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Harry stood next to his friends at a very familiar place, staring at an equally familiar train. Fond memories swirled in his mind and danced before his eyes: finally escaping from the Dursleys after long, long summers, going back to his only home. Meeting Ron and Hermione again, often after scarce correspondence.

There were some differences, however, starting with the additions to the people who surrounded him. Hermione wasn’t already dressed in her school robes reading a book, but conversing with Andromeda Tonks, for one, and Ron wasn’t excitedly sharing sweets with him, but grinning madly at three of his nephews, while his eldest niece Victoire rolled her eyes at the ‘motivational speech’ her cousins and sister were receiving. It was supposed to ‘make sure they all landed in Gryffindor right away’.

Harry sighed fondly at the Weasley clan’s antics, but he also had speeches to deliver. Namely, to one Edward ‘Ted’ Lupin right in front of him, clasping a smaller figure’s shoulders.

“Teddy, remember what I said,” he began. “Make sure he doesn't get in trouble, alright?”

“Oh come on, dad! I won't!” James protested petulantly, crossing his arms. “I’m older now, I’ll get in Hogwarts. Can't you trust me for once?”

“It’s because you're about to get in Hogwarts that I’m not trusting you, James,” The Deputy Head Auror said, exasperation in his voice. “Stuff from Uncle George’s shop is forbidden, no sneaking out after curfew, no badmouthing Snape if you stumble upon his portrait-“

“Uncle Harry,” his teenaged godson interrupted with a smile. His hair was a more natural shade for once, a dark blond, but his eyes were a flashy orange. “Don't worry so much. Besides, a little birdie has told me that you used to get in lots of trouble during your Hogwarts years.”

“Hear, hear!”

“Oi, stop conspiring against me, you two,” Harry grumbled, a flush creeping up his neck. “That is not the point. You really don't want to face Headmistress McGonagall’s wrath, James. She’s got claws.”

Teddy choked in sudden laughter, while the eleven year old looked at them in confusion. He’d get the joke in a few days’ time, Harry thought.

“Dad, dad!” A higher voice called him, and the man who used to be the Boy-Who-Lived turned around to see long, ginger hair and three children. “Mum bought muggle soda for Hugo, Rose and I. Do you want some?”

Harry chuckled, accepting a red can from his middle son and taking a sip. “She did?” The drink returned to young fingers, and his niece Rose nodded.

“Yes, but I had to help. Aunt Ginny almost hexed the vending machine open when she thought it kept her change,” she explained, acting like a cultural bridge like her mother and Harry himself often found themselves doing in their youth.

“It’s not my fault they don't come with instructions,” his ex-wife jokingly complained, arms crossed in a grumpy gesture so similar to her son’s.

The following minutes were spent with James complaining about not getting his own can of Coca-Cola, and his brother shooting back that he got to attend Hogwarts instead. Harry shook his head. “Did your mum send a Patronus yet?”

“Yes. Lily’s still got a fever. …you don't mind if she stays at the Burrow for a few more days, do you? I told her that too much ice cream would give her a cold, I should have placed a locking charm in the freezer-“

“Gin, it’s okay, really,” Harry assured her. “She loves it in there, and Albus and I can wait a few days, can't we?”

Lots of things could have gone wrong when Harry and Ginny got divorced, all things considered. They could have ended up hating each other, hurting their children’s feelings, fighting endlessly over custody or what belonged to whom. Against all odds, they stayed in more than good terms and raised their children showing a united front. Harry liked to think that he’d lost a wife, but got regained a close friend.

Some people asked them why they didn't remarry already, but things were never that simple. Sometimes, relationships like theirs, since Hogwarts, worked. Sometimes they didn't, and that was okay.

“Have you talked to your cousin yet?” Ginny’s voice brought him out of his thoughts. Harry sighed.

“No, not yet. I think I will go for a visit sometime soon, but not here. Not now.” It had been a shock to find one Dudley Dursley at platform 9¾ with his wife and eldest daughter, one he wasn’t ready to tackle just yet. Harry as all about family, but when it came to the Dursleys, he was fairly reluctant to approach them outside of typical, obligatory holiday meetings.

Ginny looked like she was about to say something, but a loud voice called for all students to get on the train. Both parents hugged James tightly in farewell, and he had the faintest dusting of pink on his cheeks at the public display of parental affection.

The last thing Teddy Lupin did before closing his train compartment window was to offer them a mock-salute and a grin.

 

-----

 

Harry, Ginny and Albus were taking a walk around Godric’s Hollow. The two adults were discussing the unexpected newcomer at King’s Cross, while their middle son busied himself with his pet ferret, trunk with his belongings already at Harry’s house.

When little Albus had said the previous year that he wanted a ferret, Harry had chortled into his fist, while Ron guffawed loudly and then suggested they get one and name it ‘Malfoy’. That afternoon had been filled with Ginny and the ‘Golden Trio’ reminiscing funny stories of their time at Hogwarts, to five very young people’s delight and attentiveness.

Ultimately, the poor animal hadn't been named after a pureblood family name, but ‘Pluizig’. Another trait of Ginny’s that had passed over to their children was her knack for terrible names, it seemed. ‘I’ll remind you that Dumbledore’s Army was my idea and everyone seemed okay with that name!’ she defended, indignant, whenever Harry brought it up.

"Are you sure you’re alright with this?” Ginny asked, placing a hand on her friend’s shoulder. “We both know how the Dursleys affected you. We have been visiting for the kids’ sake, but you don't have to talk to that git if you don't want to.”

“Gin… I have to. He’s… he’s my cousin, and I still remember how my uncle and aunt reacted when they got my Hogwarts letter. He might have managed a quick trip to Diagon, but…” Harry was rambling at this point, and he messed with his fringe to cover his scar, a nervous habit he hadn't grown out of. “Look. I can tell he loves that child to death, but there’s just so much he doesn't know. He doesn't know that accidental magic will most likely have stopped by the first Christmas break but can come back if she’s angry, he doesn't know about magical growth spurts, anything about the Ministry… he will not like it, I will not like it, but there’s stuff he needs to understand if we want my niece to be happy.”

“I know that, Harry. I just don't like the idea of you having a friendly chat with him, who was raised as a bigot, on how to deal with his magical daughter.” The once Potter shook her head, lips pressed into a thin line.

“To be honest? I’m surprised my mum’s magical genes survived Uncle Vernon’s DNA,” Harry attempted to joke, which earned him a light chuckle. “I’ll be alright. He’s behaved okay so far since the… since the war, and… Besides. D’you know who else was raised as a bigot? Malfoy. And he turned out to be decent at the end, didn't he?”

“…well, I still think he’s a prat. But he’s a tolerable prat,” Ginny snorted. “Don't tell Ron I said that, though – he’d never let me live it down.”

Harry smirked at the remark, relaxing a little. His aunt, uncle and cousin were still a somewhat awkward subject for him, but the knowledge that now he had a tightly knit group of friends, other blood relatives, and his children to brighten up his days, made any problems easier to deal with.

“Dad!” Ah. Speaking of his children, Al had been walking ahead, with his ferret draped over his left shoulder and clutching on to his neck and shirt for dear life. He was near the village’s small cemetery, and Harry frowned at the route they’d unintentionally taken in their stroll. As they walked closer, the nine year old’s voice got significantly quiet. “Dad, there’s… someone crying in front of that man’s headstone.”

Harry didn't need to be given a name or a title to know who the man in question was. Albus didn't know the details, only that there was an evil Dark Lord whom his dad defeated during war, and he was the reason why he had two grandparents instead of four, everyone but especially his dad, uncle George and grandma Molly got that haunted look in their eyes sometimes, and there was a grave in the cemetery that no one brought flowers to and was separated from the rest.

Lord Voldemort was buried quietly. Ironically enough, it was members of the Light who organised it – the Dark had lost, and all families that were loyal to the late Dark Lord were busy trying to keep their close relatives, or themselves, out of Azkaban for war crimes. They could not leave the serpentine man’s body there to rot, in the Great Hall of Hogwarts: it was simply not humane, no matter who he had once been and what he had done.

It was decided that he’d be buried at Godric’s Hollow, place of his first downfall, and where the war memorials were. There was something poetic about it, but it was lost on the raw sobriety of the event. People were numb, grieving their dead and recovering both physically and mentally, and they were going to place the man who started it all six feet underground. It gave some a sense of closure, but others felt that he did not deserve this dignity. There was no funeral, or at least a proper one: just a small gathering of people with their chests hollowed out by battle, watching as a modest wooden coffin was lowered to the ground and their nightmare ended for good.

Who could possibly be mourning this man, enough to shed tears before his grave? Harry frowned, quickening his steps. A former Death Eater, perhaps? Two of the lesser ones had recently ended their time in Azkaban, he knew.

His position as Deputy Head Auror would mean nothing if this was, in fact, a criminal who had already paid for their actions. Despite this, he felt it was his duty to at least see who this person was: curiosity aside, it was always a wise move to keep an eye on possible future trouble.

The figure in front of Lord Voldemort’s headstone was tall, and wore outer wizarding robes, although Harry could make out the hem of a pair of trousers where the garment ended. They were giving him their back, but it was obvious that this person (a man, most likely, judging by the broad shoulders and the style of his robes) was barely holding it together. His stance was hunched, gripping his knee with one hand and seemingly, his chest with the other. He appeared to be hyperventilating by the rising and falling of his shoulders, on the verge of a panic attack, and at that moment Harry did not care who this man might be, or why he was bordering hysteria while standing on the mortal remains of his once arch-nemesis.

He only saw a person in a vulnerable position. His instincts (or perhaps the hero complex some accused him of having) screamed at him to do something about it.

Harry entered the cemetery quietly, Ginny and Albus following him. The mystery man was mere metres away from them, and something felt off. He looked at his ex-wife for confirmation, and her frown spoke louder than words. There was something familiar about him-

His legs wobbled, his head lolled back, and Harry ran. He sprinted towards the stranger and grabbed him by the armpits before he could hit the ground, or worse, break his neck against another headstone.

Just like that, the once known as Boy-Who-Lived found himself with an armful of a very unconscious man.

A very unconscious man with familiar raven hair so similar to his own, familiar nose, familiar jaw, familiar eyes whose colour Harry knew despite them being closed, familiar pale, pale skin and hollow cheeks

and

What was one supposed to do with an unconscious young Voldemort slack in one’s arms?

“…Gin. Gin, please tell me I’m not going mad.”

The redhead had gone very still, frozen like a statue in a way he hadn't seen her since she was a little girl. She gripped their son’s hand protectively, and her freckled face was pale. “We must both be barking mad, because… because I recognize him too. H-how? He was supposed to be-“

“I know,” Harry whispered, trying to calm down. “I know, maybe- maybe time travel, or- please, please don't let it be necromancy, that-“

“Maybe it's not him, maybe- no, Polyjuice doesn't work with material from a dead person,” she was shifting her weight from one foot to the other, resisting the urge to pace around. “Harry, what do we do now? Call the old members of the Order and the DA?”

Ginny was uncharacteristically nervous, which was understandable, since they were in presence of the man who had possessed her for almost a year, and he was looking the part. At least he resembled his teenager self far more than his serpentine construct could ever hope to, despite him looking like he was in his late twenties at the very least.

(It was unsettling to see her like this. She usually was so sure of herself, stomping her way into the unknown with her contagious energy.)

Harry took a deep breath. "I'll bring him home, ask a few questions, and then I’ll send a Patronus to the others.” At his ex-wife’s horrified look, he sighed. “You know I can create wards that would put the Auror Interrogation Room’s to shame. It will be fine.”

"I'm sure he could escape from blo- from Azkaban if he wanted to,” Ginny pointed out, getting a hold of her language in time.

“Mum? What is going on, who is this fellow?”

Harry froze, having forgotten, unlike his ex-wife, that young Albus was still there. There was something of far more importance that needed to be taken care of before anything else. “I’m sorry, Al. You will need to go with mum somewhere else, alright? This is… someone from my work.” Well, that wasn’t a lie. His job technically consisted on imprisoning people like the man slack on his arms.

“One of the bad guys?” He asked, with a hint of the same innocence he displayed when he played ‘Aurors and Dark Lords’ with his brother a few years back.

"…kind of.” He looked at his worried friend, begging for her to oblige with his eyes. “Gin, please. I can handle this.”

“Now is not the best of times to pull the puppy eyes card on me, Harry,” she grumbled with far less seriousness than she intended, minutely distracted from the tension in the air. “…alright, but I will be coming back. I’m not leaving you alone with him of all people.”

Harry pulled out his wand and muttered “Incarcerous” at the limp form of Tom Riddle, as Ginny side-disapparated their son.

It was only eleven in the morning, and he had never asked for any of this.

 

-----

 

If there was one thing Lord Voldemort liked, it was to see his plans fulfilled. He would often obsess over his goals, taking notice of all the things that could go wrong, and ramifications his possible course of action could have. Everything he did was carefully thought out.

usually. But his temper could be hardly considered a weakness, could it? No, everything crumbled under his power, under his crimson glare, whenever anyone was foolish enough to think they could anger Lord Voldemort and walk away unscathed.

Regardless, the Dark Lord liked to follow through his plans, and most importantly, get feedback on their progress. Confirmation was everything to him.

(He'd had enough of uncertainty in his life. In his childhood, he didn't even know if he’d eat that day. He didn't know if he was worthy if he didn't say it himself. Yes, confirmation, validation, it was everything.)

(Now he was unstoppable. That scrawny orphan was gone. He’d made sure of it.)

Sometimes, he pondered on his choices. He knew that his course of action would take him to greatness – he was already beginning to taste it, sweet ecstasy in his tongue, power so intoxicating it would be so easy to get lost in it – but he wanted to be sure of it. Would his followers, renamed now as Death Eaters, remain faithful? Would he reach his goal of creating six horcruxes, thus having his soul split in the magical number of seven?

The truth was, he couldn't possibly know. Unless he was willing to push the limits of magic, of course.

And Lord Voldemort was no ordinary wizard. He would push and push magic until it broke, and even afterwards. And then he’d reinvent it again.

So, time magic it was. Relatively recent discovery, but nothing he couldn't develop to suit his purposes. He’d put his genius to use once again, and travel to the future to check his progress.

By the time he was in his eighties, he would have surely risen his own empire, right? It was only fitting that he got to witness it personally before he started to build it from its foundations.

 

-----

 

The ritual he devised was meant to send him in the general vicinity of his future self. It would give him the opportunity to see himself, while at the same time giving him ample space to hide or run away in case there was risk of a paradox occurring.

That was why it threw him off to appear in a cemetery. Was his older self nearby, mourning someone? Voldemort had promised himself that he would not get attached to anyone, because he knew he could not afford such weakness. Perhaps one of his followers was holding a funeral-

He was alone there.

A rising suspicion made him walk around cautiously, as he assessed his surroundings. The cemetery and its whereabouts were familiar. …yes, he clearly remembered being here before, with Abraxas Malfoy and Edmund Mulciber, to initiate first contact with a vampire clan in neutral territory. Godric’s Hollow, his eidetic memory provided. A small mixed village, with muggles and magical folk coexisting peacefully. Of course, the balance was maintained by a strict policy of keeping magic either indoors or as inconspicuous as possible, and lots of muggle-repelling charms in problematic areas.

The headstones around him had the kind of inscriptions one would expect. ‘In loving memory’, ‘Rest in peace’, ‘An angel returned to Heaven’, ‘A kind mother until the end’. There were others, with the faint shimmer of anti-muggle glamours, that read something significantly more related to the magical world.

‘Died a hero against evil’

‘In the arms of mother Hecate’

‘Hero of the two wars against HWMNBN’

‘Constant vigilance, and wand at the ready’

There had been two wars, and Voldemort doubted the one against Gellert Grindelwald counted. The former Dark Lord was imprisoned with no chance of escape, and the tiny fragments of history he got from the rows of graves spoke of ‘the two wars’. They were bound to be connected in some way, right? What did ‘HWMNBN’ stand for?

Maybe he’d been the one to start them. He had been planning to start a guerrilla movement with his followers for quite some time, so the idea wasn't completely foreign.

(But something felt off. A gut feeling he couldn't possibly ignore.)

Voldemort noticed a grave far from the rest. In some cemeteries, he knew, people who didn't share the territory’s religion were buried aside to respect their beliefs – or as an act of mockery, in some cases.

This was also done to the worst kind of criminals. That practice had become less common, though.

(He didn't want to think about it.)

He walked towards it, curiosity piqued.

(He’d never liked cemeteries.)

His surroundings were unnaturally still, and the late summer breeze did nothing to soothe the chill in his bones. A lump formed in his throat, leaving him breathless like he’d taken a punch to the stomach.

Thomas Marvolo Riddle

1926-1998

No epitaph. No flowers. The stone was more damaged and eroded than the other, older ones. The ones that were even decades older than this one were at least clean and polished. The grass around the one before him looked unkempt.

It was clear no one tended to this grave. No one cared.

He was dead. He was deaddeaddeaddeaddead and no one cared

his horcruxes gone diaryringcuplocket they were supposed to be safe he was supposed to make more how did this even happen he had the diadem already-

(He wasn't aware of the sting in his eyes until tears were rolling down his cheeks. It was the first time he’d cried in more than a decade, and he still couldn't breathe.)

Breathe. It was easy. Breathe. But his corpse lay rotting underground and he wanted to throw up

and close his eyes

and stopthinkingstopfeelingthiscripplingpanic-

(It was the year 2015. Just a skeleton. Seventeen years since his… his…)

Faint footsteps. (He paid no mind, because nothing mattered except the fact that he couldn't breathe and he was dead and the heart he prided himself in ignoring threatened to explode and fly off his mouth and why could he not breathe-)

Everything went black.

Chapter Text

When Voldemort woke up, he did so slowly. His eyes fluttered open, and later on he would curse his reflexes for not being more alert.

He couldn't really help feeling drained after an anxiety attack of those proportions, but he was not a man to indulge in what he considered to be a weakness of his mind. Thus, he did his best to try and not acknowledge the exhaustion lingering in his muscles.

The Dark Lord was bound with thick ropes, and wandless. His legs stuck together and his wrists tied at his back: it was clear that he was being held prisoner.

That did not explain the paradoxically soft bed he was laying on, or the fact that his outer robes (cleverly chosen in order to hide his no doubt outdated clothes underneath) were gone, and there was a pillow positioned strategically under his head to make him feel slightly more comfortable despite the awkward position he was stuck in.

With the bubbling hysteria gone from his head, he could think more clearly. He was trapped in the future at a stranger’s possibly nonexistent mercy. The entire trip was useless, seeing as there was no Empire to visit, and he was-

He didn't want to finish that thought, lest his deep-running instincts get the best of him again.

The only door in the room opened, revealing a man with bright green eyes, messy hair, and round glasses. His frame was thin and perhaps a little shorter than average, but the way he moved and his clothes fit him suggested he was at least moderately built.

He was holding a glass of water. “Feeling better?” He asked, his voice deceptively kind. His eyes and stance, however, showed how tense he truly was. Battle-ready, as if he was expecting a lethal curse coming from anywhere. It was truly baffling.

“I would feel excellent if my limbs weren't tied up,” he retorted mildly. It would not do to taunt a potential enemy too much.

“Safety measures,” was the light reply. When Voldemort did not accept the water, the man rolled his eyes and took out his wand. He tensed up, but the stranger pointed it upwards. “I hereby swear on my magic and my life that this glass only contains water. Water is not slang for any other substance than H2O, and it contains just that.

Even as magic confirmed his words as the truth, the Dark Lord refused to take a sip. “Suit yourself,” the man said with a shrug. “I’d take it if I were you, there’s no need to be so distrustful.”

He narrowed his eyes. “What am I doing here?”

“Indeed. What are you doing here? That’s what I’d like to find out,” the stranger replied airily, but his eyes meant business.

“I doubt I entered this warded bunker of a room all on my own, seeing as I’m heavily restricted.”

"You know exactly what I mean, Tom Riddle.”

He tensed up, but forced his expression to remain neutral. How could anyone recognize him? Had he not succeeded in modifying his appearance in the future? Furthermore, how could anyone seriously consider that he was-

“That is not my name.”

“Oh,” the other muttered, blinking with such innocence he almost believed the man had bought it. Maybe it would be his lucky day, the stranger would apologize for what no doubt had to be a mistake, and let him go. “Would you prefer if I addressed you as Your Lordship?” He almost ended with a sneer, as if he thought the title to be something disgraceful.

Voldemort was already pale due to his horcruxes’ effects, but all blood drained out of his face. This person knew too much, that was clear. “Who are you?” He asked, this time more carefully. He eyed the other man, contemplating if he should be considered a serious threat.

“Harry Potter, Deputy Head Auror. And let me tell you who you are. Your name is Tom Marvolo Riddle, but you call yourself Lord Voldemort. Now, I will ask again. What are you doing here, and how are you here?” The man, now identified as Auror Harry Potter, paused for a beat. “I’ve got Veritaserum, and I know you, Riddle. I’ll be able to tell if you’re lying.”

"That would be none of your business, Mr. Potter,” Voldemort said, trying to keep his composure. The stiff wording gave him away, and he hated that.

“I will tell you what I think,” Potter said, walking calmly around the room. “I think you came from the past. I think this was either an accident or what you were planning went wrong. I think you’re terrified by what you saw at that cemetery, and I think you have at least two horcruxes, but no more than five by this point. And most importantly: you don't know who you’re speaking to.” His smile was smug, but hesitant. Almost as if confidence and being sure of one’s words felt foreign to him.

Maybe that could be exploited later, Voldemort thought.

“Since you so insist on telling me things, why don't you tell me this? Does your rank allow you to retain people without an official reason, Auror Potter?” He chose to not mention how uncomfortably close to the truth his hypotheses were.

“Of course not. I’ve kidnapped you.”

It was that simple. One would think that the Deputy Head Auror would be less nonchalant about breaking the law.

“Lovely.” His eye twitched, the only way to tell he was angry.

(His eyes were tinted permanently crimson, by now. That had been the effect of his third horcrux, after his first one made them flash in that colour whenever his temper rose.)

“And who exactly are you, Harry Potter, Deputy Head Auror?” He drawled, gaze fixed on that Killing Curse green. Who was this person who knew so much about him, and kidnapped him only to treat him almost as if he were an old acquaintance?

"That would be none of your business, Mr. Riddle,” he parroted his own words back with a grin, even having the nerve to try and imitate his voice and mannerisms. Voldemort gritted his teeth.

A knock at the door interrupted his reaction. Potter opened the door, allowing a red-haired woman into the wards. She reminded him a little of Augustus Prewett.

“I heard you. You’re getting better at mimicking people,” she said. It was obvious she was tense, and not as good at hiding it as Potter. “Albus is with my parents. Is he cooperating?”

The auror slipped a hand under his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “As cooperative as Lord bloody Voldemort could ever be,” he muttered, but a useful ability the Dark Lord had learnt over time was to read lips at a distance.

“Albus? Did the old man orchestrate this?” A tidal wave of rage threatened to flood out of his mouth. Of course Dumbledore would be behind a stunt like this one. The Headmaster was remarkably disdainful of rules when it came to his precious ‘greater good’.

(It was ironic how another man operating on the same premise ended up locked inside his own prison.)

“Not that Albus,” the woman replied, her expression sober. She thought him a threat, but there was curiosity in her eyes. “You looked more composed in the diary.”

How many people knew about his horcruxes?! The diary was safe with Abraxas Malfoy, who had sworn to protect it with his life. The cup was in Robert Lestrange’s Gringotts vault, heavily spelled with curses. The ring and the locket were hidden away.

“He wasn't recovering from a major freak out in that diary, Gin. People don't look so composed after this kind of thing, Voldemort or no Voldemort.”

“Playing Devil’s attorney, now? Only you, Harry.”

The absurdity of the situation made him tune out the words, except the question that repeated itself in his mind. It was his maximum priority, above even acknowledging that potential enemies were so casually talking about his bout of weakness.

“Who destroyed my horcruxes?”

The conversation halted. Potter and the redhead, ‘Gin’, looked at each other. “…should we tell him?”

“If you’re thinking about time paradoxes, they will happen anyway. I’m not planning to let him go anytime soon to do everything he did,” the auror replied, and the woman shook her head.

“No, I’m just saying he won't be all that happy about it,” she said, some amusement brightening her eyes. Voldemort narrowed his own.

“…you’re right, and that’s exactly why we’re going to tell him. You don't get to see faces so priceless every day.”

Now that he had the confirmation that he was being mocked, he thrust his bound body upwards, in a show of making it look like he was not helpless. “Enough. Who did it?” He nearly hissed.

Potter shrugged with an infuriating nonchalance. “It was teamwork, really. I took care of the diary, two of my friends destroyed the locket and the cup, Dumbledore destroyed the ring, a friend killed another…” He drawled. “And here comes the funny part: one of your followers destroyed Ravenclaw’s tiara trying to kill me with friendyfire, and got himself killed in the process. Not so funny, that last part, but… did you turn it into a horcrux already? The tiara, I mean.”

Voldemort was fairly sure his lungs had stopped working. It wasn't a bluff: this Harry Potter really knew of all his horcruxes, and one even he didn't know yet. He found himself shaking his head, unable to lie in his shock.

(A tiny fragment of his mind vaguely registered that he’d called it a tiara. Such ignorance.)

Dread froze his insides and his throat was dry. A glass was offered to him again. “Drink... for Godric’s sake, you really can't stand the thought of death, can you? I mean it, drink.”

The redhead was rubbing her eyes. “This is deeply disturbing. You, of all people, comforting He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”

The Dark Lord, for some reason, took the firm advice this time. The water tasted of nothing, which meant it could only contain either Veritaserum or regular, flavourless poisons.

The fact that he was too out of it to care scared him profoundly.

“The more you live the more you see, Ginny.” Potter was grinning at her direction. “There, there. Better?”

“He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Is that how people know me?” It would have been flattering, in another occasion perhaps, to know that the wizarding world feared him enough to not utter his chosen title. It destroyed the purpose of a new name, but the feeling of power was nice. …wasn’t that what he’d read before? HWMNBN… yes, he remembered it clearly, despite it being a mouthful. He’d ponder on it later.

“Yeah. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, You-Know-Who… it was a pain to get anyone to actually tell me who they were talking about when I entered the wizarding world,” the auror huffed. “I kind of started the trend of calling you Snakeface. …don't look at me like that! If you’d seen yourself twenty years ago you would understand.”

Voldemort huffed, then chose to ignore the obvious taunt in favour of asking about something of greater outrage. "…who was the fool who destroyed the diadem?”

“Crabbe. You can't kill him, he's already dead and you are still tied up.”

“Corveus Crabbe? That incompetent excuse of a-!”

“Not him. His grandson, probably,” the woman interrupted. Voldemort did not appreciate that, but his exhaustion only let him glare at her with all the intensity he could muster. To his vindictive satisfaction, she flinched ever-so-slightly.

“The horcrux you mentioned. Why say ‘kill’ and not ‘destroy’? You did it deliberately.”

"Yes, I did.”

He waited for elaboration, but there was none.

The nerve!

“Potter…” He growled.

“Riddle.”

“Don't call me that.”

“Voldemort, then.”

Lord.”

“There is no need to call me a Lord, ‘Potter’ will do just fine.”

A frustrated and quite undignified groan escaped his throat. His face burned in rage, and he was sure that if he’d had his wand at the moment, he would have the man writhing on the floor within seconds – energy reserves be damned.

…maybe he didn't need a wand to pull the information out of him. Voldemort was aware of the weight of the wards against his magical core, but the mind arts did not require magic in the conventional sense. He locked eyes with Potter.

Who would think I’d be pulling this joke Snape’sfacepricelesscan’tpasstheopportunity on Voldemort? Malfoy would either scream at me or give me a medal- he was terrified war torture deflectedDeathEater

Can't tell him now – Merlin knows it took me years to figure out all of his bullshit- keptin the dark I'm about todie bet he wouldn't stand seven years of dangerdeathwarnotSiriuswhymedarknessgreengreenGREENdeath without having a cluetwinklygazehe’shidingsomethingjust bloodytellme

What is he- eyes like Dumbledore scanning unblinking oh hell no-

His smile turned grim, and his stance sobered as a cloudy haze covered his mind. “If you read my surface thoughts again, I will find myself thinking about things you don't want to know. And trust me, you really don't want to see what I’ve seen,” he threatened.

Was he talking about the war? He’d seen war. Was he talking about torture, destruction? He’d caused both.

…his own lifeless body?

‘Ginny’ pointed her wand at him, the very image of Gryffindor brashness and impulsivity. Potter placed a hand on her shoulder. “It’s okay. He didn't see anything.”

“Harry…”

“I know, I know! What’d you say to dropping the bomb right now?”

Just like that, he had returned to his mild, easy-going attitude. This man was truly impossible to understand.

“Only if you're sure about the wards. He might try something fishy.”

The auror smiled, then. “You created two living horcruxes. One of them was killed, as I said, and the other and seventh horcrux…”

The dramatic pause was unnecessary, but Potter indulged in it anyway. “We tricked you into murdering him. And then you died in the final battle because someone redirected your own Killing Curse towards your direction. So technically, you killed yourself.”

Voldemort stared at the man standing next to the bed, vacantly. He’d created seven horcruxes, not six. He’d split his soul eight times, too many times-

He’d destroyed part of his own soul. The Killing Curse that hit him was his. How had he been played so thoroughly? He was shaking, his eyes were open wide, and

a warm hand on his shoulder, grounding him to reality.

"Wow, this... this is awkward. It felt more righteous to make you freak out when you were… you older self, you know? But I suppose that’s a low blow now, even for revenge…” He looked up, gaze focusing on Potter, to see him sporting an unreadable expression. “So, for what it’s worth… sorry about that, I guess.”

The woman looked at him like she disagreed, shaking her head slowly, but she reluctantly kept herself from saying anything. The glass was brought to his lips again, and he took another tentative sip, focusing on the cool water going down his throat. Voldemort could feel himself calming further than he’d ever thought himself capable of.

Perhaps exhaustion had something to do with it. He frowned. “You’re odd, Harry Potter.”

“Tell me about it,” sighed the redhead. There was fondness in her words. Maybe they were a couple.

“Alright, it’s time to call the others, I think. Not the DA, though. I’ll call Ron and Hermione first…” The redhead nodded, and Potter pulled out his wand, to Voldemort’s surprise. “Expecto Patronum!”

What was he doing? Two impressively huge stags trotted around the room, chasing each other, as the auror whispered to his wand. “Come to my place, it’s urgent. You’ll never believe Who it is about, you better see for yourselves. Yes, that pun was intentional. …be quick, please.” And then, the two patroni trotted away.

“Why did you send two?”

“I think ‘Mione said she had to go to the Ministry, and I doubt Ron would want to leave everyone just yet.”

Voldemort was flabbergasted. “What did you exactly do?”

“Patronus messaging,” he explained. “Don't look so shocked, I wouldn't expect you to know about it.”

He'd never been able to produce a Patronus, and Potter knew it. How did he know? Past the haze of exhaustion, he could feel fury pulsing through his veins. He schooled his expression. “What are you implying?” His voice could freeze Hell over.

“…you wouldn't know about it, because Albus Dumbledore – your enemy, on top of that – invented it in the seventies.” Potter’s brow was raised, and he stared in contemplation. “What did you think I meant?”

…oh.

A shamefully noticeable flush that had little to do with anger spread through his cheeks. “…nothing. Forget about it,” he bit out.

“Now, that is something I thought I’d never see,” the woman muttered.

"And who might you be, in any case?”

Voldemort was pretty sure that the woman’s little flourish and sober expression were meant to be mocking. “Ginevra Weasley, reporter of The Prophet, almost a corpse thanks to your affable diary horcrux whom I was ‘pen-pals’ with twenty years ago…” She trailed off, then jabbed her thumb in Potter’s direction. “And also his ex-wife. Not at all pleased to meet you, Lord You-Know-Who-You-Are.”

He blinked once. Twice. …that had been a strong reaction, even without mentioning his name. If she’d had a run-in with one of his horcruxes it explained her behaviour a little, however. She most likely thought she could get away with her fierceness after having survived him once already.

(Arrogance. He was not an old hypogriff pathetically struggling to learn new tricks. He was deadly, he was the Dark Lord, he was-)

A loud noise from the other side of the house alerted both Weasley and Potter. “…the Floo. That’s them. …no, I’ll watch him,” she said, apparently reading something off Potter’s face she didn’t like. “Really. Go get them, I can handle this.”

“Fine… I’ll go. Just be careful,” the auror said, before leaving the room, and most likely, the wards.

This left him with the woman, who was staring him down with a determined expression and a stiff stance. “I don't know what you’re doing here, and I don't care about who you will become. If you try to hurt my family, I will kill you and personally make sure that you stay dead. Is that clear?”

Voldemort felt his stomach tensing, but he wasn’t sure if it was with fear or with anger. (Outrage. Who did she think she was?)  He let out a long, strained sigh, trying to force his usual cool demeanor to come back.

These people clearly expected him to snap at any moment. He would need to look calm if he wanted to get out of this one.

Chapter Text

Harry found his two best friends stumbling out of the fireplace at almost the same time. That pretty much confirmed in Harry’s mind that Hermione had gone at the ministry: otherwise, she would have advised that they take turns flooing instead of rushing it like Ron would have.

“Harry! What-“

“Is this about V-Voldemort? But we saw his body! Did he have another horcrux? I was so sure that-“

“Guys, stop! Calm down!” Harry interrupted his friends, his hands raising in an appeasing manner. “It’s under control, mostly. Gin, Al and I found him at the cemetery, staring at his grave. He looks young. As in, younger than us, maybe. I think he time-travelled, he had no idea who we were.”

“You want us to calm down-?”

“Ronald, calm down.” Hermione’s tone left no room for discussion.

“…I’m calm,” Ron grumbled, and Harry was reminded of their teenage years. It helped him relax a little in such a bizarre situation.

“Harry, are you sure about that? Time-travel at such distances sounds farfetched, couldn’t it be a case of amnesia? This is… are you sure it’s him?”

“I’m sure, ‘Mione. Maybe you guys should see for yourselves.”

Hermione’s gaze was incredulous, bewildered. “Wait, is he… is he here?”

“Yes. In the guest room.”

The redhead snorted. “The one with the expansion charm? Sort of poetic, actually.” Then he paused, and frowned. “Wait… you mean he’s here. You-Know-Who is actually inside your house right now. Mate… this could be the perfect opportunity to hand him to the Ministry! He never got to pay for his crimes, did he? The man just took a Killing Curse to the chest and that was it. No trial, no Azkaban, nothing.”

“I’m not sure how well that would go, Ron…” Harry muttered, running a hand through his hair.

His best mate began to stride towards the narrow cupboard door at the end of the corridor, speaking loudly all the while. “Are you seriously telling me that you’re going to let You-Know-Who walk out of this house on his merry way? Mate, the man who killed your parents, my uncles, my brother, Moody, Tonks, Lupin…! He even killed Snape.” He opened the door. “I won't sit here with my arms crossed while- Ginny?

“Shhhhh!” The other redhead admonished, shooting her brother a death glare. “You’re going to wake him up.”

Lord Voldemort was, indeed, curled up in the bed. Before, when he was merely unconscious, his brow was furrowed as if he couldn't stop mulling his own death over his head even in sleep.

Now, however, there was something oddly vulnerable in his expression. Sleeping in Harry’s guest bed, dressed in innocuous-looking clothes – a white button-up shirt, a brown vest and dress trousers. Far too covering for summer – he looked fragile. If one did not take into account his bound arms and legs, it would seem domestic, in a way.

Even Ron noticed this. “He almost looks like a normal person,” he commented incredulously, before shaking his head and turning his attention back to more serious matters. “Harry, you didn't tell me my bloody sister was alone with him!” He whispered harshly.

"I insisted to be the one to guard him, and I’m perfectly capable of defending myself. Honestly, we all fought him when we were teenagers. He’s powerful, yes, but fear will take you nowhere-“

“I don't fear him, Gin! But I’m definitely not okay with my little sister being alone with-“

“Shhhhh!” Ginny repeated. Ron sucked in a deep breath, but he still looked tense. “Your little sister is thirty-four years old. Quit your fussing.”

Hermione had been muttering an incantation under her breath, and after a wave of her wand, Voldemort’s body glowed a little bit. She looked pensive. “He’s really asleep… he’d glow red if he was awake,” she explained.

Harry sighed. “He had a pretty bad panic attack. That sort of thing drains you, trust me on that.”

“I still can't wrap my head around it,” Ron muttered, shaking his head.

“What happened, Harry?” Hermione still looking at the Dark Lord’s young form, asleep in an awkward position. He looked not a year older than thirty.

"Ginny, Albus and I found him at the graveyard, staring at his headstone. He was freaking out badly, and passed out right there,” Harry explained. “And I really do think he’s from the past. You see…”

-----

Voldemort woke up to the sound of voices and aching back pain. He felt restless and uncomfortable, but he did not dare move, lest he reveal his waking state: this was a unique opportunity to listen in.

“I’d feel much better about this if we knew the spell he used. I’ll do some research. Zabini might help me gain access in the Time Chamber at the Department of Mysteries, he’s an unspeakable and he respects me-“ A woman said. Another unfamiliar voice interrupted her.

"He respects you? That bloody bigot? What's next, Neville becoming the new Dark Lord and calling himself Baron Von Destruction?”

A quiet snicker. “You’d be surprised how the Ministry works. You two are used to hands-on action, but the office is a jungle. I bet Ginny gets what I mean, The Prophet is an all-out battlefield.”

A beat of silence, and a muttered “blimey… women are scary.”

"Hey, you married her, not me.” That was Potter. He was still here, it seemed. (Wherever ‘here’ was. Perhaps it was his property.)

The same woman continued. “Anyway, I will do my best to figure this out. Remember, terri-“

“…terrible things happen to wizards who meddle with time. I know, Hermione.” A pause, some shuffling. “You’re the best, thank you.”

“Of course she is,” the husband of this ‘Hermione’ said fondly. “I still can't believe You-Know-Who fell asleep.”

If it was of any consolation to this man, Voldemort couldn't believe it either.

“Yeah. You didn't put any Dreamless Sleep Potion in his water, did you, Harry?” This was Weasley, and he had to admit that she had a point. He still felt drained and sleepy.

“…I might have spiked his water a little, yes. But it wasn't Dreamless Sleep, he fell asleep on his own.”

Voldemort tensed, then forced himself to relax his muscles. Weasley voiced the question in his mind. “How did you do it? You took an oath, didn't you?”

“Well, I said that there was only water in the glass, didn’t I? It was true. I added the Calming Draught later.” Uncomfortable silence. “…what can I say? Anxiety is a bitch, and no one deserves to go through that sort of thing without a little Calming Draught. Not even Voldemort.”

“But- but he’s You-Know-Who! He’s the one who-“

“I know who he is and what he did very well, Ron. …and what he will do.” Potter took a deep breath, and his voice became sarcastic. “But what do you suggest? He’s tied up and wandless. A round of Crucio, perhaps? We rip into his mind and learn every single one of his secrets? Public humiliation, good old muggle torture? Tattoo ‘you suck sweaty troll balls’ on his chest? Because as far as I know, all that is part of his agenda, not ours. So yes, I gave him Calming Draught. It was the humane thing to do.”

…had this been his modus operandi for the last decades? When had he fallen into such unsubtle tactics?

Silence. The other man sighed. “Dumbledore would know what to do,” the woman murmured.

“If Dumbledore ever taught me anything, it’s that no one is infallible,” said Potter. “Not him, not Voldemort, not us. We all screw up, and we don't know it until it's too late, but that’s why we have to try our best to do things right.”

So that meant Albus Dumbledore was dead. The glee this victory supposed felt strangely dull, as if it wasn't there at all.

Because he was dead, too.

“One of his mistakes was never telling no one what he was planning. And we won't make that mistake.”

“You want to tell the Order,” Weasley stated. Which Order?

“Yes. Not the DA, though. Just Neville, maybe, but not the rest of them.”

“The Order and Neville? Mate… this will take some explaining. I bet most of them will just want to barge into your home and have their revenge, morals be damned. Especially mum, she’s still grieving Fred, you know? I mean, we all are, but You-Know-Who did also kill Uncle Gideon and Uncle Fabian. I don't think she won't try to curse him, or at least fling a frying pan towards his skull- …okay. No mentions of throwing frying pans, sorry. But he would deserve it.”

There was something off about that one last comment, but nobody clarified its meaning. It was something of common knowledge, then.

"Anyway..." Potter's voice was strained for a moment, but then he took a deep breath and started again. “Anyway, I think we should get the Order together this week, at the very least.”

“What about the binding?”

It took all of Voldemort’s will to not let his eyes snap open wide, in the sudden jolt of panic that coursed through his body.

“…that should be done as soon as possible,” the witch named Hermione said. “If Harry needs to leave the house, the magic suppressing wards might weaken. And well… we all saw him perform wandless magic during the war.”

“D’you reckon he can already do wandless magic? He’s what? Twenty-five? Thirty?”

“Ron, really?” Potter’s voice sounded unimpressed. “We’re talking about bloody Voldemort. As in, the same Voldemort that made a horcrux when he was sixteen. The bastard is good, let’s give him that.”

“So what? You defeated a Dark Lord in a duel when you were two years younger than that. Not to mention-“

“I’m not taking any chances.”

“Ron…” Weasley began. “I know the kind of shite he can pull, and I bet the first thing he'd try would be to convince us that he doesn't know a thing about wandless magic. Act innocent and play the victim.”

A sigh. “If we’re doing it tonight, I’ll need your fireplace to call Bill, Harry. And we’d still need a healer… what about Malfoy’s mother? You are in good terms with her, right?”

Voldemort was listening idly at this point.

“Yes, but I doubt she’d want to help, Ron.”

They were going to bind his magic.

“But she and Malfoy helped you and Andromeda raise Teddy! And she saved your life that one time-“

The remnants of the Calming Draught in his system were doing very little to soothe his panic. He was the Dark Lord, he would not live as a squib!

“Yes, by lying to Voldemort to his face. I bet she doesn’t want to see him again in her life. After what he did to her son...”

“But she was a Death Eater!”

“You would be a Death Eater too if it meant Rose, Hugo and Hermione are going to be safe, Ron. She would have died if he found out-”

Desperate situations required desperate measures. If he couldn’t use his magic, then…

In a surprisingly Gryffindor move, Voldemort flung his body forwards. The momentum allowed him to leave the bed while standing upright, and he staggered to keep his balance without his arms. The door was half-open. He rushed towards it, and…

Stupefy!”

So predictable, and yet so efficient. He narrowly dodged the spell, and nuzzled the door open, heart pounding against his ribs.

When the next stunner – silent this time – hit him, his last thought was that he’d tried.

-----

Lord Voldemort woke up for the third time since he had gotten himself in this mess, trapped in a terrible, terrible future that he still refused to call his own.

He looked around, blearily. Potter and Weasley were in the room, as well as two male redheads (Weasleys as well?) and a woman with bushy curls half-tamed in a tight bun. The window showed the setting sun, and by that fact the knew that something more powerful than a stunner had to be involved to make him sleep through the afternoon.

Gods, it had been almost two decades since he’d last felt so vulnerable. Voldemort hated it.

“He’s awake,” Weasley announced, her lips pressed firmly into a thin line.

“We can begin when Mrs. Malfoy comes back to monitor the binding,” the other woman said. He recognized her voice as the ‘Hermione’ he’d overheard speaking earlier.

"She won't like it,” Potter insisted. “And he won't like it either. …how are you faring, Riddle?”

Fury sparked in his narrowed crimson eyes. “Just peachy. There’s nothing like a good, healthy dose of insolence in the evening, conveyed by a lot of strangers who want to turn me into a squib and a man who insists on calling me by that name.”

The people in the room turned to look at Potter, who merely shrugged. The door opened, and a middle-aged blonde woman walked in. Her skin hummed gently with latent magic slowing her aging, a common occurrence in wizards and witches. It was unclear whether she was in her forties or her fifties. She could be sixty years old and no one would be the wiser.

Her aristocratic features froze when she realize he was awake, and through her pureblood mask it was easy to tell she was anxious. She, too, looked at Potter, as if for support.

“Narcissa,” he greeted, rubbing the back of his neck. It looked so uncharacteristic for a man who was surrounded by people who regarded him as a leader. “Ready when you are.”

The woman took a deep breath, steeled her will, and took a step towards the bed Voldemort was laying on. She clutched her wand to her chest, almost protectively, and then began muttering under her breath. He recognized the spell: it was to determine the power in his magical core. Well, she was in for a nasty surprise, then.

Wait… could this be…? His eyes widened in recognition, and the woman stiffened.

"Narcissa... of course. I remember the last time I saw you, a mere toddler in Druella’s arms. How proud Cygnus was of his youngest… you were blonde like the late Rosiers. You would do great things, he said. He broke the Black name tradition for you… young Narcissa Black.”

She looked beyond uncomfortable. Her lips twitched. “M-my Lord,” she mumbled, as if unsure that he should even be addressed this way. “I am Lady Malfoy, now.”

“Yes. Abraxas’ daughter in law, I assume?” His smile was deceptively charming, but his eyes told a different story altogether. “How disappointing that you would turn your back on me. I have heard things, Narcissa. And here you are, assisting the enemy. What do you have to say for yourself, for your honour?”

“As if you’re one to speak about honour, Riddle. Leave her alone,” Potter intervened.

Voldemort was seething. “Stop calling me that.”

“It’s your name, though.” Damn this man and his arched eyebrow. Damn his cheek and his intentions. What he’d give to get rid of this ward and… no, scratch that. He would even settle for something as muggle as a punch in the face, were his arms untied.

"Not anymore," he muttered darkly. All of Narcissa’s pretenses at a poker face crumbled at his murderous look: so she recognized his expressions and their consequences. Interesting.

As she resumed her spellwork, Potter crossed his arms.

“I don't see what’s wrong with that name. It’s a Lord’s name, did you know that? Your grandfather was a Lord. Until you killed him, that is.” Voldemort saw red. How did this man know about that? How did he know anything?! His teeth were grit so hard he thought they’d break. “So really, if you hate your father’s family so much, I wouldn't use the title you inherited from them.”

In a display of Gryffindor foolishness, the younger red headed male muttered under his breath. “I still think Baron Von Destruction is a better Dark Lord name. Gets the point across.” He was the ‘Ron’ from earlier.

::Silence!:: Voldemort bellowed in Parseltongue, his composure slipping for a moment and letting his rage show. He took a deep breath, grit his teeth again, and forced his voice to lower. He continued in English. “…silence. Enough of this travesty.”

Everyone froze. The woman in a bun looked at Potter, this time in a questioning way. “Harry?” He merely nodded, and she accepted the non-verbal answer. What was that about?

Narcissa broke the silence, with the same name. "Harry. There is a problem."

"...what?"

Her voice was shaky. “His… his magical core. It is enormous. And very, very dense. I- I have never seen anything like this.”

“Well, he is Voldemort, after all: can't say I'm surprised. But what does exactly mean in this situation?”

“To force that sheer amount of magic back inside his core and keep it repressed… it will be painful. Very painful. The binding would be unstable for the first days. I would have to monitor his vitals closely… for at least a week.” The blonde’s lips trembled as she spoke.

Everything became a blur after that. Vaguely, he registered the shock they felt at seeing genuine fear in his eyes. He did not pay it any mind.

His magic was everything, it had been everything he had during all his childhood years. It had been his only comfort, his only strength. His power. They couldn't take that away from him, no no no no no-

“…Bill. If you could work your literal magic?”

"...what?"

“Sorry, muggle reference. …I thought it’d help lighten the mood.”

"Let's... let's do this."

A bright light filled the room, and Voldemort screamed.

Chapter Text

The following week passed surprisingly fast. He was in excruciating pain for a while, slipping in and out of consciousness. Narcissa Black – now Malfoy – was almost a constant presence in the room, as was Potter: it was shameful enough to be under his enemies’ mercy to get water, but on day three he had to deal with being released from his binds in order to shower. He was still dazed by the constricting pressure on his core, and the humiliation of his captivity.

Voldemort met members of this ‘Order’ Dumbledore had apparently created to fight him. The only one of them he recognized was Minerva McGonagall, a brilliant Hogwarts graduate whom had been the talk of the Ministry recently in his time. He knew that he’d traveled sixty years into the future, but her gray hair drove the point directly home.

If he could only break the binding, he’d perform the ritual to come back. His memories would help him change history, and they would never know what hit them. Still, the silver cuff on his left wrist would not budge or release its grip on his magic unless Harry Potter had an unlikely bout of insanity and decided to remove it.

Voldemort sat on the bed, looking at the wall in front of him. The plate of food on the nightstand was left untouched and cold, like the others before it. Potter was somewhere else, apparently having a meeting with yet another organization after a man with a stocky build convinced him to. “We are all loyal to you, Harry!” He’d proclaimed, loudly enough for him to hear. “This is like the Battle of Hogwarts all over again… you have to trust us, why do keep on thinking that we’ll all run around like headless chickens? The others can handle the truth.”

The people supposed to be guarding him were unfamiliar, and the house was quiet. The door opened, and he did not try to escape: he knew both that and the window were keyed against him.

A child. What was a child doing here?

"…hi.” His voice was uncertain, but his emerald eyes glittered with curiosity. “I’m Al, who are you, sir?” He closed the door soundlessly behind him, and nibbled on a biscuit from a plastic package he was holding.

His eyes were identical to Potter’s. Huh. “My name is not important,” he replied.

“Are you a dark wizard?” There was no accusation in his voice, just expectation. How curious.

“…yes.”

“My cousin Teddy is a dark wizard too. Dad’s Order friends are here, and they only fight light and dark wizards who do bad things. Did you?”

Voldemort pinched the bridge of his nose. Was this Potter’s child? “Are you supposed to be here?”

Al blinked at this, then looked left and right dramatically, as if searching for eavesdroppers. “Not really,” he confessed in a conspiratorial manner, cupping a hand next to his mouth. “I asked dad about you, and he said you were sick and needed rest. But staying in bed is really boring and it gets lonely, so I figured I could drop in and say hi! Do you want a biscuit, sir? They’re chocolate chip.”

Voldemort hesitated, his cramped stomach protesting loudly. The child was eating biscuits as well, so the chance that they were tampered with was slim, right? He hesitantly took the sweet offered to him, and took a small bite. Al’s smile was blinding.


“You ate it! You didn’t even look at the food over there, and I was getting worried. Are you worried about poison?” The kid rambled on. “One of dad’s Order friends was like you. Mad-Eye Moody. Mum told me about him, and he always said-“

“…’constant vigilance’?”

“How did you know?” The child exclaimed in awe.

“I knew Alastor Moody,” he said stiffly. He was a fellow Slytherin from school, who had become an auror. Obscenely good at it, he’d heard. The man used to eat from his very hand like all the others, until he became suspicious in their Seventh Year, ceased all contact, and decided to fight ‘misusers of magic’.

A thought assaulted him. “Why does everyone look at your father like he’s in charge?”

The child looked at him strangely. “Are you from abroad?” After facing Voldemort’s blank stare, he frowned. “Dad’s the Chosen One. He defeated that man, Voldemort, when he was a baby, and then he came back, and dad defeated him for good at the war. There was even a big flashy duel and everything. There’s memories of it everywhere, biggest thing since Grindelwald! My brother doesn’t like it because they didn’t curse each other into next week or shoot spells around, so according to him it wasn’t ‘awesome’. But I think it was.”

…Potter. It was Potter. He had deflected his own Killing Curse back at him. Probably led the war. He’d known the man was an enemy, and pretty high up in the ladder if he knew that much about him, but to think that his killer of all people was the one to find him…!

“Are you feeling sick again?”

“…a little,” he replied, detached. Yes, he was feeling sick. Sick to his stomach.

“Maybe I shouldn’t bother you…”

“No!” He hurried to say. “No… tell me more about it. About this duel, about the war.”

The child shrugged, and sat down next to him on the bed. Voldemort took a calming breath.

“I don’t know much,” he admitted. “I just know that the war was awful, and lots of people died. But Jamie showed me the memory of the duel, and dad was amazing! He showed up in the middle of the battle when everyone thought he was dead, and all the people stopped what they were doing and just looked at him. Then he started talking, but the memory was edited so I don’t really know what he was saying, but people who were there say that he was telling Voldemort all the mistakes he made. He told him why he’d just lost, and gave him the chance to say sorry and do things right. And Voldemort knew why he couldn’t kill dad, but he got mad and tried anyway, and then died. It was really clever.”

When Al finished, the Dark Lord was silent. He was mulling a million thoughts in his head, while simultaneously trying to keep himself calm. His jaw was tight.

That godforsaken auror had delivered a grand, condescending speech before tricking him into suicide. Of course he would add insult to injury – or in this case, murder.

“…do you want another biscuit?” He nodded absently, and the child pondered for a second before handing him the entire package.

There was silence after that. Voldemort’s gut settled, and he dared allow himself to enjoy the peace and the ridiculously tasty treats. Potter’s son was frowning, however – seemingly lost in thought.

Finally, he blurted out: “Is your name Riddle?”

He choked on a biscuit, and looked at the child through his coughing fit. A small hand patted his shoulder. “Who told you that?” He practically hissed.

“Dad mentioned it a couple times. I just guessed.”

Curse nosy children and their accurate hypotheses. Especially if they were Potter’s children. “…it’s my last name,” he grudgingly admitted. There was no point in lying about that fact, and not to a child who would most likely not understand. “I don’t like it.”

Al’s face fell. “But- but why not? It’s a funny name- and not in a bad way. I like it! It’s like Agent Cobra Bubbles, but less ridiculous. Is your name Cobra?”

“I… what?” Somehow, this startled a laugh out of the Dark Lord, and he told himself it was a coping mechanism to deal with the absurdity of the situation. It was a surprisingly fitting name. “…maybe. Who is that?”

“Oh, come on! Agent Bubbles! That man from Lilo and Stitch!” Al seemed enthusiastic about this, and he let out a frustrated huff when it was clear that he didn’t have a clue of what he was talking about. Those new reactions were surprising, considering the fact that until now, he’d looked like a mild-mannered child. “You know what, Mr. Riddle? Just sit here and wait, I’ll show you. You’ll see, it’s going to be great!”

And just like that, the boy left like a small tornado, leaving behind only a package of chocolate chip biscuits and the realization that a little child had called him ‘Mr. Riddle’ in a way so casual he hadn’t thought it possible.

 

-----

 

The Potter kid came back, holding a small device and a bowl full of popcorn. A couple of blankets were hanging from his shoulder. Voldemort blinked in puzzlement. “What are you doing?”

“Setting the mood,” the child said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. He sputtered at the implications the sentence could have.

“…what? What for?”

“For movie time, of course!” Al said with a bright smile, as he set the bowl and blankets on the bed and tinkered with the device. A muggle contraption, no doubt: it looked about the size of a notebook, and emitted a soft glow.

“Why?”

Al sat next to him, placing the blankets on both their laps as if they were long-time friends. The popcorn bowl was between them, and he tapped away at the thing on his hands. “Because you’re nice. And because I can tell that you’re bored in here.”

“What if I told you that I most likely don’t fit in your concept of ‘nice’?”

He actually paused at this, considering his words. “...do you want to hear something my dad says? It’s something the man I told you about before said, but dad made it better.” At Voldemort’s curious nod, he continued. “He always says ‘There is no good or evil, only people and the power to do both good things and bad things.’ People can choose to do one or the other. So really, anyone can choose to be nice.”

This bastardized version of his motto made a surprising amount of sense. He would apply it to manipulation, though. Essentially, it meant that: doing both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ things at one’s convenience to meet one’s goals.

Voldemort usually couldn't stand children, but he liked this one.

 

-----

 

Voldemort did not like this child.

He was having a hard time believing that Potter’s son hadn’t chosen this movie on purpose, as absurd as the notion was.

Forget Agent Bubbles. The parallels the two protagonists had with him were extremely infuriating. It felt like… like his existence was being compared to the mockery of a sob story, and he had to close his eyes to control his anger.

At some point during the climax of the animated movie, he had begun gripping his blanket and pulling it more tightly around his shoulders – how he’d ended up subconsciously imitating Al’s childish blanket cocoon was utterly beyond him – and now his hands trembled slightly.

Because the movie’s unlikely happy ending… that kind of thing never happened in real life.

(At least, not to him. Never had, never would.)

“Didn’t you like the movie? You look upset.” Al’s voice broke the silence, and his face looked thoughtful. “…do you need a hug?”

Voldemort looked startled, sitting perfectly still. His back was straight once more, but he didn’t let go of the blanket. His knuckles were white. “No.”

“I know how people look like when they need a hug, and I know you do,” the child answered, matter-of-factly. “Do you want it?”

Curse Potter’s child a hundred times over. “No.”

The brat’s defeated look almost made him elaborate on why he didn’t want a hug instead of leaving him just with the flat negative. Almost.

He was running his tongue along his teeth, feeling for an annoying corn kernel that had gotten stuck somewhere between his premolars, when the door opened and a very distressed Ginevra Weasley stormed in the room speaking loudly.

“…I swear, if he’s in here-“ The way her expression shifted from concern to anger in less than a millisecond should be recorded somewhere, Voldemort thought. “Albus Severus Potter! What are you- do you know how worried we were?! Did he do anything? What happened?!”

The child quickly placed his muggle device on the bed, and rose his hands in a placating manner. “Mum, it’s okay, calm down! I was curious and I wanted to know what all the fuss was about, so I flooed here.” Weasley was looking at them both with a severe expression. “And then I figured Mr. Riddle was feeling a little lonely here by himself, so I grabbed my iPad and we watched a movie.”

The redhead’s expression was blank with shock, her tone incredulous. “You watched a movie. You watched a movie with…” She struggled to continue, and looked uncomfortable when she finally spoke, as if she were testing the words out. “…with Mr. Riddle.”

“Yes. Lilo and Stitch, but I don’t think he liked it. Did you?” The question was addressed at him. Voldemort looked away and made a noncommittal noise that could be interpreted either as yes or no.

“Al…” Weasley’s voice was softer. “You can't do that. You don't know him.”

“I know, but… he likes Chips Ahoy! That’s a dead giveaway. You can't not be nice if you like those biscuits. Science, mum.”

That did not sound very scientific a method to determine someone’s moral standing, and his mother seemed to think the same. She sighed, and shook her head.

“Let’s go find dad,” she said, as she took a hold of the child’s hand. “Ten minutes ago he looked ready to scan all Britain from the air. And shove pictures of you at everyone’s faces demanding to say if they know something.”

"But that's silly. How can he talk to people from the air?”

“He can't. But he looked like he would try anyway. That’s how worried he was, you little menace!” Weasley scolded, tapping Al’s (Albus, apparently. He shuddered) nose. The child picked up the muggle machine, as she grabbed the empty bowl and one of the blankets.

She obviously decided against asking for the one currently wrapped around Voldemort.

“Neville?” She called out towards the door. “He’s here. Guess who decided it was time to find a movie partner…?”

“What’d I tell you?” The stocky man from before said, stopping near the doorway. “Al is a sneaky one like his father, aren't you?”

“Yes! I’ll find all the secret passages at Hogwarts all by myself! I won't ask dad like Jamie did,” the kid exclaimed proudly to this Neville man.

Weasley looked at him for a few beats, as if considering him. Voldemort returned her gaze, and she frowned in thought.

The chatter subsided as she led her son away from the room. “Goodbye, Mr. Riddle!” He heard, before the door closed.

This left him alone with the man. Feeling ridiculous with the blanket, he removed it from his person and folded it neatly. “…you’re Neville.”

“…yes. Neville Longbottom. And you’re V… Voldemort,” the man answered, squaring his shoulders. He did not miss how he’d stumbled over his chosen name, despite him being bold enough to say it.

"You don't look like a Dark Lord,” Voldemort pointed out conversationally.

It threw the man off. “…what?”

“That other man, that… Ron Weasley, was his name? He made a joke when he thought I was asleep,” he explained. “He pointed out that something was about as likely as you becoming the next Dark Lord and creating your own reign of terror. Which now I understand, is very unlikely.”

Instead of reacting the way he’d expected, Neville eyed him curiously, as if he was some sort of exotic animal in display. Why did everyone do that? He hissed the question through his teeth.

“You are acting… really oddly. I saw you at Hogwarts a couple of times; you liked to check how everything was faring every once in a while. …during the Dark occupation, I mean. You weren't as coherent as now.”

“How so?” Now his curiosity was piqued. Everyone behaved as if he were a wild animal under sedation, ever since he’d woken up at Potter’s house: cautious, ready for anything to go south at any given moment. It was infuriating.

"I saw you torture a second year, once. She had sneezed in your presence… Two minutes and eleven seconds under the Cruciatus Curse. I counted,” he said. There was a gleam of fury in his eyes, tightly contained. “We started sending students into hiding that night, convincing people to not attend classes or show up in the hallways. …I understand how upset Ginny must be at finding her son in the same room as you.”

His own scarlet eyes must show his anger as well, because the man swallowed. “I didn't do anything to that child,” he snarled. “He barged in here, started making guesses on my name, and showed me an obnoxious muggle film for children. And I indulged him: if Weasley cannot control her brood, she shouldn't pin the blame on others.”

“Harry is living proof of your reputation regarding children,” Neville snapped, and then calmed himself down. “See? That is why I’m confused. He’s fine, when you could have hurt him.”

"Oh, yes: I can see that happening, especially without my magic. I have indeed taken up the hobby of beating up children recently, the good old muggle way. It is a formidable way to spend the afternoon,” Voldemort drawled, sarcasm dripping from his voice like snake venom. The man did not react to it, however: he just looked at him intently, as if daring him to prove his own words wrong. “As if I didn't have any other matters to atte- …do not tell me. Did I actually do that?”

“I don't know. You should ask that to Lady Malfoy: you used her home as headquarters for years.” Neville’s expression was tense. “Lots of people would gladly see you dead if they knew you’re here. I’d be careful… Voldemort.”

“Is that a threat?”

"No. Just some advice," he muttered, shaking his head. “I’m tired of war. Everyone is.”

He could empathize with that sentiment, at least.

Chapter Text

Potter seemed to stay at home most of the time, from that day on. Longbottom did not show up again, seemingly because he was a professor at Hogwarts, and he could not afford to disappear for an entire day once more.

Voldemort was, surprisingly enough, allowed outside of the room. One day, after sharing a bag of croissants with the man – Potter had already gotten the hint that he would not even look at food unless it was presealed, someone ate from it, and several vows were made. It was baffling that the man would be so accommodating as to humour him in that aspect instead of simply forcing nutrition potions down his throat – he had accidentally touched the ward limits at the doorway.

When his hand slipped through, he was quick to get out and investigate. Shielding his sensitive red eyes from the brighter natural light with a hand, he inspected the house.

The corridor was not narrow, but it certainly didn't hold the opulence a name like ‘Potter’ would be expected to. The decoration was plentiful, but there was nothing extravagant about it: just family pictures, a few landscape paintings, and a set of portraits of a young Potter who apparently did not want to be photographed, but were hung on the wall anyway by his older self.

The faint smell of potions that had hung in the air for the past few days was more strong when standing in front of one door, which he supposed was a potions lab of some sorts. He refrained from walking inside, mostly because of the faint shimmer of wards he could see around each door.

His own door was narrow and remarkably unlike the rest. A built-in closet with an expansion charm on it? Huh.

Voldemort made it to a fairly big open space that served as a living room, a kitchen, and had a dining area. An unusual concept, but it managed to look nice. There were more pictures on the walls, some trinkets and muggle decorations laying around, the biggest and slimmest television he had seen in his entire life, and a magical lunar calendar. What caught his attention, however, was a clock hung on the wall.

Instead of telling the time, there were six hands pointing to several places. Each one had a name and a miniature portrait of a person. Two of them, ‘Harry’ and ‘Albus’, pointed at ‘home’. ‘Ginny’ pointed at ‘mum’s house’. ‘James’ and ‘Ted’ – a miniature Potter with dark eyes and a teenager with distasteful blue hair – pointed at ‘school’, and ‘Lily’ – a little girl with glasses – pointed at ‘The Burrow’.

It was a crafty invention. Perhaps he should have weaved that into the Dark Marks in order to see where his Death Eaters were. Maybe he had, in the future.

“Do you like the clock? Gran made it. She has one at her place, too.”

Curse that child to Hell and back! When did he get so close? Voldemort turned around to see messy brown hair (lighter than Potter’s pitch black) and a pair of emerald eyes looking up at him. “It’s… clever,” he admitted. Yes, whomever Potter or Weasley’s mother was, he’d give her some credit.

“I know, it’s brilliant! But I ask her to change the enchantment on my name all the time. And she won’t,” the boy told him before a long sigh. “I kinda don’t like my name.”

…well, Voldemort could certainly relate to that. “I am assuming you were named after Albus Dumbledore.”

“Yeah. Gran admires him a lot. And everyone else in the family, too. I mean, I like him too, he was a great wizard! Except when I get his chocolate frog card again, but everyone hates Mister Dumbledore for a few seconds every day when they get his card…” The child was rambling, and for some reason he found it less irritating than he should have. “But as great as he was, he had a really strange name. I tell people to call me Al because people think my name is Albert or Alphonse or Alfred. I just wish I had a more common name, like dad or Jamie. Less of a hassle,” he complained.

“…I don’t like my name either,” Voldemort muttered.

“Your name? …Cobra?”

Despite himself, he snorted into his fist. Hard. “No, it’s not Cobra. But perhaps that would have been fitting. It’s… Thomas. Tom. I don’t like it, it’s too common and it reminds me of someone I hate.”

Al looked thoughtful for a moment, before frowning. “Are… are you kidding, Mr. Riddle? That name is awesome! It’s easy to remember, and your last name has flare… Tom Riddle. It sounds right, like you are a talk show host from the telly. Or someone important in a chocolate frog card.”

“Enough of feeding his ego, Al,” Potter’s mildly amused voice drawled, his footsteps bouncing off the walls of the modest hallway.

Voldemort decided to point out something that had been bothering him and was harmless enough. “This does not look like a manor, Potter.”

“That’s because it’s not a manor,” was the man’s cheeky answer. It was his son of all people who decided to elaborate.

“Don’t you like cozy houses, Mr. Riddle? Dad prefers them this way.” He then imitated his father’s stance, and lowered his tone. “It's easier to clean!”

The casual usage of his given last name sent an obscene amount of glee sparking in Potter’s eyes. The corners of his lips twitched upwards, and he placed both hands on his son’s tiny shoulders. “Have I told you yet how much I love you, today? Because I love you very much,” he said, ruffling his hair.

"I love you too, dad... what brought this on? I already washed the dishes twice this week! There's nothing else to clean!” The child was looking at Potter with mock suspicion, and he snorted fondly.

"The house doesn't magically stop getting dirty once you clean it… unless you use some charms, but- there’ll be time for that when you're older. And speaking of, you should go clean Plu’s cage, it’s getting smelly. We’ll be out for a while, to get Teddy’s medicine,” he explained, and then looked pointedly at Voldemort. “We, as in you and I. You are coming with me, of course.”

The Dark Lord’s scarlet eyes widened, as the child huffed in frustration. Potter would take him outside? He must have taken precautions to keep him from escaping, but if he slipped…

It would probably be useless, but he still would try. When people lost hope, they stopped trying to avoid further despair, even when options of escape appeared again. A baby dragon held by thin rope would stay put as a fearsome adult because it did not want to try escaping again and face failure, and Voldemort would not be that dragon.

He would play along to gain the trust of Potter and his allies, and with it, the privilege of increased freedom. But if he ever had the chance to run away, he would.

 


 

Harry didn't know how to feel about all this. He did not trust Voldemort, of course, but this strange companionship with Albus – of all people, considering his namesake – was nothing short of baffling. It made him terribly uneasy to have his son around the Dark Lord, the fierce protectiveness that swelled in his chest – his people, a possessive part of him said. His people, his friends, his family, his son – and instilled the all-too familiar urge to act as a human shield and get in the way of harm.

This little habit of his, so mocked and twisted with lies and taunts into its exact opposite during the Hogwarts battle, had been particularly stubborn after the war. It was okay, he told himself. He wasn't the target anymore, his loved ones weren't in mortal danger. People would miss him if he died now. Ginny would miss him, Ron and Hermione would miss him (Hagrid sobbing hysterically after his temporary death had struck a chord in him he didn't even know existed, he wanted to live just to never see that look in anyone’s face ever again), and when James was born, he knew he couldn't die. James would have a mother and a father. And so would Albus and Lily. And Teddy would never go through the heartbreak of watching his only godfather die.

And still, it took him years of close calls, reckless behaviour in his auror duty and nights of self deprecation while thinking about his children to get back some semblance of the self preservation instincts that had helped him survive during his childhood, and had so eagerly tossed aside in favour of protecting his only source of joy he finally found at the age of eleven. He’d fight for his life if he was alone, but if others were involved, they took priority.

(Deep down, he knew that if his family was in danger, he would not hesitate, not even a second, before blocking a Killing Curse with his own body like his mother had. His fear of his children hurt was still greater than his fear of leaving them orphans, because they still had Ginny, and the Weasleys, and Andromeda, and his friends. They wouldn't be alone with awful people like he had.)

That was, perhaps, a huge reason on why he was willing to risk taking his mortal enemy along while running errands. He could keep an eye on him, and didn't need to worry about his family being hurt at his own home.

Predictably, uttering ‘Knockturn Alley’ inside the fireplace transported them to Borgin and Burke’s. A large dust cloud made Harry cough as he stumbled out of the old chimney, Riddle in tow. Borgin was nowhere in sight.

“What business do you have in here?” The man asked, dusting off his borrowed hood and looking at his surroundings. “You don't look at all like the kind of person to frequent Knockturn.”

“And you don't look like a sociopathic mass murderer, yet here we are,” Harry answered dryly.

“Sociopaths do not have a set appearance, you foo-“ A coughing fit kept him from finishing the sentence, and Harry flicked his wand to clear the air a bit. “This- this place has seen much better days.”

The Deputy Head Auror snorted, a thought crossing his head. “Yeah, I bet no one dusted these shelves since you did.” The image of Riddle with an apron, dusting the shelves and cleaning the window panes the muggle way, was threatening to make him giggle in the most ridiculous manner.

Even though his hood obscured his red eyes, Harry could feel his murderous glare. Riddle’s left hand twitched uselessly at his side, as if trying to grasp a wand that wasn’t there, to attack him with magic he couldn’t control.

A small frown replaced the amusement in his eyes. He knew how horrible it felt to be in an unsafe place and not be able to use magic, but allowing Voldemort to keep his was practically begging for trouble. Might as well give him a shotgun and leave him unattended in muggle London!

“Potter, is that you?” A familiar voice called out from the door that led to the front of the store. He hummed in response, and the hunched form of Leroy Borgin – now a familiar one – greeted them both. “Does your… friend, come with you today?”

Harry huffed out a little laugh, shaking his head. He would rather die than be caught purchasing what brought him to Knockturn every month. “Dragons are lazy creatures, they don’t leave their den often,” he replied enigmatically. The man flashed him his crooked teeth in a nasty grin, obviously knowing who he was talking about. “No, this is… an acquaintance.”

“My lips are sealed as always, Mr. Potter,” Borgin said in mostly insincere flattery, as he waved towards the open door beside him with a little flourish. “I won’t take up any more of your time, then.”

The auror sighed and made to walk towards the door, but Riddle had stopped to look at Borgin oddly. “…yes? What do you want?” The man said impatiently.

“You don’t look like Caractacus. Samuel Borgin’s son, perhaps?”

“What…? Your voice sounds young, you surely couldn’t have known my father or Mr. Burke. I have been running this shop by myself for forty years.” Borgin sounded suspicious, almost alarmed.

“Yes. I couldn’t have known either of them,” he agreed easily. Too easily. Harry could hear the smile in his voice. “You are the shop’s sole owner? Now, this explains… everything,” he drawled. Borgin choked out an indignant noise, but the auror had already grabbed Riddle’s arm and was practically dragging him outside.

“Don’t pay him any mind, cleaning enthusiast, y’know? The dust upset him, yes… I’ll be back in a while as always, bye!” He was babbling as he walked, and as soon as they were outside, Harry dragged the Dark Lord to a corner shadowed by a tall building. “What the bloody hell is your problem?!”

Riddle returned his gaze calmly, and the corners of his mouth were twitching upwards. “Me? I’d say it is you who has a problem now. With Borgin’s son, more specifically. I told you, you aren’t cut for business in here. I expect whatever deal you had with him will be revoked now.”

“Shut up before I hex you,” Harry hissed through his teeth. “I’m the Deputy Head Auror, and I have dirt on him. He either lets me use his shop as a passage and doesn’t stir any trouble, or a bunch of aurors will conveniently show up to make sure that he doesn’t have any illegal artifacts. Game over, his shop is closed.”

“Hmm…” Riddle hummed in approval, pursing his lips in fake thoughtfulness. “Positively clever. I wouldn’t have done it any better.”

“Don’t you dare comparing us,” Harry growled. He shook his head, pulled his own hood over his eyes, and began walking at a fast pace, the destination clear in his mind.

The other began to follow as soon as the silver cuff began to tug his left arm forward, not letting him linger for too long.

 


 

The apothecary wasn't like the ones at Diagon Alley. It looked more like the late Professor Snape’s office than a nice, clean store selling Ministry-approved potions ingredients.

And that's because it wasn't, and it didn't.

And Harry went through the trouble of visiting Knockturn Alley precisely because of that. He walked resolutely to the counter, where a hag was dicing some dubious-looking meat. She wasn't placing it inside a container, so it must be for her own consumption; Harry closed his eyes in a restrained grimace, as Riddle inspected the shelves. The hag noticed them, then, and the auror rubbed the back of his neck.

“Sorry for being late, did I interrupt your… lunch, Mrs. Weeland?”

The hag shook her head, setting the raw meat aside and wiping her fingers on a relatively clean rag. “No, not at all! I was just preparing it – I like eating early, you see. The same as always, dear?”

Harry nodded, watching her wrinkled, clawed hands open several drawers in search of the plant he wanted. “Has a ‘little someone’ found a good sweetener yet?”

“Aha!” The hag exclaimed, finally pulling out a bouquet of freshly-cut wolfsbane. “There, Sophie got it two days ago. A preservation charm, and look! As fresh as you can get. ...the sweetener, you say? Yes, I’ve got something, but he said it’s still experimental...”

“Oh, Ted will be so happy to hear that!”

Mrs. Weeland handed him a small vial, and Harry blinked. He hadn’t thought she would actually have it, only that she mentioned it in passing. “Here, a single drop of this for every potion shouldn’t neutralize its effects, but it will remove some of the bad taste. It’s free of charge this time, but you have to let me know if it worked, alright? He should be fine if he doesn't transform, but…”

“Oh- thank you… I’m not sure I’m comfortable with him being a… test subject, but he did insist…” He sighed, and pocketed the vial. “Now, for the wolfsbane… wait, that nearly doubles the usual amount-!”

“Yes. I figured that if the sweetener did neutralize the potion, you would want to make more just in case. And I’m assuming you already have bezoars if it turned out poisonous…” Harry groaned and pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes, setting his glasses askew under his hood. “So it will be seven galleons this time.”

"I knew there was a catch,” he grumbled as he took out seven shiny coins from a small bag. “I swear, sometimes you’re worse than the muggle pharmaceutical industry…”

The hag flashed him a teasing, yellow-toothed grin. “I'm here to help, dear. We carnivores have to stick together. See you next month, and don't forget to tell me if it worked! Oh, and say hello to Teddy and your friend for me. The child, too.”

Harry snorted, picked up the bag with the wolfsbane, and said his goodbyes as he left the shop. Riddle was at the doorway, reading an informational poster. He wasn't as focused on it as he looked, however, because he turned towards him instantly.

“Are you a werewolf?”

“No,” he said, as he placed the bag in his trusty mokeskin pouch. “My godson almost is, but not quite. His father was a werewolf, you see, and even though he can't transform, he suffers quite a lot during a full moon and the week before. He jokes about it being his manly period.”

The Dark Lord wrinkled his nose. “I did not need that imagery in my head. …why does he need wolfsbane potion, then?”

“Sipping it soothes his pain. An acquaintance of mine is also a werewolf, and his child is a half-werewolf like my godson. I don't mind supplying them with potion; I have to brew it anyway, and they will pay for it afterward.”

Riddle arched an eyebrow. “Too high and mighty to get it himself?”

“But of course. Can't let anything sully Mr. Perfect’s reputation.”

He huffed loudly through his nose, and it took Harry a few seconds to register it was a chuckle. “Yes, I know the type.”

He had never seen Voldemort smile before. He had seen him smirk in satisfaction, his manic grin when he tortured someone, and the dark triumph in his eyes right before his Killing Curse hit Harry in the chest and took his life, even if it was for a few minutes.

But the small, lopsided smile that tugged at Riddle’s lips was nothing like that. He looked like a normal person, joking around and feeling amused by things that weren't murder and causing others pain.

(It was a nice smile. He did not dwell into that any further, the thought did funny things to his chest he did not care to examine.)

“Come on Riddle, we’re going back. Borgin will have to humour us again.”

 


 

The next day, Potter was in a good mood. His daughter had apparently come back during the evening – Voldemort had been in the room that was not his, the curtains drawn as usual, as he went over his own thoughts again and again – and this was enough to motivate him to blast loud music the following morning.

Voldemort covered his ears with a pillow in an attempt to muffle the tinkering of plates, the rustling of boxes and irritating lyrics that Potter was singing alongside the radio.

 

…come on, baby, let's not fight,

We’ll go dancing, everything will be all right.

 

Wake me up, before you go go,

Don't leave me hanging on like a yo-yo.

Wake me up, before you go go,

I don't wanna miss it when you hit that high.

 

Ridiculous behaviour, if anyone asked him. But nobody did, so he kept the thought to himself.

"Lily, Al! Breakfast is ready!” A beat of silence, and then: “Riddle!”

Wake me up, before you go go,

‘Cause I’m not planning on going solo.

Wake me up, before you go go,

Take me dancing tonight.

 

Voldemort had already showered in the Spartan, cell-like bathroom that had been conjured in an expanded side of the room. It was less of a commodity than a way to keep him out of Potter’s bathroom, but he wasn’t complaining about that; what was certainly annoying, however, was the fact that it was obviously void of anything he could use as a weapon or as means to hurt himself (not that he would try, but it bothered him to acknowledge the fact they thought he could at some point).

(He still refused to think about the incident in which Potter caught him frowning at his unkempt stubble, and wordlessly cast a shaving spell on him. The thought of asking him to do it again was simply humiliating.)

Getting breakfast at all from his would-be murderer was still disconcerting, but was Potter really inviting him to eat with his family, with his children? How bloody naïve could he get?

It felt like an elaborate ploy to catch him off-guard, to be honest. No one in their right mind was that deluded, not even a man like Potter.

Did he know about what he’d managed to snatch at Borgin and Burke’s? Perhaps he did, Voldemort couldn’t afford to think he didn’t. But then again, why hadn’t he taken it away from him?

The dining table was next to the kitchen area, which was an unorganized mixture of household spells and muggle applications, some of them he didn’t recognize. The auror and the two children were having cereal as he approached while shielding his eyes from the light (again), and there was an extra bowl set for him. He wondered briefly if Potter had chosen it on purpose, so he wouldn’t have pointy cutlery anywhere near his kids.

Al didn’t seem to share his father’s concerns, because he greeted him enthusiastically. “Good morning Mr. Riddle! Are you feeling better today?”

He knew the child meant his allegedly delicate health, but something stirred uncomfortably at the question anyway. He shrugged ambiguously and sat down, making no move to pick up the spoon, especially because the bowl already had the milk and the colourful cereal in it. It was a careful presentation, one he wouldn’t buy for a second.

“Cat got your tongue today?” Potter asked, and it made his right eye twitch. He couldn’t very well reply that his son’s unknowingly deep questions felt inappropriate because he was oddly compelled to answer honestly, and he wouldn’t do so with a public. “…Al, what are you doing?”

The child in question had leaned over the table, dug his own spoon in Voldemort’s bowl, and nonchalantly ate from it. He was looking at him with a reassuring smile, almost as if they were sharing a secret. If he saw his namesake’s twinkles in those green eyes he was sure to lose his composure and bolt right out from that table.

Potter’s daughter, a little girl with reddish brown hair and glasses not quite as ridiculous as her father’s, scowled at her brother as if she were the eldest. “Gran says it’s not nice to eat from someone’s food!”


“But he’ll think it’s poisoned if nobody eats from it!” Al defended himself, and then ate a spoonful of his own bowl. After he’d swallowed, he continued: “He’s like Auror Mad-Eye, remember when dad told us he always brought his own food everywhere and even checked that for poison?”

The girl – Lily, if his memory didn’t fail him. And it never did – gasped in realization and gawked at him, as if she were really looking at him for the first time. “Are you an auror too, Mister?”

Voldemort had already brought the spoon into his mouth, and he choked on his cereal. He rose a napkin to his mouth to wipe it, as Potter watched them with amusement, and his lips curved into a smile. “I love you both,” he muttered, before snorting and going back to his own breakfast.

Had he arranged this on purpose to watch him get mocked by his children? It wasn’t that far-off of a possibility.

“Daddy, can I go to the park this afternoon? Gran promised she would take me if you let me and I wasn’t sick anymore, and I’m not. Please?” The child batted her eyelashes at Potter in the accurate impersonation of a very upset puppy, but he was apparently immune to it, if his eye roll was anything to go by.

“…okay, fine. But pay extra attention to class today, alright? You already missed the first two weeks of it,” he said, running a hand through his hair. “And help gran pick some appropriate muggle clothes this time.”

“Yes, I don’t think telling them it’s a costume will work this time. Susan didn’t believe it,” Lily muttered sullenly.

“She didn’t?” Her brother asked, curious.

“Yes. She called gran weird, and we’re not friends anymore. I said she was just jealous because her gran doesn’t play dress-up with feather boas for fun, and she said that’s because her gran is normal and mine is stupid.”

Potter made a choking noise, looking very alarmed. Voldemort’s eyes started to narrow despite himself: this is the sort of situation that fueled his hatred of muggles, like gasoline would fuel a campfire until it became a raging inferno. “And what happened, then?” He couldn’t help but ask.

“I got mad and said she would regret thinking like that,” the girl explained. This felt too familiar. Had she attacked that muggle? “I told her when she’s an old lady she won’t know how to have fun, and she will be a boring grandma and her grandkids won’t like her if she calls people weird. And they will go play dress-up with their other grandma and she’ll be all alone. She called me a liar and walked away.”

Her father beamed with pride, smiling fondly and ruffling her reddish hair. “That’s my girl!” Voldemort looked away from the scene. Partly because he wanted to reflect on how non-violent yet cutting that response had been. In looking away, he stared at the window directly, and the morning sun made his sensitive eyes tearful and sore. He closed them.

(No one had ever praised his comeback to a bully. It was awkward to watch.)

“Oh, right!” Potter exclaimed, catching his attention. He turned away from the window and rubbed his eyes, just as something was gingerly placed on his face.

Voldemort stiffened and almost ripped it away from his person and to the floor, but he managed to catch himself. He blinked at the sudden comfortable darkness that shrouded the room, and it took him embarrassingly long to register what was going on.

“I got you a pair of sunglasses!” Potter stated the obvious, and then proceeded to answer his unvoiced question of why. “I noticed you were squinting at things yesterday, so I reckoned you were sensitive to the light. It has the added bonus of hiding your eyes from view.”

The ever-curious Al blinked at his father. “Why would he want to hide his eyes? They look nice. Mysterious.”

“Because not many people have red eyes, and it's not nice when everyone on the street is gawking at you,” Potter replied. Yes, not many people had red eyes, and none of those few select people had them naturally.

Red irises were one of the many side effects of making more than one horcrux, after all.

“Now, finish your breakfast, kids. Lily, you don't want to make Aunt Hermione wait, do you?”

The scene was awfully domestic. Voldemort stared at his silver handcuff.

It almost looked like freedom, but not quite.

Chapter Text

The potions lab was not the nicest room in the house, that was for sure. After spending nearly two hours surrounded by fumes and boiling liquid, Harry was very quick to jump in the shower.

Now he knew why Snape’s hair always looked greasy and Slughorn’s was slicked back with some sort of product. The potions smell tended to stay in it (as well as the clothes), and soaking it with perfume or oil was a way to prevent that. Personally, Harry preferred the more muggle method of using hairspray as a protective coat.

Once he was out and feeling refreshed, he gathered his materials and began the careful process of packaging the wolfsbane vials.

It was like this that his nemesis caught him, just as he began wrapping them in bubble paper and placing them in a large box. “Oh. Hey, Riddle. Tired of sulking?”

“I was not ‘sulking’, as you so eloquently put it.” His posture was tense. “What are you doing?”

Harry shrugged, as he cushioned the box some more. “Getting this ready for mail. Owls can be very careless– oi, could you pass me that, please?”

Riddle looked at the tape he was pointing at, then back at him. He arched an eyebrow, and Harry groaned.

“Yes, thank you, that was so very kind of you,” he muttered sardonically, as he walked to get it himself. The young Dark Lord was watching him wordlessly. It was a little bit unnerving – did the man ever blink?

Once he was satisfied with the quality of the packaging, Harry grabbed some quill and parchment and scrawled a small note that barely qualified as a letter. Not mentioning names, concise and to the point. As always.

Here’s this month’s supply. Remember the sweetener I told you about? It's done, and my godson insisted on trying the first experimental batch. If it goes well, would young S be interested in it? I know the poor kid hates the taste.

I hope you will understand I'm not taking any chances with you. Just in case it makes the potion weaker, I mean. I certainly wouldn't risk it, especially with this month’s lunar eclipse. Both HW’s astrological calculations and muggle scientists say it’ll be brighter than usual.

Take care,

HP.

There. He slipped the parchment between layers of brown wrapping paper, and then began to work on the second, smaller package. He’d already written a letter for this one, significantly lengthier. His godson usually didn't write that often while at school, busy kid that he was – even more so this year, now that he was Head Boy – so they always made the effort to write a little more when they did share correspondence.

Also, he had to pester him about James. The little brat was picking up Teddy’s habit of not writing often, and that wouldn't do! Ginny may be content with just sending letters, but Harry wanted to get some feedback, too!

Granted, it had only been two weeks, and Hogwarts tended to keep its tenants occupied. Teddy had also told him that it was ‘unpopular’ and ‘not cool’ amongst first years to write to their parents often. Perhaps Ron was right, and he was acting like a mother hen.

(But Ron and Ginny had always gotten letters from the Weasleys, and had been able to tell them their adventures, their grades, how much of a twat Snape was, and just chatter from school. Harry’s brief conversations with his parents involved necromancy in some form in both occasions they happened, and he just thought that it’d be nice to keep in touch with his eldest son. Merlin knew how much he’d wished for a doting father sometimes.)

Riddle’s voice broke him out of his reverie. His shoulders tensed a little, ashamed as he was to not be alert around his enemy. When did that start to happen?

“What is the Morning Dawn?”

Harry started for a moment. Where could he possibly have heard– …oh. The pamphlets all over Knockturn, of course.

“It's an extremist group. Terrorists, not unlike your Death Eaters.”

Riddle’s lip twitched in annoyance. “Why would there be Ministry-issued warnings in Knockturn Alley of all places? ‘Be careful what you say. Be careful who you trust. Don't walk alone in muggle areas, stay safe, and let the Forces protect you.’ A rather enigmatic message, I’d say.”

“…yes, that is exactly what it says. Do you have photographic memory?”

“Eidetic,” Riddle corrected absently. “You did not answer my question.”

“That's because those aren't Ministry-issued warnings.” Harry’s smile was wry. “The Dawn is a Light sect. Naturally, London’s darkest magical street would warn its dwellers against danger.”

Young Voldemort’s confusion made him laugh unashamedly. “Sounds ridiculous, I know. Being Light-oriented, the Ministry can only send the Aurors when there’s violent action, which doesn't happen that often. We at the Order try to find them on our own, and there’s a group of civilians from Dark families who formed a… vigilante group.” Harry pinched the bridge of his nose, underneath his glasses. “They call themselves the Dark Forces. The Ministry is mostly trying to dissuade them from acting, because all they do is start open fights with the Dawn, and then we have to come save their arse because they got hurt or held for ransom… it’s a mess.”

“A vigilante group? It does not sound so different from your… Order.”

Harry frowned, deep in thought as he taped the package closed. The Forces’ intentions were good enough, striving only to protect their people, even though some of their beliefs were a little less than stellar. One of the Morning Dawn’s targets were bigots, after all, especially the ones that made their hate public and vocal.

That did not excuse their behavior, however. These men and women, bigots as they were, were being kidnapped, tortured and killed. Dark families feared for their safety in their own homes, and that was intolerable.

"That's not the problem,” he finally said, giving the package a fond pat once he was done with it. “The Order is full of trained, capable people. Most of them have fought two wars. The Forces… they’re organized, sure, but they’re mostly…” Harry struggled to put it into words, messing up his hair with his hand, absently. “They’re high-class, they were sheltered during the regime. Half of them haven't even been in a real fight before, all they have going on for them is their… uh, pureblood pride, and the will to protect their families. Which is admirable, but…”

"It doesn't win any battles,” Riddle finished for him. He looked just as pensive as he did. Almost like–

“I can see the cogs turning in that head of yours, and I can assure you that none of them would be even remotely willing to associate themselves with you. Their parents kept them away from you for a reason.”

“What is it with you people and children?!” Riddle finally snapped, looking angry in such a petty, juvenile way it caught Harry off-guard.  He had to force down the urge to laugh, because he had never imagined Voldemort to be capable of such a reaction. “Why do your associates keep suggesting I would hurt their snot-nosed spawn?”

Harry couldn't help it. He'd always been quite impulsive, and his mouth opened before he could actually process what he was saying. “What about the cave, then? Those kids, I heard they never spoke a single word again.”

It was almost fascinating to see, just like it was fascinating to watch a cobra flare its hood and extend its deadly fangs with glistening venom. The way Riddle’s annoyance morphed into the kind of rage he’d seen far too many times in his serpentine nemesis’ visage. The way his expression contorted, and his eyes gleamed in fury.

“You have no right. You know nothing about this. Nothing, you hear me? You don't have the slightest idea of what you are talking about.”

The way his handcuff started vibrating with his unconscious surge of pent up energy. The way Riddle tried to hide a wince as a sharp pain probably struck him in his very core, as Hermione said it would whenever his magic tried to manifest.

“You're right,” Harry conceded, hands up in a placating gesture. It was best to be conciliatory and keep Riddle in a civil mood, before he attempted more muggle methods of expressing his anger. Heavens knew, if he were in the poor bastard’s situation, he would have grabbed him by the collar of the shirt and head-butted him already. “I don't know what happened. But yes, you have a bit of a… reputation.”

To his credit, he seemed to deflate a little. It was truly an astonishing sight to see Voldemort actually attempt to be reasonable. “My older self started a– no, he started two wars, correct? And you choose to focus on the fact I cast Unforgivables on children, instead? Surely I wasn't the only one? Everyone is behaving like I committed some sort of massive, dramatic infanticide– “

He stopped short when he saw Harry’s grin. And it was not a reassuring sight: the absurdity of it all had finally caught up with the older wizard, and he had to lean against the kitchen table when he finally collapsed in bursts of hysterical laughter.

The git was looking at him as if he'd gone off the deep end. And it was hilarious.

“What. …what!” He repeated impatiently, frustration evident in his grit teeth.

Because of course. Riddle didn't know. He couldn't have possibly known, at that age, what he would do in thirty more years. Harry knew this, logically, he was supposed to. But it hadn’t clicked until now.

Riddle didn't know.

“Sorry,” he choked out, finally, wiping tears away from under his glasses. “It's just– it's so funny, because that's the whole point. And it just seemed so obvious, I forgot you didn't know. Sorry. It– it impacted both of our lives forever, and everything literally revolved around this, it was bonkers!”

Well, at least he waited until Harry caught his breath, even if it was with a smoldering stare. That was decent of him.

“You– you threw this whole tantrum about a prophecy. Someone was supposed to vanquish you. And that someone, it just so happens, could only have been two people. And these people happened to be Neville and I. And we happened to be infants.” The way he delivered the news nonchalantly, the traces of humour still on his face, must have been a little unsettling to be honest. He couldn't bring himself to care. “You happened to go after both of our families for… more than a year, I think? And you just so happened to choose mine, while you sent your cronies to torture Neville’s parents, too, for good measure. Just in case he was the prophecy kid, you know? Never mind they never recovered from that. They’re still catatonic. It was nothing personal, I'm sure.”

It was a little satisfying to watch Riddle’s already pale skin go even whiter, as his words turned venomous at the end. His face was unreadable, but he was clearly struggling to process the information.

“So that left me. You got word of the Fidelius, broke into my house, and tossed a Killing Curse to my baby self’s general direction. Blood magic happened, the curse rebounded on you, and you died for the first time. No biggie.”

Riddle’s lips were pressed firmly, and his jaw still looked tense when he finally parted them to speak. “…you mean to tell me, people went on to remember me as the man who tried and failed to kill a toddler, then died?”

“Of course you'd choose to focus on that.” Harry sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose and leaving his glasses slightly askew. “Yes, among other things. Like being completely bonkers and having a hair-trigger temper. Flattering picture, isn't it?”

To his credit, the young dark lord seemed to be considering his words. Harry glanced at the long-forgotten packages on the table, before heaving another sigh.

“You said I went after your family. What about them?”

Harry’s breath froze in his throat.

"You killed them. My parents. Even the family cat, if that means anything to you.”

“Oh.”

It was uttered stupidly, as if Riddle hadn't had time to process what Harry just said. He could pinpoint the exact second it had started to sink in just by his face alone.

“You know… I think it's funny. I never fought you unprovoked,” Harry began, with no trace of humour in his words despite his earlier statement. “And yet you worked so hard to make me your enemy. It's like you tried your darnedest to make me hate you, Riddle. You forced me to go through– the same.”

If the younger man’s wide, inexplicably unguarded eyes were any indication, he had caught on to the full implications. Let it be said that Tom Riddle had, at the very least, a fast mind.

“Where did you– “

“It wasn't an orphanage,” Harry muttered, clenching his fists and feeling vulnerable. His gaze avoided Riddle’s, who looked surprisingly lost. “Not any better, though.”

“Muggles?” Riddle managed to ask.

“Yeah.” Harry’s voice was barely above a whisper.

Riddle covered his mouth with a shaky hand. He looked deeply disturbed.

“Are you going to pass out?”

The dark lord answered with a question of his own, as if he hadn't heard Harry’s. It occurred to him that maybe he hadn't. “Why did I do that?”

“What?” Harry asked, perhaps a bit sardonically. “Handpick your own nemesis, or orphan a child?”

“…both.”

Harry started pacing in front of the table. “You think I've never asked myself that question a million times before? No, I don’t know why you did what you did. I have no bloody clue. You buggered Britain raw and left before sunrise without a note or a goodbye kiss.” The crudity of his words helped release some of that pent-up… something, in his chest. “No bloody clue. For all I know, for all anyone knows, you did it for the kick of it.”

“No, you don't understand. I would never want any magical child to– I would not– “

Harry closed his eyes. Logically, he knew he should do something about Riddle’s building panic. He would become a a threat to himself and others if he kept that up.

Logic, however, did not take into account Harry’s bubbling nausea, his pounding headache, or the emotional exhaustion he’d been dragging along for years.

“Horcruxes are my best guess,” he finally said, dryly. “You made so many you were barely human at the end. Maybe that was enough to push you off the deep end all the way.”

Harry sighed heavily, heading towards the sofa and slumping bonelessly against it. Having Riddle around, asking all these questions, was starting to catch up to him and taking its toll.

Glancing up from his slumped position, the young Dark Lord was doing no better. He was leaning against the wall, palms splayed open and forehead flush with the plaster to support his weight.

What a right mess.

The wards alerted him right before the door clicked with a jingle of keys. A little bundle of excitement came barreling in, and it brought Harry out of his stupor.

No, not in front of the kids. He stood up.

“Daddy, daddy! I did it again!” Lily shrieked with joy, before adding as an afterthought, to be polite, “hi, Mr. Riddle!”

Harry stilled. Molly was right behind her, closing the door, and watching Riddle like a hawk. Good. Idly, he noticed she was wearing slightly more appropriate clothing to blend in.

Lily was burying her face in his shirt in an excited hug.

“What did you do this time, Lily?”

“Weeeell, Emily and Stewart were playing cards and…” Her eyes glinted mischievously behind her glasses.

“Lily… tell me you didn’t.”

This seemed to pique Riddle’s interest from his moping spot, and Molly sharpened her gaze.

“But it’s just so easy,” she whined. “Their thoughts are so loud, it’s easy to pick up the card they chose.”

“That’s cheating, you can’t do that,” Harry said sternly.

“It’s not! I told them it was magic and they agreed! They like it, dad!” Lily insisted.

“Lily, you can’t do muggle magic tricks with Legilimency. The magic they believe in isn’t real, so it’s cheating.”

“I dun’ wanna lie though…”

“It’s not lying if you can actually do them,” Harry said, smiling and picking out his wand. “I was planning to give you this for your birthday, but… Accio Lily’s gift!

A book landed squarely on his hands, flying at high-speed through the house.

“Illusio…nism…for beginners?” Lily asked, confused.

“Yeah. You can learn the real thing and impress your muggle friends with skill, now. Not talent.” Harry ruffled his daughter’s hair.

“That will stifle her potential,” Riddle murmured from his spot against the wall. He still looked shaken, but he’d been watching the interaction with a smidgen of curiosity in his eyes.

“We can’t have her breaking the Statute of Secrecy, Riddle,” Harry said, just as Molly was muttering about it being none of his business.

Lily stared at Riddle then, intently, her head cocked. And she smiled.

“You were like me!” She said, glancing then at Harry. “Daddy, did you know he was like me? He heard loud thoughts all the time when he was little, he’s thinking about it now. His head’s not as silent as yours.”

Riddle stiffened. Oh, so his Occlumency barriers had lowered. Harry hadn’t considered that.

“Yes, I was… aware,” Harry said, forcing a smile for his girl. “But he didn’t keep it a secret. That’s why you should. People think it’s dangerous, even wizards.”

“But daddy…”

“When you’re older you’ll understand, Lily,” said Molly, looking at her sadly. “Come on, why don’t we go to your room and read this book? We can show Albus too.”

At this, Lily’s eyes sparkled. “Yeah gran, I’ll show him! I’ll learn everything I can about being a muggle witch, and then I’ll be better prepared for Hogwarts!”

As she rambled on excitedly, leaving the room with Molly in tow, Harry couldn’t help but stare in exhausted fondness.

“Quite the little Ravenclaw, isn’t she?”

“Yeah. I think she’s spending too much time with Hermione,” Harry said, forgetting for a moment whom he was talking to. “She was almost sorted into Ravenclaw.”

Harry sat back down on the sofa and stared at the ceiling, wistfully.

“If she were a Ravenclaw we’d have a complete set,” he said with a tiny smile. “My godson’s a Hufflepuff. They made the little punk Head Boy… James just got sorted into Gryffindor, and I’m absolutely, one hundred percent positive Al will be a Slytherin.”

He could feel Riddle’s stare boring into him, and Harry studiously ignored it. “How are you so sure?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know.”

It was the reason why he’d applied himself so hard in Occlumency during auror training. It was the reason why he’d studied it with a burning passion after James was born, until his shields were decent enough. Severus had been a horrid teacher, but Harry wasn’t a natural, either.

“That was Weasley’s mother, I take it. She dragged your daughter away from me.”

“And now you know why,” Harry said. “You also killed her brothers, her son, your pet nearly killed her husband, and one of your followers maimed her eldest son almost beyond recognition. She’s justified in her hatred.”

“What do you lot expect me to do now?” Riddle hissed, frustrated. His voice was coated in defeat. “I have done none of this yet, and I am useless without my magic. A nobody.”

“And that’s where you’re wrong. You wish you were a nobody, Riddle.” The irony wasn’t lost on Harry. “But you’re somebody, whether you like it or not. Someone no one is particularly inclined to trust, not even your old followers. You drew them all away in fear.”

He looked at Riddle, then. He’d slumped to the floor, his back against the wall.

He looked so small.