Tom Marvolo Riddle, so-named for his father and his grandfather together, had many years ago adopted the moniker of Lord Voldemort, having cast aside any allusion to his Muggle origins.
Voldemort was not a stupid man – quite the opposite, in fact; he did not do this out of simple pettiness or hatred of the world of Muggles, although that hatred was much evidenced in his treatment of their kind over the years in which he had come to power. He did not discard his birth status due to 'daddy issues' or out of some misguided notion of faux-superiority. It was, after all, impossible to maintain the healthy image of a dark lord whilst struggling with the emotional problems of a baseborn child. Thus, Voldemort had resolved these issues many years prior; namely, on the night in which he had committed patricide. The cathartic rush of casting that spell towards the man who had left his mother for dead was stronger than even the most powerful rush of sexual pleasure, or so he remembered from the time before he had sacrificed coital functions for the sake of immortality.
Lord Voldemort was a smart man, one so much so that he had felled the Wizarding government of England – as trite and incompetent as it may be – out of fear alone. Fear of a name, of all things. This was why he had adopted the moniker of 'flight from death' and used it to instil terror in the hearts of his enemies; the idea that he could best any witch or wizard in single combat was terrifying to the other party. To convince them that he was above even death... nay, above all human conviction, led to a near-universal fear.
Voldemort had brought the Wizarding World to its knees... with the anagram of a child at play. Granted, he had had help from likeminded allies and minions, but they had needed a force to rally behind, and there was no greater force than the combination of politics and financial capital in an increasingly greed-driven society. "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting", and he had done so with minimal large-scale conflict. Guerrilla tactics worked wonders.
Yes, he had read Sun Tzu. He was a well-read man, Lord Voldemort, both in the Muggle and Magical studies of interest; deceiving the unwashed masses into thinking he was ignorant of Muggle ways out of hatred for their kind was something that amused him endlessly. Sometimes, he even laughed – almost to the point of tears – when thinking about the victories he had won and the deaths he had caused through such deception. In truth, the Lord Voldemort – not that he cared for the position of lordship so much so as emperor or king – had read extensively throughout his youth, almost to the point of social isolation. Dumbledore had been known to think of him as a quiet child, but the reason for that was his incessant desire to learn! After all, the mind was the greatest weapon in the art of warfare, and learning, whether through education, reading or experience, was the perfect way to sharpen the mind like a whetstone a sword.
"Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel," Socrates had written, and these words stuck with Voldemort throughout his attempt to rise to power. In short, he needed experience and wisdom just as he needed knowledge itself, a fact that was rammed down his throat when attempting to murder the Potter child. Even the thought of that pain was migraine-inducing, but learn from it he had. He had become wiser in his defeat and bided his time after returning to a body, rather than rush into war against Dumbledore, the Ministry, Potter and the rest of the establishment-worshipping lickspittles among them.
But then that old man... that virtuous, conniving, bespawling fopdoodle, had almost ruined everything. If Voldemort had one regret, it was not killing Albus Dumbledore at an earlier date. If he had a second, it had to be not sending Horace Slughorn to meet him shortly afterwards. However, the latter was more intelligent than Voldemort had given him credit for and had fled Hogwarts almost immediately after their little chat about Horcruxes. He proved to be a master of disguise, having never been found by Voldemort in his subsequent searches or in Death Eater raids, whether before or after he failed to kill the Potter boy.
More to the point, Dumbledore discovered the truth about his Horcruxes before bringing the old Portions Master back to Hogwarts several years ago; he had to have done after the fiasco with Voldemort's journal, the mishap that had earned Malfoy Senior weeks and weeks of sustained torture. He hadn't killed the man due to a shortage of underlings, but had attempted to arrange his son's death by sending the boy to kill Dumbledore, with a shred of hope that the deed could actually be accomplished. It was, surprisingly, a successful endeavour, but by the traitor known as Severus Snape in an act of pre-planned double-crossing, another of Voldemort's failings. He only knew of this because Potter had taunted him with the knowledge some months ago, and it was then that he truly regretted having a master of Occlumency as his chief spy, rather than a competent insect animagus or another polyjuiced double like Barty Crouch.
In short, he had made mistakes. Many, many mistakes, some small and some big and others gargantuan, given his own standards. He admitted to himself that Potter had hit him where it hurt on multiple occasions, hard.
Perhaps the biggest mistake of all was not turning a pebble into his final Horcrux and throwing it to the depths of the Pacific Ocean, artefacts of the Founders be damned.
Still, he had rectified that issue nicely before attacking Hogwarts by discovering how to transfer Horcruxes from object to object. Nagini would be missed, but she was nothing save an animal, and even people were expendable creatures, for the most part. Thus, he had feigned death – even he could not outduel several hundred people at once – and escaped after his body was moved to a quieter area and the fools celebrated his demise. Thankfully, the killing curse did not destroy the body, only the connected soul, so it was a simple matter of re-inhabiting this vessel rather than the fuss of having to possess meagre flora and fauna in the depths of Albania for over a decade. The genius of the entire action was that the spell could also not destroy Horcruxes, which is why the soul fragment hidden in his false tooth was quite safe for the time being. He would move it to a safer place as soon as he could find one, of course, given that the philistine Potter was unpredictable and could attack him with a sword dipped in Basilisk venom as quick as fire a tickling curse in his direction.
Perhaps the bottom of the Shivering Sea, he reflected, as he sipped on Arbor wine and basked in glorious sunshine. It was a fine day in this part of the world, and he was truly grateful to be alive, even with immortality at risk. He wanted to be immortal because of that love for the pleasures of life, perhaps even more so than for the fear of nonexistence known as death.
Voldemort stretched his arms and legs in a dignified manner and quickly applied a glamour charm to his face as he saw the man approach. It was a direct replica of the face he had bore prior to the creating of Horcruxes, one that was both handsome and friendly, traits that matched the persona he made sport of. It was a necessary disguise, given the circumstances; the people of Westeros and Essos were primitive, bearing no knowledge of magic and not even beyond rudimentary Muggle technologies. A face such as his would illicit such fear that he might never achieve his goals.
"I have thought on your proposal," said Viserys Targaryen. "We need to discuss it further before I can make any decision."
Voldemort gave a smile and raised his glass mockingly. "By all means, my prince. Do sit."
Viserys did not care for his tone but did as he was bidden, fearful of the man's power. It was unnatural in his eyes, even to one with the blood of the dragon, Voldemort knew. Viserys snapped his fingers in the direction of a slave girl and waited for her to bring him wine before motioning for her to leave. He sipped the fine red and watched Voldemort carefully.
Finding Westeros was perhaps the greatest achievement of his entire life, although he couldn't take credit for the discovery. The Unspeakables – it always seemed to be that group who made the important discoveries – had tampered with the Veil of Death after that fool Sirius Black's demise and uncovered the existence of other worlds beyond their own. Essentially, the Veil functioned as an execution device because it had been unconnected to these alternate realities, instead sending the condemned into complete nothingness. Given that fact, there would be no Sirius Black and no other executed criminals hidden in Westeros, he thought, cackling as he did so.
"I have given up on my own world," said Voldemort, smiling through his facial enchantments as he held his glass lightly. He had grown so accustomed to the face of a snake that this mask felt rather uncomfortable.
Part of his newfound wisdom (suffering a crushing defeat a second time can cause a person to scrap their plans and retreat for survival's sake) was the realisation that people were people. Magical, Muggle... it made no difference to someone of his calibre and power. He had the strength to change the entire world for good or not and did not need feckless servants to fight his wars against Ministry fobs and the sycophants of Dumbledore's Order when they were no longer a threat. Here, in Westeros, they did not exist, so the threat was nonexistent. It was a trite realisation, but one that had kicked him in the teeth after that humiliation in Scotland.
Oh, he harboured no delusion about Potter; the boy would come for him before long if he had not already, but that was all. The general lack of magic ensured that there were no others who could oppose him in this land, which made it the perfect place to rule almost entirely unopposed on a personal level.
However, he now wanted more.
"I will not be returning," he continued. "The curs of home shall remain there, bar those who decide to follow. More the fools they. The boy does not yet know it, but I have placed enchantments throughout Westeros which shall prevent others from following him through the Veil so long as I live."
His repulsive connection with Potter made that possible; tampering with the magic of the portal after stripping the knowledge of how to do so from Croaker's mind gave him much leeway into... ah... fucking with Potter's schemes, but he could not stop him outright. He had figured out how to give 'permission' for travelling through the Veil, ensuring that no other could follow because he, naturally, refused them, but the boy could follow as the portal 'recognised' him as a part of Voldemort, even with the soul fragment in his scar destroyed. Priori incantatem.
Moreover, he had only used this trick after arriving in Westeros, so as to lure Potter into a false sense of security. If he knew there was no backup coming, he might not have followed in the first place, and Voldemort didn't want that. Oh, no. Not at all.
They had a score to settle.
"It is just the boy and I now," Voldemort laughed, "although I shall admit he is a powerful foe. Nonetheless, I hold certain advantages... ones that you need not concern yourself with... and he will be woefully ignorant of the workings of this land when he arrives."
Westeros was the first 'other world' he had travelled to, but after uncovering the mind-boggling size of just that one island, he had decided to close the world off to other travellers and instead led the Order on a wild goose chase through the other dimensions, allowing him to periodically return to the magnificent land when they were not looking and learn more about it as he did so. That was why the Order could not have accessed this world even if he hadn't stolen the stones.
Which he had. He planted others for them to find when it came time to lead Potter into his trap.
Potter could have followed him if he had known the truth, due to their connection, but as a part of a 'team' he wouldn't have dared go off alone. Voldemort laughed as he thought of the two boys he had left to die in a storm of their own Fiendfyre. What needless losses for the Order they had been.
"He will continue to track me until one of us dies, but I will ensure that is him and not I," said Voldemort. "I have taken everything from him – his family, his home, his hope for the future... I am baiting him into a trap."
Indeed, killing the younger Weasley bitch before escaping Hogwarts had been particularly satisfying. Potter had taken his Horcruxes away, and he had retaliated in stupendous fashion.
"His one advantage was the strength in numbers, but I have rendered that idea null and void. He is alone now, and I am the more skilled practitioner of magic. In single combat, he has not a hope of defeating me."
Viserys nodded at these words, although it was clearly he did not understand their meaning. He would be a terrible ruler, if left unchallenged. What he did not understand could fill a dozen books, and what he did understand would only cause the realm to bleed.
The point about numbers aside, Voldemort's biggest advantage took the form of the final Horcrux, but he wasn't about to tell a single person, living or dead, about its existence. He couldn't create more due to the destabilising of his soul from past attempts, so it was vital that the information be kept secret, not that he feared the peasants of Westeros any more so than Potter's Order. Potter did have the Elder Wand, but it was not unbeatable, given Dumbledore's defeating of Grindelwald. It seemed many people overlooked that little fact, but not him. No, he had only wanted it for a power boost, which Potter now bore.
Of course, the boy's sickening moral compass could have him snap the blasted thing in half and toss it into a ravine, but Voldemort rather suspected those same morals would have him put the wand back with Dumbledore's body. It was irrelevant. He could not afford to underestimate Harry Potter any longer. The boy had destroyed most of his Horcruxes, had supposedly killed plenty of remaining Death Eaters when not chasing Voldemort through the portal over the past few years, and was likely rather bloodthirsty after the death of his beloved at Voldemort's hands. Even speaking with the boy – nay, the man – and duelling him was evidence of these changes. He was now as ruthless as he had once been noble.
"I also have the knowledge of Westeros that is required to take total control of the Iron Throne," he said, his voice as sweet as honey. It was an act, but it was, ironically, less of one than his losses of control and fits of rage. In truth, he kept his emotions under control... except in the case of serious failure, as Malfoy could attest to. He almost sighed as he realised that Viserys would likely need a lesson or ten in pain before he was of any use. For his part, the Targaryen heir was looking at him with a sneer of royalty that Voldemort desperately wanted to wipe clean. He decided against this for two reasons.
Firstly, the prince was his best shot at ruling the Iron Throne without having to murder the entire court or sustain hundreds of Imperius Curses each and every day. The former was tempting, but the people of the realm, pissants as they were, would decry the act and rise up in arms, or so he thought. Secondly, he wanted new servants, and there was a chance Viserys could be shaped into something useful with enough practice.
"Do you have a plan for helping me regain my crown?" Viserys asked, around a mouthful of the bread and cheese Illyrio had set aside for the two of them.
"You have yet to have it for the first time," Voldemort pointed out with a cold smile.
"It is mine by right!" Viserys declared, indignant.
"I am aware," said Voldemort, bored with the prince. He was not worth the effort of attempting to mock. "As I said previously, I plan to help you so that I myself can gain greater power."
He had spent the years following the Battle of Hogwarts leading Potter and his friends on a merry dance throughout the realities, all the while amassing knowledge of Westeros when they weren't looking, for one reason: it was a game, all a game. Potter had stolen his queen and destroyed all of his pawns and other foot soldiers, but he, the king, was very much active on the board. Potter's group had become more cautious after losing those two to the fiendfyre, but he had no interest in collapsing realities around them anyway. Potter would see the loss of his pieces and move in, before falling victim to a counterattack.
Yes, he wanted Potter to follow him. He wanted to kill Potter. He wanted to rule after doing so. The satisfaction of the act had to be second only to the importance of retaining immortality, given all of the pain the man had caused him over the years. An Avada Kedavra was good enough for this situation for the sake of the latter, but it wouldn't feel good at this late stage.
"Perhaps most importantly of all, I am somewhat offended by the idea that the throne has been usurped. I am, after all, a firm believer in the importance of blood purity. You may not see it, but I assure you that the principle is the same. You and I are of one mind, and that is why we shall rule Westeros together. I oft professed to hate non-magicals such as you, but the truth is far more complex: I am superior, but I do not doubt the powers of simpler people."
"You are saying you have no desire to slaughter the plebs of the land, but I would not begrudge you that action," Viserys spat. "All things considered. If you have such power, why should you care about a simple game of thrones? By your count, you could bewitch the entire populace of King's Landing and take control for yourself in the span of a single breath."
"That idea wearies me," said Voldemort, although it was an overestimation of his confidence anyway. He wouldn't dispute that a surprising sword thrust could cause some serious damage. "Holding power over half a million people would be akin to puppetry on a massive scale. I have no interest in ruling a collection of dolls for the rest of eternity; I want to maintain control of men and women and have them revere me, as they should you. Support of a powerful family – the right family – will earn me that love without the usage of magic."
"Fear is stronger than love," said Viserys.
"Yes, it is," Voldemort nodded. "But too much fear will eventually lead to uprising, as I myself discovered, and as great men of history note. A mixture of fear and love will keep the peace, and those are achieved in tandem by fair, yet just, ruling. I could burn the city to the ground with a single spell, but then what would be left to rule? I could slaughter the knights of the Seven Kingdoms in droves, but to what end? Walder Frey would likely have them replaced in a fortnight from his breeches."
Viserys smirked. "Traitors will be punished. I shall be king, but you... you can rule as my Hand for the rest of your life, if you so desire. There will be no power struggle between the two of us."
"I could control you with the Imperius curse and rule for myself," Voldemort leered, "but I won't. That is, again, rule through magic. I want to rule through intelligence and wisdom, simply because it is my right to stand above lesser people."
And thus, Voldemort would use magic to earn his position and to hold it, but he would not use magic to control his position. He would use his wit and intelligence. There was more to the greatest dark wizard of all time than a simple display of duelling prowess; a man did not reach such prowess in the first place without having the intelligence with which to do so. His reasons were more complex than this, but a fool such as Viserys had no place knowing the inner secrets of Lord Voldemort.
"I don't seek to be king outright," said Voldemort, fighting to keep his face straight at the idea of serving another, lesser man. "I would be honoured to rule at the side of a worthy family. Blood matters. The peasants will not accept the rule of an unknown quantity and I refuse to steal another's face in my pursuit of power."
Indeed, Voldemort would use his intelligence to bring this stupid, power-hungry little boy to the throne, and next he would use it to show the people who would be the better king between the two. When the dust settled, Viserys and his sister would be dead, and Voldemort would be in control, with their full approval. It would be a satisfying conclusion that would earn him the adoration of the people, and then he could use his knowledge of Wizarding politics and even Muggle ones to turn the entire kingdom into his personal playpen. Perfect.
It was not that Voldemort had grown tired of magic; after all, magic was one of the things which propelled him to the top of society and which infused in him a sense of entitlement. He was the most gifted sorcerer alive and it made him greater than any Muggle, living or dead, by default. It was simply more satisfying, the idea of bringing an entire world to its knees through the power of thought and speech alone, minus the magic he would use. He would just not murder without cause. That had cost him dearly in his first war against Dumbledore, re the Potters. Likewise, he would destroy no cities... unless provoked.
This was all as to why he had chosen the Targaryens – they were the rightful claimants of the Iron Throne insofar as blood had it, and he would not give power to usurpers when blood demanded otherwise. Mudbloods and halfbloods had no place in the affairs of purebloods in any reality. He was above the Targaryens, but they were above every other family in Westeros. Hierarchy had to be maintained.
He could imperius King Robert and have him declare Viserys as the rightful king, but that would lead to full-blown civil war throughout the land, so it was off the table.
"Then I would be happy to have you as my Hand," said Viserys, appearing satisfied. "Perhaps a marriage to my sister can be arranged when the time comes, although this business with the Dothraki... is there a need for it now?"
"There is no need," Voldemort replied, as he tried not to gag at the idea of marriage. He would do it if need be, but had no means to produce an heir... not that he wanted one. Children existed to replace their parents after death, and he was to live forever. "However, you would benefit from the strength of a Dothraki or Unsullied army. That being said, the peasants may see it as somewhat... brash."
"Bringing an army of savages to their home."
"Bah, piss on them," Viserys spat. He took a gulp of wine and slammed his glass down. "I have endured seclusion from my birthright – my throne! – because of usurpers and cowards and traitors! If I must burn their villages to the ground and execute a million of their ilk to prove who is in control, I shall."
Voldemort listened as Viserys grew angrier and angrier with each passing word.
"My father should have burned them all alive with wildfire! The first thing I'll do when I take power is bring together Robert Baratheon, Ned Stark and Tywin Lannister – and his dear, traitor son – and have the four of them immolated! An army of 'savages' would serve me well in making my point."
"I have no doubt," said Voldemort, although the fool missed the sarcasm. Very well, then. He would not pay a lout such as Viserys homage by ravaging the countryside that he wished to rule, especially not when that was the task of servants, so the man could have his army and enjoy the slaughter of thousands in his own time if he so desired. It wasn't as if Voldemort were pressed for time himself – he had an eternity to look forward to, and he would face Potter before long as well. As soon as the boy set foot in King's Landing, if he headed there, Voldemort would know it. Either way, if he had arrived or whenever he did, he could search all of Westeros for Voldemort and would come up short.
"Pentos is quite a serene place," Voldemort remarked, watching the sea nearby. "I must thank Magister Illyrio for his services. When you come into your crown, it would be prudent to reward him for his loyalty."
"Yes, a young bride to fuck and enough gold to drown in," Viserys remarked. "I shall need a wife whenever I become king, someone loyal to the Targaryen name. I hear Doran Martell has a daughter who may be acceptable, and his family has never forgiven the murder of my brother's wife and children."
"First you shall need to attain the crown," Voldemort pointed out, trying not to growl. To dispel the temptation of cruciatus, he said: "Come, tell me about this army you desire."
"Then so I shall," Viserys smirked. "Let us discuss this matter more thoroughly."
Voldemort did not speak to Daenerys that night. The young girl irritated him; she was weak and prone to following her brother's every whim, so he tended to avoid her snivelling as much as possible. True, the child could grow into a person of great strength, but at thirteen she paled in comparison to the likes of Potter's fourteen year old self when they had fought at Little Hangleton. He did not need her for his plans.
It was only later, on the day of her wedding to Khal Drogo, that he realised the folly of his ignorance towards Daenerys Targaryen.
This chapter contains a lot of exposition, but it's for a very good reason: I want to redefine the character of Lord Voldemort for this story. I promised you all that this iteration of Voldemort would be vastly more interesting than his canon counterpart, and I think this has taken the first, small step towards achieving that goal. Furthermore, this is an evolution of his character, not a direct reshaping. Voldemort was humiliated by a trio of children in Deathly Hallows, and he is having to rethink his entire worldview as a result. This is basic psychology, something that even his Horcruxes do not immunise him against.
I always hoped that Voldemort would fight Harry one-on-one in the series. I am one of the biggest critics of that final canon showdown in the entire world, for reasons I won't go into at present, but Voldemort's ego demands satisfaction in this story.
Oh, and he hasn't forgotten about ruling the Wizarding World. He has simply shelved the idea because of his newer, more immediate goal. The former is still there.
Voldemort having greater control of the portal is something for another time. He and Harry tend to mock each other a lot, so expect to see a lot of insults and claims of intellectual superiority when they eventually meet again, including that one on Voldemort's part. It's not a huge deal anyway, but I'll save it for later.
Lastly, a point of interest: Harry calls Voldemort a coward for running. Voldemort calls himself intelligent for developing respect for a foe he once underestimated because of inexperience. I'll let you decide who is right, if either.
'Bespawling fopdoodle' is my new favourite insult in the English language.
The whetstone analogy is a reference to Tyrion's words towards Jon Snow.