It was back when Voldemort and Quirrell were still adjusting to living together. Not that they didn't live together for a year when they were trying to kill Harry Potter, but that was different. This time they were both in their separate bodies and, most importantly, they were no longer a master and his slave, but a couple.
Quirrell was putting his books back on their places in the bookcase (Voldemort couldn't stand the sight of them laying around on every piece of furniture in the house) and telling his partner about his day at the muggle school where he was teaching to provide for them both. That day he had to step in when a bunch of boys were teasing their classmate for accidentally spilling his drink. Although Quirrell was really stirred by the accident, Voldemort didn't seem to be affected by the story at all.
“Well, he sounds like a Grunt!” he scoffed, referring to the clumsy boy. As soon as he said that, the books Quirrell was holding fell to the ground and the man himself held on to the bookcase, as if he needed support.
“Quirrell? What's wrong?” Voldemort sprang up from the couch, but then stopped, suddenly unsure if he should come closer.
“That word you've just used...” Quirrell slowly turned to Voldemort; horror written all over his face.
When Voldemort put the pieces together, his own face became even paler than usually. If Quirrell reacted so badly to that word, it could only mean he was... No, that's impossible, that's too horrible! He wouldn't dare to ask it outright, but he had to know if his suspicions were correct. And the easiest way to do that was to read Quirrell's mind.
~ ~ ~
He found himself in the Hogwarts greenhouse and it was full of firstyear Ravenclaws, including little Quirrell, absorbed by his task of planting seeds of a venomous tentacula. However, not all of the kids were as focused as he was. There were three boys at a table next to him who were obviously up to something. The one that sat in the middle seemed to be their leader. He had dark blonde hair and more freckles than a quail's egg. All three of them were glancing at the teacher repeatedly until she turned away from the class for a moment. Then the blonde kid nodded at one of his sidekicks, who then pulled something out of his pocket and tossed it under Quirrell's chair. Suddenly, a loud fart noise made everyone perk their heads up. The author of the prank waved a hand in front of his face.
“Quirrell, was that you? Ew!”
Quirrell tried to protest, but he couldn't do anything about the wave of giggles that went through the class. Nor could he stop himself from blushing a deep shade of pink. And even after the teacher told the children to go back to work, there was one last whisper that only Quirrell has heard.
“You stink, Grunt!”
~ ~ ~
The memory changed. They were in the History of Magic class and the teacher was explaining something, pointing with his wand at a floating map. Quirrell was trying to take notes, but it was hard when the person sitting directly behind him kept kicking his chair. That person was of course the freckled kid.
“Could you p-please stop doing that, Steven?” Quirrell whispered turning to him.
The kicking stopped, but instead Steven leaned forward and whispered: “I bet you cheated yesterday in the Charms class.”
“You can't be that good at levitating things. Would you levitate, let's say... that paperweight from the teacher's desk?”
“O-of course I could do that.”
“And levitate it above the teacher's head for half a minute so that he wouldn't notice?”
“Yeah, why not?”
“Wanna bet five sickles?”
Voldemort wished he could warn Quirrell, tell him not to agree to the bet, because it couldn't end well. But he was just a spectator in his memory. All he could do was watch him as he looked at Steven with frowned eyebrows.
“Alright, deal.” Quirrell said and turned back to the teacher who still wasn't looking at the children. Quirrell pulled his wand out slowly. Some kids sitting closer figured out that something was about to happen and turned their attention to what he was doing. Quirrell pointed his wand at the teacher's desk, swallowed, and whispered the incantation: “Wingardium leviosa!”
The paperweight lifted itself from the desk. He motioned his wand and it floated towards the teacher, until it hung in the air a foot above his head. The wizard was perfectly unaware of what was happening, his eyes still on the map and his monotonous voice still going on about the causes of the creation of the International Statute of Secrecy. Just as Quirrell relaxed a bit and started counting down from thirty, someone's foot poked him in the back. Momentarily, his focus was lost and the paperweight fell, hitting the teacher on the head. The startled man turned to the class and saw all the children staring at frozen Quirrell (Steven even gasped theatrically).
“Quirinus Quirrell?!” There was as much surprise in the tone of his voice as there was reproach. “You will stay here after the end of the lesson! You've got a detention!”
Quirrell was so shocked and paralysed by fear that he didn't dare to say anything to defend himself. And to say the truth, nothing he could have said would have helped him. When he sunk in his chair, looking like he was about to cry, a cold voice coming from the desk behind reminded him:
“You owe me five sickles, Grunt!”
~ ~ ~
Now they were in a crowded corridor. Quirrell was trying to make his way against the current of students who didn't seem to notice him, all going in their own direction. Suddenly, a very hurried Slytherin ran past Quirrell, shoving him against the wall. The books he was carrying fell to the floor. As he started picking them up, he noticed that someone else has kneeled down to help him.
“There you go.” a tall boy in a Hufflepuff uniform handed Quirrell his books. “Where were you going?”
“Ummm, t-to the Transfi-figuration class.” Quirrell took the books from the boy and blushed slightly.
“Next time you can try the corridor on the second floor, it should be less dangerous.” the Hufflepuff smiled at him.
“Thanks!” Quirrell returned the smile.
“No problem!” the boy shouted back as he was walking away. Quirrell watched as his figure disappeared in the crowd and then was about to carry on walking to his class when suddenly his way was blocked by his three bullies.
“Look at this,” cooed Steven. “I think Quirrell has fallen in love!”
He was talking loud enough for half of the corridor to hear. Some kids turned their heads and snickered.
“Yeah, now it all makes sense!” joined in one of his bodyguards. “This neatly combed hair and a perfectly tied tie, liking books and flowers...”
“Quirrell is a poof!” yelled the other one, very proud of the insult he's made.
Quirrell was looking in panic for a way to get out of that situation, but the trio wouldn't let him pass. Seeing no other way, he turned around and ran as fast as he could in the direction he came from. His bullies didn't follow him, but their words did.
“You're so gay, Grunt!”
~ ~ ~
It was a corridor at Hogwarts again, but this time it was empty except for Quirrell, who was walking and humming a tune to himself. Voldemort noticed that in every next memory he looked more haggard: his walk was a little bit more slouchy, his reactions a little bit more jumpy, his stutter a little bit more present. Despite of that, Quirrell had a little smile on his face. That is, until suddenly his three persecutors came out from behind a pillar.
“Why so smug, Grunt?” Steven was walking towards Quirrell, whose legs seemed suddenly stuck to the floor. “Is it because you scored better than me on that DADA test? Don't worry, we're here to make sure you remember that life is not a bed of roses.”
With that, he snapped his fingers and his two sidekicks grabbed Quirrell by the shoulders and started punching him in the stomach. When they made sure they have beaten the last bits of his good mood out of him, along with his ability to stand on his own legs, they held Quirrell in the air and Steven walked up to him until their faces were a few inches apart.
“Now I'm gonna tell you something, and you're gonna listen very carefully and remember it well. No matter how much you try, you're still nothing. And you'll always be nothing, Grunt.”
~ ~ ~
That was enough for Voldemort. That was way more than enough. He stopped invading Quirrell's mind to find him sitting on the couch hiding his face in his hands. He sat down next to him and put his arm around his shoulders in a comforting manner, but Quirrell's muscles were still all tense.
“I'm sorry, I had no idea...” he started, trying to figure out what to say to make it better.
“So you used to be one of them?” asked Quirrell, lifting his head and looking Voldemort in the eyes.
“Yes.” Voldemort's reply was barely audible. Back at Hogwarts, he was one of them, he was the holder of The Book. And just as it taught to, he chose a Grunt and made his life miserable. It was that weird kid obsessed with creepy creatures, what was his name... Oh yes, Hagrid. But now he couldn't recall any particular thing that he did to him. It was all so distant and fuzzy, unlike Quirrell's memories. “But you know I have changed! I know that what I was doing was wrong and I'm ashamed of it.”
“But you still don't understand how it's like to be in my place! These memories and insults have haunted me my whole life!” Quirrell's eyes filled with tears.
“But you know you're better than those stupid bullies! You're so smart you've won awards for that and you've taught at the best wizarding school in the world! And them? They're probably working cleaning dragons' cages out of dung!”
Quirrell smiled feebly, but Voldemort could tell he was still upset. He knew what he should tell him, and even if he still felt weird talk about it so openly, it needed to be said.
“But what's most important... you're honestly the best man I know. You're so caring and selfless that you managed to soften the heartless monster I used to be. You showed me how to love and...” Voldemort's voice became raspy from emotion. “You saved my life! So I want you to remember that to me, you're everything.”
Quirrell's blue eyes were full of tears again, but these were tears of a completely different sort. He flung his arms around Voldemort's neck and cried into his shoulder.
“Do you really mean that?” he asked without letting go of him.
“Of course I do! I love you!” Voldemort replied, stroking Quirrell's back. The latter pulled out of the hug and looked in his partner's eyes, resting his hands on the back of his neck.
“I love you too.”
And he brought their lips together.