The eleven year old found himself in the chamber beyond the last challenge, staring at professor Quirrel. In the background stood the Mirror of Erised, and Harry's pocket felt heavy with the Philosopher's stone. He'd been dragged before it by the stuttering professor, and had watched, eyes wide, as his reflection winked at him before dropping the stone into its pocket. Harry felt the twin of the reflected stone drop into his own trouser pocket, and flinched when Quirrel moved closer. "Ok now, Potter, hand the stone over and you can go."
"N..no," the boy stammered, backing away from the teacher. "I don't believe you. I don't trust you."
"Let me talk to the boy," a voice seemed to hiss menacingly.
"B..but master, I can handle this..."
"No! I wish to speak to the boy. Let me talk to Potter." Shivering, Quirrel raised his hands to the turban swathing his head and slowly unraveled it, letting the strip of cloth fall to the stone floor as he turned, revealing the misshapen face on the back of his bald head. Harry flinched away from the red eyes glowering at him and took a shuffling step back in fear. "Now, boy, you see what I am. What I've become. Give me the stone so that I may return to my former glory and regain my power again." Harry stared at the face, his mind whirling with thoughts as his hand gripped the stone in his pocket.
"I...I'll give you the stone, but you need to do something for me, first," the boy finally replied, pain shining in emerald eyes. The ruby eyes on the back of the teacher's head narrowed speculatively as they saw that pain.
"What do you wish, Harry Potter?"
"I...I want you to swear that you'll take me away from here. That you'll hide me somewhere and keep me safe."
"Safe from whom, child?"
"Everyone," the weary boy answered, sagging a little. "My relatives hurt me, and everyone here treats me like I'm a freak. I didn't even want to do this, but something kept pushing me."
"A compulsion charm, perhaps? Quirrel, on your knees so that I may look at the boy more closely." The professor slowly sank to his knees, and Harry stepped a little closer to the face on the back of the man's cranium, looking fearfully into the ruby eyes staring back at him. "Legilimens," the face hissed, and Harry felt the gentle invasion of another in his mind. The invader felt almost familiar, and the boy relaxed at the almost comforting feeling of recognition as the Dark Lord examined his thoughts, emotions, and experiences. It was when he'd brushed against a presence in the back of the boy's mind that pain spiked through the child's head, making him scream and clutch at it. Voldemort quickly backed out of Potter's mind, eyes wide with shock. He watched as the boy collapsed to the stone floor, moaning and rocking at the pain that throbbed through his skull. "The child is a horcrux, Quirrel. The only living horcrux, made that night when I went to kill him. He is most precious to me, and we must take steps to protect him." He turned his eyes back to the preteen on the floor, who had sat up slowly as Voldemort spoke to his vessel. "You have my solemn promise, Harry Potter, that I will do everything in my power to protect you. Now, give me the stone, and your summer address, and as soon as I am able, I will come for you."
"Harry my boy," the headmaster said cheerfully, blue eyes twinkling merrily. The child sat hunched over in the chair in front of the desk, eyes on his hands. The headmaster frowned for a moment before he cleared his throat gently, getting the boy's attention. Emerald eyes looked into blue, and Dumbledore scanned over the surface of the child's mind, frowning deeper as he came to a blank spot in the child's memories. The twinkle faded from his eyes as he looked worriedly at the small preteen. "What happened, child? Where were you, and where is the stone?"
"I…I don't know, headmaster," Harry answered softly, looking back down at his hands. Voldemort had placed protections around the memories of the entire journey to get the stone, and the child relaxed minutely as he stared at his fingers. "I don't remember."
His body ached as he lay stretched out on his bed, and he was sure that he had a broken wrist. After Voldemort had made his promise, and Harry had handed over the stone and his address, the child thought he'd maybe spend a couple of days with the Dursleys before being rescued. However, it was going on the sixth week back in hell, and his body was showing the results of it. Bruises littered his skin from his uncle's beatings, and Dudley had pushed him down the stairs, resulting in his broken wrist and a sprained ankle. His glasses had fallen to the floor and shattered, so now he was nearly blind, as well. After another two hours of screaming and slaps to the head, he'd been locked in his room for breaking his glasses. He whimpered softly as he thought of how thoroughly he'd been fooled by the man who had killed his parents. The fact that he'd made such a bargain with the murderer didn't really matter to him; he was just desperate to get away from everything.
A loud knock on the front door startled Harry from his self-pity, and his head rose from the bed. He could feel a curl of anticipation in his stomach, and he gingerly got up, gathering his wand, a photo album that was a gift from his first friend, Hagrid, and his invisibility cloak carefully, with his uninjured hand, from beneath the floorboards under his bed. He became jittery as he heard the low murmur of voices, before a loud gasp and a small shriek alerted him that his rescuer had finally arrived. Cradling his broken wrist against his body, he stood near the bedroom door and tucked his treasures into the pockets of the oversized jeans that were his cousin's hand-me-downs, listening as a light tread ascended the stairs. The many locks on the outside of the door were slowly released, and the door opened equally slowly to reveal his aunt's panicked face.
"Boy," she hissed, voice filled with terror. "Get downstairs at once. Someone is waiting for you." She quickly backed out of the doorway, waiting for Harry to walk ahead of her. He did, feeling very uncomfortable with his aunt at his back, but he was sure she wouldn't try anything with his savior just downstairs. He descended carefully, limping, his ankle still not completely stable from the fall, and smiled widely at the man standing in the entryway. He was tall, with wavy black hair that fell to his collar, and ruby eyes that looked at him with something very like protectiveness. Gesturing imperiously, he beckoned the small child over to him, frowning at the injuries and the obvious malnutrition. Turning his burning crimson gaze to the others in the house, a snarl curled his lips.
"You dare to treat a wizarding child like this, you filth? You are nothing more than cattle," Voldemort hissed, eyes narrowing threateningly. A tug at his hand had him looking down at Harry, his ire forgotten at the look of pain on the child's face. He knelt instantly, soothing the boy as he murmured promises in the child's ear. Harry wrapped his arms around the man's neck, trembling as he buried his face in Voldemort's hair. Riddle wrapped his own arms around the boy's waist, standing easily and frowning again at the obvious starvation. Without another word, he summoned and shrunk Harry's trunk and beckoned it to his hand to tuck into a pocket, turned on the spot, and whisked himself and his precious cargo away from the terrified muggles.
Harry stared around in wonder at the huge bedroom. His eyes had been fixed by a vision correction potion that Voldemort had ordered one of his house elves to procure; his wrist and ankle had also been seen to, and he smiled as he saw every bit of the room in crystal clarity. In front of him was a full-sized bed, done in various shades of green. His trunk, resized when Tom had removed it from his pocket, stood at the foot of the bed. The older man had frowned again at the paltry number of personal effects the child had unpacked, and promised to take him shopping the next morning. The thick cream carpet beneath his bare feet felt like he was standing on a cloud, and the wide windows let in an abundance of natural light. Sighing, he approached his bed, perching himself on the edge and ready to lie down. Unfortunately, a different house elf took that moment to pop into the room, startling a small scream from the jittery child.
"I is being sorry, little master sir. I not being meaning to scare little master sir. I is being sent to ask if little master sir wants to being eating something."
"What's your name?" Harry asked softly, his voice trembling from the small scare, smiling slightly at the weird cadence to the little elf's speech.
"Sandie, little master sir," the elf answered hesitantly.
"Well, Sandie, I would love something to eat. Please stop calling me little master sir. My name is Harry and I'm pleased to meet you." Harry stuck out his hand, and the little elf carefully took it, eyes wide as the boy solemnly shook her hand.
"Yes, sir, little master sir. I is being bringing food right away." With another pop, the elf disappeared, only to reappear moments later with a tray table laden with so many delights that Harry's mouth watered with the succulent scents. "I is being your elf, Master Harry sir. Sir needs something, call Sandie." With that, the elf popped away, leaving behind a very hungry, bemused child. Snickering fondly, Harry carefully dug into the food, sampling everything on the tray. Unfortunately, though he was hungry, and severely malnourished, he could only eat a small portion of everything, leaving a great deal of food untouched. Groaning at his full belly, he lay down on the bed, curling up around a large stuffed bear Tom had given him and falling asleep almost instantly. A short time later, his house elf returned to the room, snapping her fingers to vanish the tray. She ran a hand an inch above the child's prostrate form, changing his clothing into pajamas, and tucked a comforter around the small boy.
"Sandie," Riddle called softly. The elf popped into view in front of the wizard, bowing deeply to the man. "How is my charge doing? Did he eat enough?"
"Little master sir is being sleeping. Sandie is being giving little master sir a selection of food. Little master sir is being eating very little of the food."
"Hmm," Tom murmured, "I expected as much. He'd not been fed well living with those despicable muggles, and it will take him some time to get used to eating regularly." The elf frowned at this information, a small growl erupting from her. Riddle smirked at the protective vibe coming from the little being, very pleased at the instant devotion the elf was showing his ward. "Indeed. I feel the same way, Sandie. Tell me, does your kind go in for any sort of revenge?"
"We is being taking a pound of flesh from those who hurt special charges," she answered, a nearly feral smile cracking her face. "House elf magic is not being registering unless we want to being register."
"Excellent," the Dark Lord purred with satisfaction. "Will you be able to follow my magical signature back to the child's relatives?"
"Yes, Lord Master sir."
"I want you to visit them without their knowledge. I want you to cast your elf magic on them, preventing them from being able to gain any sustenance from their food. I want you to make them feel what it's like to starve. However, I do not wish for them to die right away. They must suffer for as long as they made that child suffer."
"As you wish, Lord Master sir," Sandie replied, bowing deeply again before she popped away. Tom swore he could almost hear the little elf cackling evilly as she disappeared.
Harry mumbled something incoherent as he rolled over in the nice, soft, comfy bed. He burrowed his nose back into the bear, inhaling the soft scent of spring wafting from the synthetic fur, the comforter nearly covering his head before consciousness started to impinge on him. Slowly, he became aware of the soft, comfortable bed and the warm comforter and the fluffy pillow and his arms hugging a fuzzy stuffed animal. Sitting up, a puzzled frown on his face, he looked around frantically, wondering what in the nine hells he'd gotten himself into before memory returned in a rush. Collapsing bonelessly on the bed, he heaved a huge sigh of relief. I'm safe, he thought contentedly. My savior came and rescued me from that horrid life. I never have to go back there again. Looking at the windows, he saw the early morning light. His eyebrows skated into his hairline as he realized that he'd slept through most of the day before and all night. Must've been tired.
A pop alerted him that his favorite elf had come back, and he turned his head, smiling widely at Sandie. She blushed at the attention as she placed a tray table beside the bed. "Mmmm," Harry hummed as he took a deep breath of the scents of breakfast. "I've never had bacon. I've always liked how it smelled, and it looked good when I was cooking it, but I was never allowed to have it. Thank you."
"You is being welcome, Master Harry sir." The preteen sat up on the edge of the bed, looking at the feast laid out before him. He looked at the elf, eyebrow quirked for a moment.
"This is too much," he finally said. "Would you like to join me?"
"S…Sandie is being honored, Master Harry sir." She waved her hand and summoned the desk chair. Climbing into it, she sat on the other side of the tray table, looking at the food. She conjured another plate, and together the pair chose what they wanted to eat from the large selection of food. This was the scene that the Dark Lord came in upon when he went to check on his charge. He stood in the doorway, smiling fondly as he watched Harry and the little elf converse as if they had been friends for a very long time.
"Harry, as soon as you and your little friend are finished, I'd like to speak to you in the den." Tom turned and left the room, but not before he heard the elf hiss, "Don't worry, Master Harry sir, he is not being mad." Smirking, the Dark Lord went to his den to wait for the child.
It was about twenty minutes later that Harry finally entered the den, being led by Sandie who gave the Dark Lord an impressive glare before she popped away. "Sit down, Harry. There is much we need to discuss." Nodding, the child took the leather chair in front of the desk, eyes widening minutely as Riddle rose and rounded the desk, sitting in the chair next to the boy. "The first item of business. Would you like to be my son and heir, or would you wish to remain a Potter?"
"Y…you want to…to…adopt me?" the child asked incredulously, eyes wide.
"If you wish it, yes. I would be honored to call you my son."
"Wh…why? I mean, I'm just a scrawny freak. Why would you want to adopt me?" Tom scowled darkly at the words the boy spoke, and Harry started to tremble, afraid he'd made the man mad. "I'm sorry!" he gasped quickly. "I didn't mean to make you mad. Please don't send me away!"
Tom reached out and gently pulled the young man onto his lap, rubbing soothing circles into his back. "I'm not mad at you. I'm angry at all the people who made you feel as if you weren't worth their time or consideration. I'm angry at all the people who treated you like you didn't matter. And I'm angry at all the people who made you doubt your true worth. As for why, you are supposedly the one set to defeat me by prophecy. That tells me of the incredible magical strength you will have when you come of age. As well, you remind me painfully of myself at your age. I, too, was abused by muggles, and I vowed never to allow another wizarding child to suffer what you and I have suffered. Additionally, as I said when we first met, you are one of my horcruxes. In fact, you are the only remaining horcrux. I discovered when I researched the ritual to use the stone that I had to have most of my soul intact for the magic to work, so I reabsorbed my other safeguards. An unknown side-effect was that I regained my sanity. That gives me the impetus to protect you, and I'm growing rather fond of you as well." Harry burrowed his head in Tom's shoulder, trembling.
"You haven't answered me, little one. Would you like me to adopt you?" The child could only nod, tears choking him. "Very good. I will set up the necessary ritual items, and we will do it this weekend. Would you like to return to Hogwarts next year? I guarantee that no one would be able to touch you once the adoption takes place. We can have you re-sorted if you wish, or I can petition the School Board of Governors to overrule your current placement and have you put in the Slytherin dorms. The children there will protect you with their lives, once they realize you are my son and heir." Harry pulled away, sniffling, and rubbed his eyes.
"I…I think so," he answered softly. "I want to continue my magical education, and there are some Slytherins I'd like to know better. I'd also like to try and make amends to Malfoy. I should've listened to him my first year."
"Very well. We shall call you Harrison Salazar Riddle. Your middle name is in honor of Salazar Slytherin, Hogwarts founder and my great many times over grandfather. Now, about this prophecy that I set into motion that dreadful Halloween night. First, let me say that I…regret causing you pain. I cannot apologize for killing your parents. They were in the way of my achieving my goals. I will, however, apologize for trying to kill you. I was not in my right mind at the time; the prophecy made me fear for my life. Had I been able to think rationally, I would have realized that going after you is what set the prophecy in motion. I do not know the full of it; however, I do believe that if we change the course of things now, the prophecy will become void.
"I promise to protect you and keep you safe," he continued in a softer voice, cuddling the child closer. "I will do everything within my power to accomplish this. It means that you will have no part in this war between the Dark and the Light. Dumbledore will not be able to manipulate you into anything ever again. To ensure that he will not be able to feed you potions, Sandie will be your personal house elf at the castle, and she will be the only one to handle your food and drink. I will advise Lucius to assign a personal house elf for Draco, as well. I fear that, in failing to obtain your complete obedience, the headmaster will try and target those who may be close to you. I am hoping that you may come to see Draco as a good friend, in time. You will never be alone with Dumbledore; I will see to it that Severus is named your guardian ad litem while in school, and that the headmaster will not be able to call you to his office for a 'friendly chat'."
"Okay," Harrison whispered softly, wrapping his arms around the man's neck and hugging him tightly. "Thank you for everything."