Thank you again for all the reviews! This is the last part of the story.
"I will be stepping down as Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement."
Harry stares at the man he's given up on calling Riddle even in his head now, his mouth a little open. They're at the front of the large office with all the desks, and Tom said he had some kind of official announcement to make. But Harry never imagined that this would be it.
Tom's head is turned, his eyes crinkled in amusement as he watches Harry's reaction. And Harry can't even yelp and ask questions the way he wants to, because they're in public. He has to stand there and smile and act as if he saw this coming all along.
At least someone is voicing the comment that Harry wanted to make. It's Auror Travers, who has wide eyes and her wand raised as if she wants to make a more emphatic point than just using her hand.
"But that just gives the people behind Yaxley what they want!" Travers complains. "Why would you do that, sir?"
"They can think of it as winning if they want," Tom says mildly. This close, Harry can feel the moment when his muscles tense under his robes. "If they try to come after me again, they will learn that I am not so easily defeated."
"Someone got hit by the Sleepless Soul Curse twice," Harry murmurs under his breath. He doesn't think anyone will notice the Parseltongue. Other people are waving their wands or their hands frantically, and paying far more attention to their own noise and the noise of other people than to him.
"And someone was freed," Tom hisses. He doesn't keep his Parseltongue quiet at all. Bastard.
Harry tilts his head back to meet Tom's gaze square-on, and feels a sharp jolt of excitement of the kind that he probably hasn't felt since Voldemort was defeated. Tom has to always have a challenge or a fucking test for him to pass, of course. He's made his commitment clear to Harry in public, even if no one else ever knows why he's stepping down.
Very well. Harry can make a similar one to him.
"You speak as if our strength was the same," he hisses, and hears some of the people who were shouting gasp and shut up. Travers is staring at Harry as if she's never seen him before. A few of the trainees shuffle behind their desks and suddenly look glad that they're at the edges of the crowd.
"I speak as if our strength were joined. Because it is."
"Not as thoroughly as it will be in a little while."
And Harry gets his revenge for Tom springing this surprise on him in public without even trying. Tom exhales sharply, and a blush makes its way down his ears and neck. He coughs and turns back to their audience.
"Why, sir?" Travers demands, the first to recover. "Why are you giving up a job you excel at, for the sake of a—a stranger you just met?" She gives Harry a look of dislike, which Harry returns serenely. It's fine for her not to like him. That doesn't make her evil.
He intends to take the lesson Auror Yaxley taught him to heart.
"Because I am bored," Tom says. "And detached from justice, more and more. You need someone as the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement who is passionate about the job, or at least committed to remaining connected to the world." He draws Harry close to his side with one arm around his shoulders. "And because I have a new challenge, something else I am passionately committed to."
Harry flushes in turn, and sees Tom's eyes crinkle again.
Yes, it's hard to be embarrassed in public, but for the sight of Tom smiling like that, he would endure it over and over again.
"May I say one thing before I go, Mr. Riddle?"
Tom turns around with a polite smile. Deborah Harmon came along to Tom's house with them, of course, since she can Floo home from there, and Tom does feel he owes her a debt for being with Harry when he fought Yaxley, taking a Stunner that she certainly wouldn't have taken if not for that involvement, and Apparating Harry to Hogwarts. But Tom doesn't want to wait much longer before he goes up the stairs. Harry has already given him a long look and walked up, and Tom is certain that he's heading for the bedroom Tom means for them to share.
"Of course, Deborah."
"I am glad that you have him," Deborah says. "And glad that he has persuaded you to leave a job that you were increasingly ill-suited for."
Tom feels his smile become a bit more fixed. "Harry didn't persuade me. I'm sure you saw his face. He was as surprised as everyone else."
"There is such a thing as indirect persuasion." Deborah studies him again with sharp eyes. "And the time that I saw you kill that Dark wizard who had decided to target my business for some reason—"
"He wanted to buy your building and you turned him down."
"He still had an extreme reaction that I will never understand." Deborah shrugs. "I was and remain grateful for that protection. But you smiled at the moment as if you had more in common with a dragon than a human."
"You think Harry will keep me human?"
"You've already smiled more in the last half-hour than I've seen since I met you."
Tom wants to object that he smiles plenty, and especially at someone like Deborah, who has proven herself useful and never annoying, until now. But he restricts himself to a polite inclination of his head. "If you say so. And I'm sure that Harry will want to retain your services in a few days. He'll still want a house of his own."
"He won't share yours?"
That speculation goes beyond the boundary of Tom's ability to tolerate. No one else needs to be thinking about Harry sharing his bed, not in any kind of detail. "You forget yourself," he says coolly.
Deborah pales, and half-bows. "All right. Then I'll let myself out, Mr. Riddle. Thank you for the use of your Floo."
Tom watches her go, only heading up the stairs when he hears the rush of the Floo igniting. He frowns as he does so, wondering what would have happened to him if he'd never met Harry.
Would he have become obsessed with proving himself against some enemy, the way he thinks Deborah was insinuating? Or would he have simply withered away without noticing, caught in the stale stagnation of routine, until he became a mere figurehead in the job?
Tom dismisses the thought. He doesn't need to worry about that, because he did meet Harry.
And Harry is waiting for him upstairs.
Harry pulls off his shirt and glasses the minute he enters Tom's bedroom, which means it takes him a minute to gape around at the walls, because the shirt momentarily blocks his view. But then, he can see, and even without his glasses, it's worth looking at.
Holy shit, Tom. Magpie, much?
The walls are the same deep blue as the swatches of cloth decorating Glamoursall's, or nearly. Soft silver stars and golden planets stud them, and Harry wouldn't be surprised to find they're made of real precious metals. The floor is a soft dark carpet that nearly rises to Harry's ankles, and makes a gentle crushing sound beneath him as he walks. An enormous cupboard dominates the far wall, and a huge desk with a mirror the wall next to the bathroom door, both of them made of ebony wood that ripples with faint reflections of Harry's movements.
But the bed dominates the room itself.
Harry lets his hand rest on the blue coverlets, shaking his head. The bed looks like a pool, it's so covered with shiny blue sheets, with the panoply of pillows at the head white like foam and the heavy blanket at the bottom a dark green. Harry lowers himself to sit on the mattress, and groans at the softness.
"Do you like it?"
Harry smiles up at Tom as he enters the room, pretending that his heart isn't beating fast enough to make him dizzy. "Of course. Tell me, did you get the idea for the color from Glamoursall's?"
Tom narrows his eyes as his hands go to work on the buttons of his robe. His eyes are scanning Harry's chest, and Harry's sure that he's cataloguing every single scar and patch of skin. His gaze isn't angry, however, but starving.
Harry shivers, and reaches down to slide off his shoes and trousers.
"I have always liked this color, Harry." Tom's voice has deepened a little, and it makes Harry's cock stir. "I charmed the walls this color long before I ever went to Glamoursall's. It has only been open for a few years."
"And the stars and planets? I suppose you're going to tell me that you came up with that idea on your own?"
"Certainly not. The basic picture has been in my head since I first attended a meal in the Great Hall of Hogwarts beneath the charmed ceiling."
"But you admit you copied it from somewhere."
"The truly important thing that will be happening in this room in a few minutes will be unique."
Harry licks his lips. He's still nervous, but from the way that his cock is bobbing up softly, that's not going to affect his arousal. His hands hesitate on either side of his pants when he realizes that Tom is completely naked and standing up. Far from acting as if he's nervous himself in front of Harry, he basks in the attention, turning slightly from side to side.
Of course Tom is tall and well-muscled, and his hair shines with that intriguing mixture of dark and silver. But Harry's attention goes to his cock, standing upright, dark red with blood, looking hard enough to potentially hurt.
On the other hand, Harry thinks about sitting on that cock, and his hips flex without his permission.
Tom smiles. "We will go as slowly as you need, Harry. But I would very much like to see you naked."
Harry has to smile back at the last word, which in Parseltongue comes out as close to "newly shed of scales." He hopes Tom won't be disappointed as he pulls down his pants and drops them on the floor next to his shoes and trousers.
Tom's attention grows so sharp that it could very well cut someone who wasn't expecting it. He moves forwards until his knees are pressed against Harry's. Harry leans back on the bed, reaching up to cradle Tom's elbows with his hands.
Tom follows him down, and kisses him in a long, sensual, expert way that makes Harry's head spin and a short, strangled noise emerge from his throat. He wriggles under Tom and spreads his legs, suddenly eager in a way he never expected to be.
Then again, he thinks he was only half-alive during the last few years.
"Harry." Tom breaks off, looking startled. "I had intended for us to have sex, but not for me to penetrate you the first time."
"Oh," Harry says. "So the mighty Slytherin is scared."
Tom's eyes flash with annoyance. "I do not want to hurt you. I never want to hurt you."
"But you want to fuck me," Harry says, and watches in satisfaction as that blush starts down Tom's ears and neck again—and goes much further than that, now that he can see everything. "You're not holding back because you want to do something else. You're holding back because you think I'm a scared, little, trembling, naïve virgin." He sighs and reaches out to the bedside table where he put his wand. "Well, I'll have to do it myself, then."
"What?" Tom croaks, his eyes flitting back and forth between the Elder Wand and Harry's body.
"Fuck myself with the wand." The Elder Wand makes a questioning little noise, but it will do what he wants, always, Harry knows. He starts to position it at the right distance from his hole.
Tom grabs his wrist. "You are not."
"Well, then." Harry ducks his head and looks up at Tom from beneath lowered lashes. "I think you should get on with it."
Tom holds his wrist for a moment longer, careful not to touch the Elder Wand with his bare skin. Then he flings his head back and laughs like a hyena. Harry smiles and lets Tom guide his hand to the side table again, dropping the Elder Wand when Tom squeezes again (even though the wand makes a disappointed little noise in his head).
"Yes," Tom says. "You're right. I do want to fuck you. But I thought it would be too overwhelming for you at first."
"How many other overwhelming things have I survived?"
"I want you to do more than survive this, Harry."
"And I'm sure I will," Harry says, smiling a little as a distant echo of prophecy flits through his head. "Come on, then. Show me what the high and mighty Slytherin can do."
Tom uses far more lubrication and preparation charms than he ever has before, but he's determined that Harry will have no cause to regret this in the morning, even if the cause of that regret would only be a sore arse. Then he slides a pillow under Harry and lifts his hips up.
"You're ready?" he whispers, swirling his fingers gently in the oil that's coating Harry's arse and the bottom of his legs at the moment.
Harry smiles at him and wriggles a little closer, nearly undoing Tom's work with the pillow. "Yes. Please."
Tom is glad that he never made any remarks about Harry begging him for it or anything like that, because he would have hated to miss this moment (and Harry would have done all he could to avoid begging as a point of pride, Tom is sure). He works Harry open with his fingers first, and Harry sighs, his eyelashes fluttering, body relaxing.
When it comes time to enter him, Tom does it slowly, in a long slide. Harry's breathing seems to stop at one point, and Tom looks up sharply to find Harry with his eyes fixed on the ceiling.
"You're all right?"
"Yes, of course I am," Harry says. "Just getting used to it."
That's right. He's never felt anything like this before, never been with anyone before, man or woman.
And he'll never have to worry about being with someone who hurts him.
Tom bares his teeth as he finishes sliding into Harry and pauses for a second to let the heat overwhelm him, along with the music of Harry's soul that begins whispering in his ears again, until he knows he has to move, that they both want him to.
It turns out that Harry's pretty vocal, but not with words. He hooks his legs around Tom's waist and hisses meaningless sounds at him. He cries out when Tom manages to hit his prostate several times in a row. He likes to have his hands gripped and held down, as much as Tom can do that from his relatively awkward position, encouraging him with moans.
Tom enjoys all of it, committing each sound to memory. He'll do this in the future, too, figure out how to make Harry make all of them.
Harry is his, and that includes the sounds he makes.
It seems it doesn't take long until Harry's back arches and he comes between them with a garbled noise of pleasure and surprise, but then, he's never had this before. Tom slows his own motions to gentle, languid ones, until Harry shifts beneath him.
"Aren't you going to come?" he whispers.
Tom kisses his wrist quickly, hearing the echoes of anxiety in that. Harry might be feeling as though he's not a good partner if Tom hasn't come yet. "Yes, but first I want to try something."
Tom concentrates hard on Harry and focuses his magic on him, too, until he thinks he can feel the net of Harry's nerves and blood humming under his skin. This might not work, but then again, Tom has never had a partner with whom he's so in tune, and more to the point, he's never bedded another Parselmouth. If it's going to work with anyone at all, it will with Harry.
Tom hisses, "Come back," and pulls on Harry's nerves and blood at the same time.
Harry makes a far more garbled noise when his cock hardens a second time. He looks up at Tom with wild, bright eyes, which makes Tom smile. He doesn't let go of Harry's hands as he speeds up the motion of his thrusts again.
"You said that already," Tom observes, and Harry tries to bite him. That he falls painfully short doesn't matter, not when he's already pushing back on Tom with the expression of someone determined to chase his pleasure.
Tom lets himself fall fully into it, the awareness of Harry, the sweat on the skin he caresses and the magic glowing between them and the rising tide of orgasm. Tom thrusts forwards once and holds still as he comes, hissing now, his own back arching, his eyes closing.
He doesn't get to see Harry's second orgasm, but he can feel it, and that's all he really needs as the echo rolls back and forth between their souls.
Tom casts Cleaning Charms, afterwards, and lies down on the bed with Harry in his arms. Harry gives him a dazed but suspicious look. Tom smiles. He thinks that's rapidly going to become one of his favorite expressions on Harry's face.
"Where did you learn to do that?"
"Here and there," Tom says. It wouldn't do to reveal all his secrets at once. He's playing the long game, playing to keep Harry, and the more he can reveal and lure him in with, the stronger his chances of doing exactly that.
Harry would probably say that he doesn't need to do that, that he wants to stay with Tom no matter what, but Tom just thinks of it as insurance. He'll do all he can, and he'll do some more.
Because Harry woke him up, and nothing is more precious to him.
Harry stumbled through the Veil, through darkness and cold, his arms windmilling around him. He didn't see anything or hear anything, but it was only a fall from one place to another, one world to another.
As he knew later.
Harry ended up in a small, dark alley, shivering, his arms wrapped around himself. He stared down at his limbs, thinking that even though they'd only been covered in chains for such a short time, it already looked strange to see himself without them.
He looked up and around, but he didn't recognize the place. He was surrounded by stones and cobbles, which at least indicated he was probably in a magical street. The walls were plain grey, however, and had no doors. Perhaps someplace off Diagon Alley or Knockturn?
Nervous energy jerked Harry to his feet. If the Veil really was a back door from the Ministry somehow, the Aurors could be along any second to fetch him and drag him back into captivity.
He stuck his head around the corner of the wall, and jumped. Yes, it looked like Diagon Alley. He recognized Florean Fortescue's and Madam Malkin's.
But it was filled with people, many more than he remembered seeing on any of his last few trips to Diagon Alley, and they didn't have the air of people waiting for someone to tell them that the evil Dark Lord Harry Potter had been executed, either. They were all in more colorful robes than usual, they strolled casually and laughed and chatted, and there were loads more children than Harry had seen since he was a child himself. They ran in circles and chased bubbles conjured for them by their parents and laughed merrily when someone else chased them.
What is this?
Harry wondered if he was dead and having a delusion somehow, or if this was the afterlife. But he had no idea. He stayed hidden, watching. No one came down the alley, which seemed to lie behind several buildings, and no one seemed to notice him.
One witch idly kicked a folded newspaper aside, and it blew towards him. Harry stooped down and picked it up, bracing himself to find a story about Harry Potter on the front page. Hermione had told him that the Prophet was reporting on nothing else.
But the title at the top was the Oracle. And there was a logo of a crystal ball with wings like a Snitch's, definitely something he'd never seen before.
Harry stared, his eyes skimming over the articles. There was something about Puddlemere United winning a game, Celestina Warbeck announcing that her next concert would be her last one, and—
Harry's fingers trembled and went cold. He nearly dropped the paper.
HEADMASTER DUMBLEDORE ANNOUNCES NEW POTIONS PROFESSOR.
"This is impossible," Harry whispered. He closed his eyes and summoned his courage, then read through the article. It was exactly what the headline had said it was, with Dumbledore announcing the retirement of Professor Horace Slughorn after a long and distinguished career, and a woman named Rulinda Black becoming the next Potions teacher.
Harry shook his head, blinked, and shook it again.
He didn't know what this was. He would need more information to confirm it. After all, no one knew what lay on the other side of the Veil. This could be some kind of trick, or a prison worse than Azkaban.
But what if it was real? What if this was another world where Dumbledore was alive, and Voldemort had been defeated or killed early on, and no one had ever heard of Harry the Boy-Who-Lived?
I'll stay out of things this time, Harry promised himself grimly as he flipped to another page and saw something about the opening of a new joke shop in Hogsmeade, run by George Weasley, Fred Weasley, and Lee Jordan. They have their own lives. No one I knew needs me interrupting.
And I don't need any Aurors—
A sharp shiver ran up Harry's back, and he swallowed and cast the paper aside, watching as it rolled into the distance.
I don't need any Aurors deciding that I make an interesting target to stare at and follow around and ask questions.
Harry nodded and turned to walk towards Knockturn Alley, or at least the way it would lie from here in his own world. If he somehow had been granted a second chance, he knew exactly how he would use it.
Lie low. Keep my head down. Be content with the simplest and most non-political life I can. I've left all dreams of grandeur far behind me.
Harry has to smile, thinking of his dream, as he sits at Tom's table the next morning, eating more eggs and bacon courtesy of Amanda, and wriggling his arse now and then to feel the pleasurable ache from it.
That didn't work out the way I thought.
But as he looks up at Tom, rolling his eyes over Oracle articles in the chair across from him, Harry wouldn't have it any other way.
Tom's head swings up, and a second later, Harry's magic sensitivity warns him. A cloud of light is moving towards them, strong, serene power that he's never felt this way before, but knows at once.
"What is Albus doing here?" Tom asks, in the kind of light voice he uses when he wants to interrogate someone instead of kill them.
Harry is a little worried that he recognizes the difference between those tones of voice already, but brushes the thought away. "He probably wants to know where his wand is, Tom. And he either managed to track it down or learn who has it, finally."
Tom stands up, and Harry blinks at his back for a second before he scrambles after him.
"What are you intending to do?" Harry demands as Tom tries to raise a ward in the middle of the corridor leading to the front door. Harry steps easily through it, the Elder Wand dissipating it without even leaving Harry's pocket.
"Keep you safe."
Harry knows that tone. It's the murder tone. "You don't have to," he says, catching Tom's arm and forcing Tom to turn and look at him. "Dumbledore isn't a threat."
"Says the boy who trusted so much in him last time that you followed his orders and walked straight into a Killing Curse."
Those last words are in Parseltongue. Harry sighs and strokes the inside of Tom's elbow. "This isn't the same world," he breathes. "And he isn't the same man. Just like you aren't the same man as Voldemort."
Tom's nostrils flare for a second. Then he says, "You may speak to him, but I will be part of the conversation."
"Yes, oh high and mighty Slytherin," Harry says, and sees to his delight that the words still have the power to irritate Tom.
Harry meets Albus a few paces away from the front door.
Tom keeps his word and stands at Harry's shoulder. But he doesn't bother lessening the intensity of his glare at Dumbledore. At least since he left Hogwarts, he and Dumbledore haven't played games with each other about what they feel. Tom hates him; Dumbledore distrusts Tom.
But it's worse now, because Tom knows Dumbledore is a threat, and doesn't want him anywhere near Harry.
Harry, of course, walks straight out to meet the Headmaster, because he's an idiot. And then he takes the Elder Wand from his pocket and holds it casually in one hand. "Welcome, Headmaster," he says. "Why did you come?"
Dumbledore is wearing a set of purple robes with gold trim, gaudier but probably cheaper than the blue ones with gold dragons that Harry is wearing. He looks at the wand Harry is holding, and smiles. "My wand, actually," he says. "It left me rather abruptly. I'm glad to see that it's been safe." He reaches out.
Tom has no idea what Harry is doing as he seems to practically offer the Elder Wand back to Dumbledore on an open palm. Is that it, then? Is Harry once again backing down in fear from power, from leadership, and condemning himself to inferior service from a wand that will resent him?
Then Dumbledore's hand brushes the wand, and he jumps and backs away. "It—appears to have acquired teeth since I last held it," he says blankly, holding up his hand. There's a small, neat hole in his palm, from which blood wells.
It only stung me, Tom thinks smugly. But then, Tom touched it accidentally, not trying to steal it.
"Yes, Headmaster," Harry says, and tucks the Elder Wand back into his robe pocket. "I'm afraid that it's not going to be yours anymore. It's chosen a new master, you see."
Harry's pocket stirs angrily, as if he's stuffed a snake in there, and Tom supposes the Elder Wand doesn't like the word "master." But there's also no sign that it's trying to chew through Harry's robe or bite him on the leg.
"How did that happen?"
Dumbledore still has a trick of peering over his half-moon glasses that irritates Tom to no end, but Harry seems immune to it. He smiles at Tom's old enemy and shakes his head a little. "I'm afraid that's something that has to remain a secret."
Dumbledore studies him some more. Harry looks back with a polite, blank smile. Tom hovers, ready to descend on Dumbledore in an instant if there's any sign that he's using Legilimency on Harry.
But he doesn't. Dumbledore sighs, draws a hawthorn wand from his pocket, and heals the small bite wound on his hand. "I hope that you'll take care of it, my dear boy. Keep it safe for me."
"It'll be safe," Harry says, and his voice and posture are both a little stiffer. "But not for you."
Dumbledore pauses again and darts a sharp glance back and forth between Harry and Tom. Then he sighs and seems to give in gracefully—although Tom will be watching out for another attack in the future, given who they're dealing with. "Well. Of course, many wands have more than one owner over the course of their lifetimes, unless they are buried with their owners."
Harry's smile is a little pained as he nods. Perhaps he's thinking of the funeral for the Dumbledore in his world, Tom thinks, which Harry told Tom he'd attended. "That's true, sir. And it was nice to meet you."
Dumbledore doesn't attempt to outstay his welcome, something that surprises Tom. He nods to them both, but lets his gaze linger on Tom only a moment, and offers only the cryptic bit of advice, "Sometimes we find what we need where we least thought to look for it."
Tom snarls under his breath as he watches Dumbledore stroll away. He really does go to the Apparition point and Apparate away. Tom relaxes then, and reaches out and pulls Harry close to him with a hard arm around his shoulders.
"He's really not as bad as you're making him out to be," Harry says, and leans his head on Tom's shoulder.
"Nor is he as innocent as you think he is," Tom mutters. "I think he'll try some other scheme to get the Elder Wand back."
Harry tilts his head a little, then laughs.
"What?" Tom demands. He knows Harry isn't laughing at him, but he can't feel that Harry knows something without immediately wanting to share it. That's how he's made.
"The Elder Wand is going to drill a hole through Dumbledore's heart if he does succeed in stealing it." Harry shakes his head. "Don't worry about it, Tom. I don't particularly want him dead, but I won't let him have the wand, and I won't tell him all the secrets I carry, either." He slides his hand up Tom's neck to cup his cheek. "The only person I want to share my secrets with is you."
Tom picks up Harry's hand and kisses it. Harry smiles at him, and Tom hears the distant song of their conjoined souls.
He thinks about their future. They might travel. They might make magical discoveries. Perhaps they'll go in search of James Potter and see what he's up to, whether he met and married Harry's mother in this world. If there's another version of him out there, and what they might do if there is.
"We never did have our duel."
"Yes, let's go!" Harry says, and dashes back into the house, towards the dueling room Tom showed him the first night they spent there. Tom follows at a more sedate pace.
He's already thinking of how he's going to compensate for Harry's advantage of having the more powerful wand. And planning on how he'll make Harry smile when he loses.
Planning how to make Harry smile.
If that, rather than travel or magical discoveries, turns out to be Tom's main purpose on earth for the next hundred years and beyond, he'll welcome the future with open arms.