he cannot establish collegial alliances as a Ravenclaw, he cannot simply act as a leader and expect others to fall naturally into the follower role, as he would as a Gryffindor. Hufflepuff, arguably, requires more subtlety. He must first be part of them before he attempts to lead them.
Regardless, he will lead them.
"Tom, can you help me with my transfiguration homework?"
Tom looks warily at Elaine McKinnon, and then glances at the students scattered around the Common Room behind her. Their intent is to try to welcome him, to coax him slowly into becoming a working part of the house, something he would know from their studiedly casual glances even if he could not read their thoughts. There is no real pressure to their tenuous attempts to transform him (he suspects they believe him a little too damaged for the normal methods of making functional Hufflepuffs) but there is a time limit.
Nobody knows better than Tom that you have only a finite amount of time before everyone gives up on you, no matter the strength of their good intentions.
Well. It is good that they extend the olive branch, because Tom has to confess (to himself only) that for once he does not know how to proceed, how to go about truly integrating himself with these bizarre people who simply do not fit into his world-view, where everyone means harm and just hasn't got around to it yet.
"Certainly," he says, and indicates for her to sit in the unoccupied chair beside him, the one that has been empty since the first time he claimed the corner of the room for his own. "Show me what you have trouble with."
On his thirteenth birthday, Tom discovers tales of a secret chamber made by Slytherin and hidden somewhere in Hogwarts.
He has just passed his second Christmas at Hogwarts, and it has been entertaining and even quite enjoyable and he had received presents that didn't mean anything to him except that someone had wanted to give them to him. He suspects he will never quite get over the novelty of that.
He reads about it in one of his new books – the chamber of secrets, the author calls it, a fanciful name that makes him smile, even as his old-self, hungry-ghost-self twitches and tries to take control again.
The discovery is enough to keep him awake as the hours are counted down towards the new year, wandering the halls as he tries to consider this chamber of secrets objectively. He is not a Slytherin, though he possesses a serpent's tongue, and he is not a Ravenclaw, to desire knowledge badly enough to chase unsubstantiated rumours. He is a Hufflepuff, and the power of the house is hardly going to be won by Slytherin desires and means.
The thought of a secret chamber itches, just beneath his skin. If he were more fanciful, he would say it calls to him. Because he is a parselmouth, possessed of Slytherin's famous gift, and he knows nothing of his parents, of where they came from – it is entirely possible one of them might even have been a distant relative. If the Blacks and their like can trace their lines back to the middle ages, surely it shouldn't be too difficult to find a family tracing theirs to Salazar Slytherin.
It is the first time Tom has properly considered himself and his potential heritage in light of the wizarding world's oft-contradictory views, a lapse that would not have been permissible had he actually ended up in Slytherin's own house. There is a book with an off-putting title – Nature's Nobility, is it not? – where Tom could find the answers to his questions. He would have something behind him at last – family, if he is going to look at in a Hufflepuff fashion; meaning, if he is going to look at in a Slytherin way. If he enlisted help from his associates in the snake house, he might even be able to trace his family-
Hufflepuff, he reminds himself. Loyalty (but to what cause? Tom's if he can help it), honesty (not entirely the same thing as being truthful, as Tom well knows), hard work (the only way to truly guarantee achievement), effort (because a sufficiently determined wizard can learn to make up for a lack of magical power with creativity and skill and mastery of just one particularly effective spell) and dedication (to give up on a goal is unthinkable).
First he must concentrate on his house and his standing within it; only then can he distract himself with what ugly little secrets the history of his genesis must hold. And they must be ugly, because if they are not, how did his mother end up alone on the doorstep of a muggle orphanage on a cold winter night, nothing but the clothes on her back and the son in her belly?
On second thought, perhaps he does not want to know his history at all. Perhaps he should allow it to remain simply Tom Riddle, instead of making it conclusively Tom Riddle, son of, or Tom Riddle, descendant of or Tom Riddle, muggleborn. Let his own name be his definition, for Tom is certainly unique enough to warrant it.
The magical community as a whole places far too much importance on pureblood, halfblood, mudblood to suit him – it annoys him that they seem to think parentage is at all relevant. They shouldn't be worried about Tom's blood, they should be worried about his ability, about his mind, about his plans. They shouldn't worry about his parents being muggles or purebloods, beggars or royalty – they should worry about Tom.
(Of all his name, though, Tom has come to like the Marvolo of his grandfather best. It contains cold, formal, magical Latin – volo, to fly, or I wish/want/will – and nothing pleases Tom more than to believe it comes from this world rather than the circus and freak shows the orphans think he belongs in.)
He puts thoughts of the Chamber of Secrets away for another time and goes back to his Common Room to read political texts some helpful Ravenclaws traded to him for History of Magic notes.
War is being waged in muggle Britain, and London is being bombed as he returns to the orphanage the summer after his third year.
He keeps thinking that surely someone will notice he is going into a war zone every summer, but they never do – or if they do, they don't care. The muggles are sending their children away for their own safety as Tom walks through the train station and the wrongness of it all, it is like – like a scale grown inwards beneath old-near-shed skin, because Tom cannot think how to put it in human words. It isn't unnatural, can't be a betrayal, because Tom hasn't given his trust for it to be betrayed.
He spends three days surrounded by an inescapable miasma of uncertainty and fear, listening just as intently as any other orphan for the wails of the air raid sirens. He is reminded that he is still human, as mortal as his mother as he huddles in the dark with the rest of the children, willing the bombs not to fall on their heads, hoping (not trusting, as he always has before) that his magic will make that wish a reality.
On the morning of the fourth day, several of his classmates find him, and insist he leave with them.
It takes him half a minute to remember to ask about protective spells and wards for the orphanage – he never intends to go back again, and if Hufflepuff loyalty has anything to say about it, he won't, but one should never underestimate Dumbledore.
Beaming smiles from everyone unnerves him for a moment, briefly, until he realises they assume he is thinking about the safety of the muggles he grew up with. He has not been vocal, exactly, with his… dislike, but he has quietly made it clear that his time pre-Hogwarts was not a happy one, and his housemates have respected his confidence and his opinion and declined to ask further.
Touching his housemates' minds briefly, imperceptibly, feeling their sincere, wholehearted belief in his virtue, their desire to oh-so carefully shelter and assist the fragile flame of his improved good will to others – Tom almost wishes he cared whether the muggles died.
Still, he asks for their protection – because if he does not succeed in his goals, cannot change this, one day another magical orphan may grow up here, will have to return summer after summer to a world learning to destroy whole cities in a night. He has learned something of solidarity, at least.
"When I leave Hogwarts," Tom says afterwards in the Longbottoms' home, his hands still shaking – though they are polite enough to ignore this, "I want to be in a position where I can make sure no muggle-raised ever has to go back to something like that during the summer."
"A worthy ambition," his classmate's cousin-by-marriage says, watching Tom with the curious, dispassionate sentiment of a Slytherin, judging both his merit and the likelihood of his success.
"I swear it," Tom says, voice so close to a hiss someone without the blessing of parseltongue might confuse it for an actual snake.
She doesn't look quite so dismissive after that.
Before Tom had a word for what he was, before he knew there was a completely different world, waiting for him, he knew that the way to make something of himself was to seek as much knowledge as he could. He had enough strikes against him, being penniless, being an orphan, having no patron – a lack of education would truly bury him. He learned to thirst for knowledge with the same unquenchable passion as he did for power, and the only thing that has changed in his new/old/home world are the avenues he can pursue.
Tom is not happy simply knowing enough. He wants to know everything – how to craft spells, the best way to guard a place without making it obvious that someone desires to protect it, is there a protection from the killing curse, why is a wand essential, what do other cultures use if not wands in order to focus their magic, why does one incantation work with a certain wrist movement but not another?
It seems to him that too many people take magic for granted – purebloods because they have been raised that way, muggle-born because they are simply shocked and delighted to be magical in the first place – and they forget to ask why a spell works and simply trust that it will. That isn't the point, surely.
"You should have been a Ravenclaw," Lucretia Black jokes as he explains to her where exactly she is going wrong with her attempts at a Blasting Curse, and getting distracted by how it differs from Expulso by causing an explosion using heat as opposed to pressure.
"I am perfectly content," Tom says, and finds that he is. His definition is a little different to Black's, obviously, for she makes a face and sticks her tongue out at him.
"I did not want to be Ravenclaw," Tom tells her sharply, irritated – ah, Hufflepuff loyalty has managed to creep into him – by her presumption that anyone would prefer Ravenclaw to Hufflepuff.
"So you chose Hufflepuff?" she demands, incredulous, and Tom's temper, still as fierce as ever it was in the orphanage, though twice as patient, rears its head like a snake.
"Yes," he tells her, feeling the attention of his own house members from all over the library. "Because Hufflepuff achieves things, is willing to work together to achieve things. What are you eagles doing in your ivory tower?"
She opens her mouth to reply, seems to feel at last the heavy weight of the Hufflepuffs' attention, and shuts it again without a word. It does not do to insult Hufflepuff house where it can hear. Together – and the members of Hufflepuff are always together – they are formidable.
"Never mind, Tom," she tells him when he escorts her back to her Common Room. "I consider you an honorary Ravenclaw."
"Indeed," Tom says blandly, wiping her parting kiss off his cheek.
Tom makes himself noticed. It isn't very difficult. He likes learning about what makes him special and though he is careful never to show exactly how much he knows about areas of magic Hogwarts doesn't have on the curriculum – those secrets he hoards like the orphans and their sweet rations – he no longer minds helping with the basics.
He is naturally gifted, Slughorn raves, and Tom smiles politely and doesn't bother making false claims of modesty. He doesn't need to know if he's pureblood or not to know he has magic in his blood, in his bones, why should he deny his own talent?
He watches Slughorn intently, determined to discover all the inner workings of his Slytherin network. Tom could never be content with being a kingmaker, but the Slug Club has its merits.
"You should have been a Slytherin," Avery laments one meeting, watching him with that look Tom despises and craves in equal measure – that hunger simply to be close to Tom, because Tom shines and anyone who stands near him is afforded a little of his gleam. "Slytherin would have made a real success of you."
Tom looks at him and smiles. Avery flinches. "I will be a 'real success', as you put it," he drawls. "And just think how much greater it shall be, for having been a Hufflepuff."
Avery nods, secure in his belief that Tom means he is fighting against his Sorting to achieve what he desires, whereas Tom means that Hufflepuff will help him achieve his goals in a way Slytherin would not. Tom wonders that a member of a house that prides itself on its cunning can be so easily duped.
Tom has done his research. The three most powerful positions a wizard can hold as far as magical Britain is concerned: Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, Headmaster of Hogwarts and Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederacy of Wizards.
Minister of Magic sounds very well, but is merely an appointive office, elected by the Wizengamot, unable to legislate anything without the Wizengamot's approval. Still, should one have the charisma, the mindset and the information networks, it is possible to make up much of the practical power the position lacks. He will have to consider it further.
He lets Slughorn drag him around and show him off like a prize pet, and thinks that if he gained nothing else from this experience, at least Slughorn is learning to look at other houses beside his own for promising futures, to ignore a lack of connections if the talent is great enough.
Slughorn intends for Tom to go far. Tom intends to go further than Slughorn can even dream.
Hufflepuff wins the House Cup for the first time in eighteen years at the end of Tom's fourth year.
They don't know what to do with their success, cheer themselves hoarse at the feast and then simply look at each other, astonished and confused as to what to do.
How terrible it is that they are so used to disappointment, Tom thinks, and expresses the thought quietly when things go calm and introspective.
"We're not losers," McMillan says, looking at Tom with all the stubborn ferocity of their mascot, his thoughts going always them and never us and teach them and about time they saw.
"That's not what I said," Tom says placidly, and looks deliberately at the other houses, shrugging off Hufflepuff's win as a fluke, a lucky chance.
"We're not," McMillan says, hands clenching.
"Then we need to prove it, don't we," Tom says, aware that every one of his housemates is watching him. "And this is one of the ways the other houses judge us."
"It doesn't mean anything much," Prewett says, glancing at the Cup. "Not as much as they think it means."
"Of course," Tom concedes. "But that's precisely the point. The other houses think that cup means something, sees that we don't care, and judge us by their own standards and think that means we have no enterprising spirit, no desire to succeed."
They look at Tom, look at the House Cup. He can feel how his blunt declaration rankles at them. Tom doubts it has ever occurred to them to actually want the Cup before, thinks that they'd much rather know all their students will make credible witches and wizards than worry about getting points for making sure the teachers know their worth.
"What Hufflepuff needs," Tom says softly, "is respect."
The greater Tom's power grows – the more he allows himself to stand out from the crowd and take control, the more his house and others look to him for answers – the more attention he gets from Dumbledore.
It is a pity, because within Hogwarts' walls Dumbledore is powerful, can deny Tom whatever he cares to. He had almost lulled himself into forgetting the lesson Dumbledore taught him the day he gave him Hogwarts – this is how it is because I say so, and if you don't follow...
It irritates him, the unnecessary reminder. Tom is not eleven any more, cannot be frightened by having his few possessions set alight with a word. It is too late for Dumbledore to try and control him this way.
Tom is bright, charming and articulate and takes care never to rouse his suspicions in any way, yet Dumbledore watches him like a Slytherin now, like Tom is something to worry about and his power something to quash. Clearly, too much talent and it is possible to forget that a student is a Hufflepuff, and what damage could a Hufflepuff do?
Tom wanted to stay in Hogwarts, feels something for her as close to love as is possible, but there is no chance of that now – not with Dumbledore frowning at him, remembering all Mrs Cole's little stories.
It angers Tom, Dumbledore's presumption that the muggle must have the right of things. Particularly when he knows Dumbledore thinks about as little of muggles as Tom does – he must, or else he wouldn't call them muggles, that pitying, dismissive word saying powerless, foolish, subhuman, empty husk without magic. 'Muggle' makes Tom think of 'nigger', of the absolute power one person can have over another and how it can be expressed casually in a single word.
Mrs Cole told him stories about Tom – Tom knew it, could see it in her head with those sudden twisting thoughts that were out of place, that had a magic tang of compulsion Tom recognised – and Dumbledore believed her, didn't even bother to consider Tom's side, even though she was magicless and therefore a nonentity as far as wizards are typically concerned.
Never mind that Tom was the only magical child in the orphanage, and a powerful one at that. Never mind that he was constantly aware that he had something they lacked – that he was powerful and they were not. Never mind that he had but one way to defend himself, to make himself known, understood, and alone. Never mind that they were many and Tom was one and the first thing he asked was if Dumbledore was from an asylum. Never mind.
Tom has people on his side now – a quarter of Hogwarts, willing to follow – and he has determination, a desire to succeed and the willingness to work hard to back it up. As long as he knows what he's aiming for and keeps that knowledge from Dumbledore as long as he can, there is not much Dumbledore can do to stop him.
(Deep beneath Hogwarts, a basilisk sleeps. Tom can think of better things to do.)
One day, it will be Tom who makes the rules others have to follow.
He is working his way through the Ministry, from Head of Department to more powerful Head of Department.
("What does he do?"
He is researching magics that were old when the Romans burned the sacred wand groves.
(In Britain magic began in caves and under stars, among standing stones and in forest hearts. Kings bent to the words of the magicians, magicians did not ply tricks for kings.)
He is getting laws passed to give muggleborn children the same chances and rights as purebloods.
(He will talk often to the powerful pureblood families willing enough to concede that a talented muggleborn is occasionally a good investment. He will talk more to equally powerful pureblood families of a different sort, and there he will talk of gradually eliminating the things that make muggleborns so distasteful to them – he will talk of making lessons in wizarding traditions and culture compulsory, of having muggleborns raised by pureblood families – if those children are seriously disadvantaged or endangered by their living conditions among muggles. But, he will explain, it means that the muggleborns must have opportunities in the first place upon leaving Hogwarts, or else they return the muggle world and seven years of schooling (and a great deal of galleons) is lost.
Support the bill for muggleborn rights, he will say, and then press for greater protection of wizarding traditions, or make it a condition of your support. The Ministry is eager to be seen as fair and unbiased, after all. Make them prove it.)
He is crafting spells.
(For battle: Norse – blood and thunder, honour and passion, Odin's runes carefully scribed.
For powerful spells: Aramaic – rich, passionate, full of inflection. abhadda kedhabra to avada kedavra. From telling an illness to disappear like this word to telling a life I destroy as I speak and having it heard.
For average spells: Latin – cold, formal and distant, ideas rather than emotions, intent easily imposed upon literal meaning.
For emotion-based spells: Anglo-Saxon – forceful, direct, vulgar and unceremonious.
For the joy of creating: French – delicacy, subtlety and precision. The exactness is what pleases him most - the reason there is a saying 'that feeling you can only say in French'.)
He is creating rites.
(Flesh, blood, bone. Heart, mind, soul. Three essential components. Love, hate, family. Three powerful forces. It is remembering muggle fairytales, filled with old formulaic magic even the non-magic could recognise, from which his best ideas take root and grow.)
He is in the heart of the Department of Mysteries.
(He has a different name there, a shadowed face, and a phrase in black ink curled about his wrist that cannot be seen when he leaves. There might have been a sphere with his name on it in the Hall of Prophecies, but something happened to it late one night.)
He is teaching at Hogwarts.
(He might be the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, passionate about his subject and filled with the desire to help others see the beauty and wonder hidden in the darkness and the light and how they complement each other. He might be the Potions teacher, and thereby reach into every potential work sphere from Healing to Unspeakable. He might be the Transfiguration teacher and remark, in that mild, sensible way he has when someone finally gets the hint and asks why instead of how for once, that an animagus registry really was a rather odd thing to have as part of the Improper Use of Magic office and wonder aloud just why that was so and be drawn into a debate about the regulations that govern magic use. He might be the Ancient Runes teacher, and teach both respect for great power and the desire to understand it before using it. He might be the Astrology teacher, the Care of Magical Creatures, even the Divination teacher. There is always a way to make these things work.)
He is listening to the whispers in Knockturn Alley.
(Borgin and Burkes is a fascinating place, filled with rare, dangerous, wonderful pieces of magic, and the things you can learn about every conceivable type of customer just by being quiet and unobtrusive are really… interesting.)
He is crafting an invisible web of power that reaches across the length and breadth of magical Britain, containing individuals and organisations of unique capabilities – and every thread is controlled by him.
His supporters are everywhere – Hufflepuff loyalty, Ravenclaw intellectual curiosity, Slytherin ambition, Gryffindor desire for glory, he can use it all.
(The thought occurs: why stop at magical Britain?)
Hufflepuffs are never looked at the same way again.