Diagon Alley, Christmas 1946

It had seemed like the thing to do at the time. The Slug Club had gathered at a private club off Diagon Alley for an impromptu holiday party of Hogwarts alumna.

"I'm surprised I received an invitation," said Tom Riddle with a petulant frown, as he and Abraxas Malfoy rang the bell. "Slughorn acted like my accepting the post at Borgin and Burkes was a personal insult."

"He just wants to save you from the ignominy of being a shop clerk," Abraxas replied with a smirk. "Little does he know, eh?"

They sauntered in, and Abraxas immediately chummed up to older, powerfully positioned guests as Tom drifted through the crowd, nodding and giving polite greetings, his charming "in public" mask firmly placed.

He stopped drifting once he saw Minerva McGonagall, dressed in velvet green robes cut low in the bodice and short in the skirt. "Hello, Tom," she said, in a quite friendly way. He'd always respected Minerva, even if she was a Gryffindor, and one of Dumbledore's pets. She was his only opponent in Dueling Club who had ever presented a challenge. In fact, she was the only opponent who'd ever beaten him when he was actually trying. It was a fluke, of course, but even still.

He'd always wondered whether she'd fancied him at all. Not that that kind of thing mattered, of course.

"Minerva, you look smashing," he said, and when she offered her cheek to him, he kissed it, inhaling her light scent of roses with a hint of something spicier and most compelling underneath.

"I've not seen you since I left Hogwarts," she said, and her eyes went over him the way many women's did. He smirked inwardly, as she continued. "How on earth are you? I heard you didn't take a post at the Ministry. We all expected you to."

"I'm very well," he said, taking a glass of wine from the tray proffered by one of the many House Elves attending the guests. "I simply wanted to try something different for a while."

"Working at Borgin and Burkes is certainly different," she said, placing her hand on his arm. "You ought to work with me in the Ministry's Experimental Transfiguration Division. I remember hearing about your prowess in Transfiguration from Dumbledore."

"Perhaps one day," Tom lied. "The position I have is interesting and beneficial, really. It's more fitting my station." He'd learned long ago to milk his social status for as much as possible.

"Merlin's beard, Tom, you oughtn't let the circumstances of your birth hold you back. This isn't the Muggle world, you know. Whilst you're here, I'm going to take full advantage of you," she said, with what Tom knew was not-so-subtle flirting, "and bounce some theories off you for a project I'm working on." She paused a moment, placing her hand to her mouth. "Unless you'd rather not put up with me prattling on about work and academia when you're here to enjoy the holiday spirit."

"Actually, there's little I'd rather do," he said, this time in all truthfulness. Parties exhausted him. One could only be artificial and charismatic for so long before one had to recharge one's batteries with an ample dose of solitude. Most women wanted to dance and to paw at him. Talking magical theory would be much more relaxing.

They ended up in a corner, talking Transfiguration most of the night. She had some fascinating ideas to discuss and they both had a few more glasses of mulled wine.

Normally Tom wouldn't have allowed his baser urges to overcome him, but as the party was ending, he found himself figuring that it was Christmas, and he deserved whatever he wanted for all of his hard work in the previous year. Abraxas had skived off much earlier with one of the Black girls, so Tom was on his own. The host was stifling a yawn as two or three pureblood boors continued to talk his ear off about Ministry policy. "Looks like we ought to be going," he said. He stood up and offered his hand to help Minerva up.

"Yes, I suppose," she said, taking his hand, and meeting his eyes before standing. "I quite enjoyed our conversation. It was much more pleasant than hearing about new robe styles or who's seeing who."

"This was my idea of a holiday party," he said. They walked arm-in-arm to the cloakroom, and as they did, each darted glances at the other. Tom was pleasantly surprised when Minerva gently pushed him under a bunch of mistletoe in the hallway. He found himself kissing her back an enthusiasm he didn't have to fake.

It was a matter of minutes before they Apparated to her flat. Once there, it was a matter of seconds before he was in her bed.

He didn't stay the whole night. He never did that on the rare occasions when he took a lover. Once she'd fallen asleep, he conjured a bouquet of fine, red roses and left them on her bedside table before Disapparating.

He never expected to hear from her again which was a pity, almost. It had been one hell of a night. However, he had great goals to achieve that certainly didn't involve having a significant other in his life.


February 1947, Back room of Borgin and Burkes

"What did you say?"

"You heard me the first time," Minerva spat. "If you'd ruddy well remembered that charm we wouldn't be in this fix."

She'd showed up near closing, demanding to talk with him. He'd had no idea it would be about something like this.

"How do you know it's mine?" he replied, as the machinations of his ever-plotting brain whirred into overdrive. He could Obliviate her; it would be easy. He'd kill her if he had to, although that would be a shame. She really was a gifted witch – her powers could be used later on, if she were on his side. Besides, her father was the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. It would not be wise to attract that kind of attention.

"I tested for that first thing, you idiot, or I wouldn't be here," she said, her hands planted on her hips. "We have to get married."

Tom just stared. This couldn't be happening to him. Now he remembered why he'd vowed to stay on his own. Personal connections trapped you in the mire of the ordinary. "Can't you get rid of it?"

Minerva's wand appeared in front of his nose with a violent swish. "You're going to do the honorable thing by me, you Slytherin bastard. To think you'd abandon your own flesh and blood, just as you'd been abandoned as an infant."

How dare she compare him to his filthy Muggle father? He glared at her and reached for his own wand.

"Don't you dare even think about it," Minerva snarled.

Tom hesitated. He was in no way like his father, and would never be. His busy gears switched to a different track. Minerva was quite fetching. She was smarter than most of the insipid women he knew. And she did come from a well-placed, wealthy pureblood family…

Marrying her might be a smart move. He'd gain power and wealth, better connections… If it didn't work out, he could always set up a House Elf for her accidental death.


October 1949, sitting room of the Riddle house (in an exclusive wizarding neighborhood in Wandsworth)

Tom sat on the sofa reading The Daily Prophet, his feet up after a long day in his lab. Minerva's father had pulled strings for his new son-in-law; he'd never wanted to work in the Ministry, but gaining entrance into the Department of Mysteries had been a brilliant move. Hardly anyone bothered him there so long as he published beneficial Defense Against the Dark Arts research every little bit, and he could do that kind of thing in his sleep. Fulfilling these mundane requests gave him more time to work with secret, restricted knowledge in his own special research.

He'd hoped at the beginning of their marriage to lure Minerva into his secret life. He'd decided against in when she'd laughed at the mention of the name Voldemort, saying it reminded her of a name for particularly foul custard. He'd never brought up the matter with her in more depth again. It was a shame; she was a formidable witch.

He went by the title of the Dark Lord now amongst his followers. Voldemort was a rather silly name.

Minerva walked into the parlor carrying little Marvolo. Tom nodded to them both. He was by nature cold and aloof, though he could pretend he wasn't, when needed. There were House Elves aplenty to care for the boy and Minerva was busy with her own work. She was a very independent woman. He didn't have to be there for either of them.

In return for letting her do what she liked, he enjoyed the benefits of a fine home, enough galleons to relish life thoroughly, and excellent connections to those in major positions of power. It was a fair exchange, he thought.

"Hello, dear," she said sitting beside him, Marvolo on her lap. "Did you have a good afternoon?"

He turned the page of the newspaper, quickly finishing the article he was reading before turning to her. "I did? You?"

"Not bad at all. The test runs on the wheat crop Transfiguration project went swimmingly. I'm glad to be home, though."

"Indeed," he replied.

Marvolo reached for him. "Dada home!" Tom took his little hand. The boy smiled at him, and Tom smiled back, reflexively. Minerva leaned in to kiss him, and he let her.

He didn't love Minerva, but he'd found he'd grown fond of her somehow. She seemed happy enough, but whether she was or not wasn't something he cared about as long as things didn't change. He was comfortable here, and he found he didn't mind her or the boy, as long as he didn't have to spend too much time with them. To be fair, he wasn't all that different in this respect from the majority of English men of his time and social status, evil wizard or not.

He and his wife kept separate bedrooms, and they led independent lives, but there still existed between them a red hot passion that flared at the most inconvenient of times, such as the many times he prepared to slip off to his secret lair within his father's crumbling manor house.

Speaking of which… "Dear, I've been called away on business this weekend."

"Oh, Tom, no," Minerva said, the frown lines between her eyes becoming more pronounced. "You promised you'd come with us to Father and Mother's anniversary party this weekend."

"I'm sorry, but this is a most pressing matter." He was planning on implementing his new brand of summoning tattoos upon his minions this weekend, the research into which had been funded by the Ministry. He thought this a terribly funny thing.

Minerva's lips thinned to a nearly imperceptible line. "Marvolo, go see if Mimsy has those biscuits out of the oven yet." She set the boy down and he toddled off toward the kitchen. Once he was out of sight, Minerva cursed Tom with an Itching Hex so quickly that Tom didn't even see when she took her wand out.

"I know what you're up to, Tom Marvolo Riddle," she said, standing up and glaring down at him. She swept imperiously out of the room, saying as she went, "Don't you dare even consider it. Not if you want things to stay the way you like them."

He frantically itched as he struggled to retrieve his wand and cast the counterhex. He thought, not for the first time, that Minerva must be a Legilimens.

Maybe he'd reschedule the gathering of his minions for the following weekend. After all, Minerva's father always served the finest scotch at family gatherings, and he'd likely have a chance to spend some time in the ancient McGonagall library.

Yes, he thought, as he stopped itching. Reschedule. That's what he'd do.

He continued reading the paper. Things didn't need to change one bit. This was a most beneficial relationship.