**READING THIS AUTHOR NOTE IS ADVISED!**
A general summary of important things. May be updated later on if needed:
This story will have a long runtime, probably several years. I have done and am still doing significant worldbuilding for it, including a detailed nobility system, a refined magic system, a properly functioning wizarding world, and so on. The story itself will be divided (internally) in seven books, one for each school year. The first book will also contain a few pre-Hogwarts chapters (the prologue and the first three chapters take place before the start of canon book 1). In the first book, canon events will be recognizable, but after that the unfolding events will demand a different path.
Also, there's a few notices and disclaimers that I want to get out of the way:
-Dumbledore is an antagonist. He is not an idiot that does not cover his bases, and he is not a card-carrying villain or just evil for the sake of it.
-Voldemort is also an antagonist. He, too, is not an idiot, and has motivations for doing what he does.
-Politics and the Wizengamot will play a major role.
-The Wizarding World has cultural (and legal) gender equality.
-Every wizard and witch has received a common sense upgrade compared to canon.
-This is not a simple Good versus Evil. All sides have merits, faults, strong points and weak points. Be it Dumbledore, Voldemort, Harry, Gryffindor, Slytherin, the Ministry or any other person or faction that plays a role.
-Related, no one will be bashed. Not Dumbledore, not Snape, not the Weasleys, not the Malfoys, not anyone else.
-If something seems strange, unlikely or out of place, chances are it will be explained later. This applies to the first book in particular. (note: I do reserve the right to have a brain fart and simply mess up)
Disclaimer: Apparently these disclaimers are absolutely completely useless. So hey, doesn't matter what I put here. Or if I even make one at all.
Riddle of the Ages
Book 1: A New World
It was Harry Potter's birthday today.
Not that anyone cared.
He tugged at the obstinate weed.
It wouldn't budge.
He tugged harder, with both hands.
Suddenly, it came loose, and he tumbled on his back. No. He glanced down and winced at the dirt all over his clothes. Quickly, he brushed it off as well as he could. If Aunt Petunia saw it…
He'd turned seven today.
Not that anyone cared.
He should be thinking about more important things. Yesterday, Uncle Vernon had thrown him into his cupboard just before dinner because… something. Harry had probably deserved it, though he wasn't sure why. He'd only been let out this morning to cook breakfast, and they hadn't let him eat, which meant he'd have to steal food somehow. The problem was that both Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia were home, so he'd never get into the kitchen unseen.
He pulled out a few more weeds.
"Hi," a voice said.
Harry looked up to see a black-haired girl who was just barely tall enough to peek over the hedge between the pavement and Aunt Petunia's garden. She seemed to be around his age. Taller than he was, but then, he was really short for his age. And frail.
"Hi," he greeted back. He didn't think he'd ever seen her before.
"Who are you?" the girl asked. "I'm Tomasha."
"Uh, I'm Harry," Harry said, bracing himself for the rejection that was about to follow.
"Nice to meet you," the girl said to his surprise. "Do you like working in the garden?"
Harry shrugged. He wasn't supposed to talk to people about his chores.
The girl stepped through the gate into the garden.
"You shouldn't do that," Harry said.
"Aunt Petunia doesn't like it when I talk to other children."
Tomasha frowned in confusion. "Then how do you make friends?"
"A freak like me doesn't deserve friends," Harry mumbled the words that were always repeated, staring at the ground.
He hoped she'd go away. If Aunt Petunia saw him talking to another child, he'd get no lunch again today, and he was already so hungry.
"You don't look like a freak to me."
Unsure how to reply to that, Harry went back to weeding the garden.
"I can be your friend, if you want."
He looked up at her again. "You shouldn't be my friend."
"Dudley beats people who want to be my friend."
"I'm not afraid of bullies."
"But…" How could he explain this to her? He liked this girl, and he didn't want her to get hurt. She was the first person he could remember that was nice to him.
That was the moment the door swung open – apparently Aunt Petunia had seen Tomasha from the window.
"What are you doing here?" she demanded.
"I was talking to Harry," she gestured to him, not at all intimidated by the adult.
"You shouldn't," Petunia said snidely. "That freak's never up to any good, a danger to be around I tell you. Are you new here?"
Tomasha nodded. "We moved in just last week at number 10."
Petunia gave a smile calculated to look warm and inviting. "Welcome to the neighborhood. What's your name?"
"Tomasha Riddle. Nice to meet you, Mrs…?"
"Dursley. Petunia Dursley."
"So Harry is your nephew?"
Petunia's face turned sour. "Perhaps you should go find your parents. Where are they?"
"Oh, that's a good idea!" Tomasha said enthusiastically. "I could introduce Harry to my sister. Come, Harry."
She stepped up to Harry, who was still sitting on his knees, when Petunia spoke up. "No. The boy stays here."
Tomasha snapped her eyes up and met Petunia's own, grey staring straight into blue for several seconds. Eventually, Petunia relented, to Harry's surprise.
"Okay, take the boy out of my sight. He has to be back by evening." She turned on her heel and went back inside.
Harry stared at the door that had closed behind her until Tomasha touched his arm and he reflexively shied back. He regarded her as she held her arm out, and suddenly realized she expected him to hold her hand like other children did.
Hesitantly, he stood and grabbed her hand, and she immediately dragged him to wherever she was going.
"So is your surname Dursley, too?" Tomasha asked.
"No," Harry said. "It's 'Potter'."
She dragged him along maybe a second longer, then suddenly stopped.
"Potter? Harry Potter?"
Harry answered affirmatively.
"You're Harry Potter?"
"Uh, yes," Harry said confused, wondering what was so special about that.
The girl studied him a little longer. "You… you don't know, do you?"
She huffed. "I'll introduce you to my sister and foster parents first. So how old are you?"
"I turned seven today. It's my birthday."
"Oh, congratulations, I'm seven too. So did you, uh, did you get any presents?"
Harry shook his head. "I never get presents."
She looked at him, open-mouthed. "That's just unfair. But hey, this is the house we moved into, let's see if I can find my sister, I don't think my foster parents are home right now."
Harry followed her into the building, which still showed all the signs of a recently moved family – no decorations or paintings on the walls, a few boxes in corners, and that general sterile feeling of not-being-lived-in.
"Delph!" Tomasha called into a room she peeked her head in, "I met a boy from the neighborhood."
Harry heard a mutter at the edge of his hearing, and a few seconds later another girl stepped through the doorway. Though she looked to be the same age, her appearance was very different from Tomasha. She had a stout build, probably strong enough to overpower most boys her age in a schoolyard scuffle, and her eyes were violet to Tomasha's grey. But perhaps the biggest difference was her hair, which had been dyed an almost silvery blonde with light blue tips.
"Harry, this is my twin sister, Delphini. Delph, this is Harry Potter."
Delphini barely spared him a glance before turning to her sister with a thoroughly bored look. "Sure, and I'm Dumbledore."
Tomasha leaned closer to her sister and whispered, though Harry could still make out the words. "Black hair, green eyes, you can even see the scar under his hair."
Delphini glanced at Harry again, a little longer this time, then leaned back into Tomasha, she too whispering loud enough for Harry to hear. "Are you sure its him?"
"I'm standing right here," Harry said, feeling slightly offended.
Delphini gave him another incredulous look. "You're a Parselmouth?"
This time, her look was a little more calculating, and she looked back and forth between her sister and Harry before finally settling on him again. "You don't even know?"
"Know what?" This day was becoming very confusing very quickly.
"Delph," Tomasha said, "I'm pretty sure he doesn't know anything."
"What?" Delphini exclaimed.
"What do you mean?" Harry asked nervously, already seeing this potential friendship fall into shambles. "I don't think I'm a genius or anything, but I can always answer the teacher's questions in class and—"
Tomasha cut him off. "Not about that. §Listen carefully to what I'm saying, how I'm exactly pronouncing the words.§"
Harry understood perfectly what she was saying, but following Tomasha's directions, he realized she wasn't actually talking English. Rather, she was making some kind of… hissing sounds.
"How… Why could I understand that?" Harry asked, confused.
"§Because you're a Parselmouth,§" Tomasha said. "§Parseltongue is a magical language which some people can simply understand from birth. And if you can understand it, you can also speak it if you want to.§"
"§Magical?§" Harry asked confused, only to become even more confused when he noticed he was now making those hissing sounds too, and yet what he said was perfectly understandable to him.
"See?" Tomasha said, turning to Delphini. "He doesn't know anything." She grabbed Harry's hand and dragged him into another room, Delphini following behind as she continued talking. "It's unbelievable that you, of all people, wouldn't know about magic. Sit down." She almost pushed him onto the couch of the living room they'd entered, then took her own spot right next to him, Delphini sitting down on a chair, intensely studying Harry.
Harry was just getting more confused. "What do you mean, magic?" It was something he sometimes hoped for, or dreamed about, but the topic was beyond forbidden at home. Even just saying the M-word was likely to get him a beating and a week in the cupboard.
"Magic. Just… magic. One second." Tomasha jumped up from the couch again and left the room to return several seconds later with a small package. "This is a chocolate frog," she said, showing – well, a frog made of chocolate. She ripped open the parcel… and the frog jumped away. Harry quickly overcame his surprise and snatched it out of the air halfway through its second jump. For a moment, it wriggled in his hand, then it fell still as if it had never moved.
He looked at it, somewhat uncertain what just happened.
"It's just a piece of candy," Tomasha said. "It's been animated by magic to act like a frog if you let it go or don't catch it. Eat it, if you want."
Harry wondered for a moment if it really didn't have feelings, but then decided his stomach was more important – that was a lesson very well learned at the Dursleys. Just as he bit off a leg (which luckily wasn't accompanied by any kind of sound other than that of chocolate breaking with a snap), Tomasha gave a little chuckle. It seemed she was looking at the package. A moment later she put it away and sat back down next to Harry, serious again.
"So yes, magic is real, and you're a wizard, just like we're witches."
That brought Harry back to the discussion at hand. He swallowed his next bite of chocolate and tried to formulate a response.
"But… I mean, it can't be real, right? And, and why would I be a wizard?"
"Because your parents were, of course," Tomasha said, as if it were obvious. "And yes, it's real. That's why I showed you the frog; to prove it. Also, the ability to speak Parseltongue only appears among wizards and witches."
"So… that's how you knew?" Harry asked. "That I'm… that I'm a wizard?" He finished his chocolate frog.
"Actually, no," Tomasha said. "I, uh… recognized your name."
Harry was reminded of how both she and Delphini had reacted when he told them his name. Tomasha had been surprised, and Delphini hadn't even believed her sister… until Tomasha pointed out what Harry looked like.
"Why would you recognize my name?" Harry asked.
Delphini was fidgeting on her seat, and Harry was unsure if she was annoyed or excited – or perhaps even both – but it was again Tomasha who answered.
"You're famous," she said.
"Famous?" Harry asked, starting to wonder if they were playing some kind of mean prank on him. Maybe Dudley had come up with this… no, wait, Dudley wasn't creative or smart enough for that. Not a prank, then.
"Famous," Tomasha repeated. She looked him straight in the eyes, opening and closing her mouth two times trying to figure out what to say. "I don't think there's an easy way to go about it," she finally decided. "So I'll just give you the short version. Almost twenty years ago an evil wizard started a war to try and conquer the magical world, and at some point your parents also joined the fight against him. He came after your parents on Halloween 1981 to kill them and you. For some reason, when he tried to kill you, the curse he used to try to kill you reflected back and killed him instead. That's also how you got your scar. Everyone knows the story."
Harry gaped at her in silence, trying to absorb the information. "So… my parents didn't die in a car accident?" he finally asked.
"A car accident?!" Delphini exclaimed.
Harry looked down in shame. "That's what my aunt told me. She… she said they were useless layabouts and drunks."
"And you believed that?" Tomasha demanded harshly. She rapidly softened when Harry shied back, and put her hand on his arm. Again, he twitched away, but he quickly realized she was trying to comfort him.
"Sorry," she said quietly, retracting her arm again. "Harry, I don't think you should trust what your aunt tells you. After all, she never told you that you are a wizard, even though she must have known." Again, she looked him intensely in the eyes. "And don't tell her we told you, I don't think she would be happy about that."
Harry shook his head, imagining the beating he'd get if he told Uncle Vernon – or even Aunt Petunia – that he was a wizard. His thoughts went back to what Tomasha had just told him, about the wizard that had killed his parents.
"Who was this wizard?"
Delphini looked uncomfortable, but Tomasha was unfazed.
"His name was Voldemort," she said. "A lot of people are scared of that name, though, and instead call him You-Know-Who or He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named."
"You're not scared of it?" Harry asked. He was starting to think Tomasha wasn't scared of anything.
She shook her head. "I'm not. It's silly to be afraid of a name." After a few moments of silence, she stood up and got something from the table. The package of the chocolate frog, Harry realized.
"Chocolate frogs come with cards of famous people," Tomasha said, "with a bit of text about them. When I took the one I just showed you out of the package, I noticed the card is actually about you."
"Me?" Harry asked, just as she showed the card to him. It read:
Harry James Potter
b. 31 July 1980
Harry Potter, also known as the 'Boy-Who-Lived', is famous for his defeat of the Dark Lord You-Know-Who on Halloween 1981. When the Dark Lord attempted to kill him, the curse rebounded and killed You-Know-Who instead. Harry Potter is currently being raised in an unknown location, and will go to Hogwarts in the year 1991.
Harry turned the card around and, to his amazement, found a moving picture of himself, looking happy while observing them.
"It moves?" he asked.
"All wizarding pictures move," Tomasha said. "There's a spell for that."
Harry turned the card around again. "What's Hogwarts?"
"Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry," Tomasha said. "It's the largest and best magical school of the country. Your parents both went there as well. Delph and me will also go when we're eleven."
"I thought we were going to Durmstrang," Delphini said.
Tomasha shook her head at her sister. "Thorfinn and Euphemia changed their mind."
"Who are Thorfinn and Euphemia?" Harry asked.
"Our foster parents," Tomasha said. "Thorfinn and Euphemia Rowle."
"Are your parents dead, too?" Harry suddenly asked.
Delphini now looked very uncomfortable.
"I'd rather not talk about that," Tomasha said neutrally. "Another time."
"Sorry," Harry said, realizing what he'd asked. "I didn't mean to be insensitive."
"It's okay," Tomasha said. "It's just… a rather complicated situation."
The front door opened, and Harry immediately stiffened.
"That'll be Thorfinn and Euphemia," Tomasha said. "It's almost lunch time. You want to stay, Harry?"
"Is… is that alright?" he asked uncertainly.
"Of course it is," Tomasha said as the door to the living room opened. A large, blonde man entered, then froze upon seeing Harry.
"Who is that?" he asked after a second, glancing at Tomasha.
"Harry Potter," she immediately replied. "He lives just a few houses over! Can he stay for lunch?"
The man made a few confused and shocked faces as he tried to settle on a reaction. "Harry Potter, you say?"
Tomasha nodded and made a pleading face. "Please?"
Thorfinn relented. "He can stay."
"Can I help Euphemia making lunch?" Tomasha immediately asked.
A dark-haired woman with a much smaller build appeared from behind Thorfinn and gave Harry a calculating look before switching her gaze to Tomasha. "If you wish."
AN: And we're off! Expect updates to take a little longer than they did for The Advantages of Being Sane for two reasons. First, this fic requires more thought put in the writing, and second, the updates will be longer because I wouldn't be surprised if this hits 600-900k words eventually, and with 3k word chapters that would mean 200-300 chapters, which is a horror I don't want to bestow upon you all. I will most likely be aiming for chapter lengths closer to 5-10k words, depending on what feels comfortable. Variance is also likely to be a little bigger.
AN: Also, and this is really annoying me, ffnet is under the impression Delphini Riddle is called Delphi Riddle, which is just wrong. It's - at best - a short version of her name that is used, but as you can read above I prefer Delph over Delphi anyway. Fewer egregious Greek associations that way. Anyway, rant over.
UPDATED 05-02-2020. Mostly some polishing of the opening AN, also caught a typo or two.