Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Summary: What if the newly-disembodied Voldemort had noticed his link to Harry? A dark AU.
Author's Note: I began writing this story in 2004, and have since revised it to take information from HBP into account. I make no guarantees of strict canon compliance, though, since I'm working off a slightly different interpretation of Tom Riddle's character from the one I tend to see in other people's work.
Thanks to Lasair and Miss Cora for beta-reading this chapter: all remaining canon goofs, grammar mistakes, continuity errors, implausible characterizations, bad dialogue, boring passages, and Americanisms are my fault, not theirs.
Strange Likenesses: Chapter 1
It took nearly six months, he later determined, before the dragging, tearing pain diminished to a steady ache and throb of loss and he was able to think again. Tom. His name was Tom.
No, he'd changed it. To... something, he couldn't remember what. Later.
He could still feel himself dying, his life and power seeping slowly from the gaping hole in his spirit. He couldn't seal the hole, but perhaps he could refill himself, seize another week or month. He drifted, immaterial, until a passing rabbit froze within his grasp and he enveloped it, draining its life; then, having no wish to be bound eternally to a rodent's body, he let the corpse fall and drifted away.
Assured that he could once again cheat death, he settled in to recall himself. His name was Tom, he was a disembodied spirit, he had been struck by a curse. Avada Kedavra. He had cast the curse on the boy... what?
He tried to blink, and failed. Why had he tried to kill an infant? Not that he felt any particular qualms, but it seemed senseless. What threat could an infant pose to... oh. There had been a prophecy, which, damn it all, seemed to have been fulfilled. Almost. He, Voldemort -- yes, that was his name -- was not quite dead.
Neither, it seemed, was the Potter boy.
In fact, he was certain the boy was alive. Just like he could feel the faint anchors of his Horcruxes, he could feel the brat, itching on the edge of his mind, their magic linked around the raw edges of the hole in his essence. Perhaps if he found the boy, he could heal himself. Or he could simply possess the brat; that might, all things considered, be easier. Then again, perhaps not. He had no desire to live as a mewling toddler and a child's body would do him no good when he regained his position.
Damn it all. He had no time for this. He had spent too many years forced to play somebody else's game, and it was his turn to make the rules.
It took another month for Tom to travel from southern Germany to Surrey, constrained as he was by the stops to steal more life, the slow pace of ethereal travel, and the maddening tendency of Channel fish to swim toward France while he drained them. He was certain ghosts could move faster than this, but he'd never heard of anyone in his situation before so he had no idea what his limitations should be. He supposed that he should be grateful for any life, even this aching intangibility, but he had given up on shoulds and oughts decades ago, shortly after he killed that whining girl by the Chamber entrance.
The link tightened as he approached the Potter boy, solidifying from a formless itch to a directional tingle, almost a tugging. Unfortunately he couldn't reach the boy. The Muggle house -- and he had never encountered such a stereotypical Muggle house in his life -- was surrounded by ring upon ring of wards, from ultra-complex and finicky modern jumbles down to the plain, solid, and damnably unbreakable blood-bond that sizzled against his magic when he attempted to drift over the property line. That one was Dumbledore's work. Curse the man for not leaving the brat to the Ministry idiots. He could have circumvented all the other barriers, but not that one. No loopholes there, not like Fidelius.
Tom drifted away, discontent. He thought he would normally have been furious at such a thwarting of his will, but his emotions seemed dampened by his ghost-like state. No matter. He could return in a year or so when the boy was old enough to be outdoors. Then he could work on luring the brat away from the wards.
Meanwhile, he had some traitorous Death Eaters to hunt down. All this time, and not one of them had sought him. Not one had believed him strong enough to cheat death. They would pay for that lack of faith.
It was disconcerting to realize that no wizards could sense him unless he touched their magic in preparation for an overshadowing. Then, of course, they dashed off, flinging hexes behind, before he had a chance to try communicating with them.
After the third time Lucius Malfoy tried to exorcise him, Tom gave it up as a bad job. Obviously he'd have to possess the Potter boy -- he was fairly sure their connected magic would allow him to hold the brat in place long enough to do something more useful than just sip at his life -- at which point he could see about properly punishing his cowardly servants.
Granted, the boy's youth would make his magic weak -- strange curse-reflecting ability notwithstanding -- but Tom's own power should more than make up the difference. He knew he still had magic; the incessant itching of the link between him and Potter proved that.
He drifted back to Surrey, more slowly this time since he had nothing to gain by hurrying. England was a pleasant enough place through which to travel, though given his incorporeality, he couldn't appreciate it as much as he'd prefer, nor could he travel in the style to which he'd been accustomed. He did discover -- inadvertently, when his frustration jarred a rabbit into striking back against a threatening dog -- that he could, in a manner of speaking, ride an animal, only leeching a little of its life at a time and pressing its body into following his orders. It wasn't a true overshadowing, but it served well enough, and Tom hopped from dog to cat to rabbit to snake, from Northumberland down past London with a jaunt through Wales, which he'd always meant to tour after he'd taken power.
Briefly he considered overshadowing a Muggle -- they had no natural defenses against possession and certainly couldn't hex him -- but he gave that idea up in distaste. Firstly, he had no desire to dirty himself with a Muggle mind -- degrading though it was to rely on animals, at least their thoughts couldn't contaminate his. Secondly, a missing Muggle might call unwanted attention to his progress. Thirdly, a Muggle might, unlikely though it seemed, have enough willpower to resist him; it would be the height of disgrace for a Muggle to evict him, a trained Legilimens and semi-immortal wizard, from its body. And lastly, a Muggle body would be useless for moving among wizards.
So Tom continued on his way to Surrey and the Potter boy.
A year had passed before he reached the house that was the apotheosis of Muggle houses. It disgusted him even more than previously, if such a thing was possible. This time, instead of testing the wards, he settled in to examine the wretched building's inhabitants, prowling around the neighborhood in a succession of pitiful bodies.
The man -- Dursley, he seemed to be called -- was beefy, overbearing, far too stupid to realize his own imbecility, and possessed of an unwarrantedly massive ego. His wife, Petunia, was horse-faced, painfully thin, and incapable of keeping her nose out of her neighbors' business. The only sign that she was related to the Potter boy's mother was an iron determination, which she disguised under a servile, superficial pleasantness to the point where Tom wondered if the woman even realized her own strength of will. It was just as well, he supposed; strong-willed, intelligent Muggles caused far too much trouble for their own good, and would be harder to deal with once he possessed the Potter boy.
The less said of the Dursleys' disgusting blond offspring the better. He was fat, spoiled, insufferable, and a fledgling bully -- the spitting image, weight aside, of boys Tom remembered all too well from his orphanage days, before he'd discovered his magic.
The Potter boy made surprisingly few appearances outside the house, and then only to weed the flowerbeds under the front windows. Tom watched him bend down, wavering on skinny, unsteady toddler legs, and grasp weeds with both hands. Often they resisted hard enough that the boy fell backwards when the roots finally lost their grip on the soil.
At that point, Petunia would generally yell and slap him for smashing her flowers, and her fat pig of a son would laugh and throw dirt at Potter. That made Petunia yell more, blaming her nephew for the dirt now dusting her flowers.
Against his will and better judgment, Tom felt a sneaking thread of pity for the tiny, black-haired boy. But the prophecy was clear and he needed Potter's body. He had no reason to alter his plans.
Still, he would take great satisfaction in torturing these particular Muggles once he had possession of his new body.
His chance finally arrived one autumn afternoon, when Petunia carelessly left Potter unattended in the garden and the boy backed over the property line to reach the far side of his aunt's flowerbeds. Tom was riding a garter snake that day -- he'd found them particularly easy to manipulate, probably because of his gift for Parseltongue -- and he slithered through the grass until he was within two feet of Potter, ready to dart forward and make contact.
The boy noticed him. Tom froze, hoping the brat suffered from the common fear of snakes, but Potter simply eyed him curiously.
"Hello," he said softly. "You should go. Aunt Petunia doesn't like animals in the garden, and then she yells and throws things."
It took several seconds for Tom to realize that not only did he understand the boy, but so did the snake.
Potter was a Parselmouth.
Just like he was.
The boy seemed upset by the snake's failure to move and reached over to pick it up. The snake-body screamed with conflicting instincts -- flee from the human, let the master touch it, obey the master and leave, approach the master and taste his skin -- but Tom forced them all down until Potter's hands closed around scales.
Quickly, using every ounce of speed he'd learned to wring from his ghostly form, he slipped from the terrified snake into the boy's hands, spreading through his body, touching his blood and the threads of magic pulsing through his veins, laying claim to this new home.
Potter stiffened in shock, dropping the snake and falling sideways to the ground. "No!" he whimpered. "Get out!" His hands rose involuntarily, scratching at the wraith-like tendrils of magic and control Tom was extending through his body. "Get out get out get out!"
As the boy's scrabbling fingers drew blood, his magic gathered and lashed back along the link, piercing into the heart of Tom's ghostly essence with all the fear and anger and disgust Potter felt at this strange thing invading his body.
"Stop fighting me!" The words burst from the boy's lips, and Tom realized in shock that he had been the one to think them, the one who had worked the lungs and teeth and lips to produce those sounds. He had come too far, spent too long, to lose this battle after already gaining that much control. He would not be defeated again by this idiot boy, this boy whose body looked so much like Tom's before the creation of his Horcruxes bent it out of shape forever, and whose magic was so similar to his own.
Tom wrapped himself around his magic and forced himself through the jagged gap in his being, inverting himself through the link into Potter's magic and life and soul. The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches -- well, they'd see about that. When this was done, he would be the one to stand and walk away, not some pitiful child.
Potter screamed as the torrent of Tom's life and magic poured into his mind, and then, reaching out in desperation, the boy slammed the link shut. The blunt edge of his magic smashed through Tom's outstretched mental fingers like stones through an intricate spider web, leaving his body twitching spasmodically as the vestiges of Tom's control thinned and broke.
Tom would have gaped if he'd had a mouth to use. He hadn't thought the link could close. It was always there, itching at the back of his mind, and now this three-year-old child had done something he'd never considered.
He scrabbled around, trying to determine his position. The link was shut -- he had no access to Potter's mind or magic anymore -- but he'd been pulled through it, pulled it inside out and dragged his escape hatch in after himself. He had no way to flee.
Tom was trapped inside the boy -- instead of possessing Potter, Potter had possessed him. And now the boy's mind was pressing inexorably around him, squeezing him smaller and smaller and shoving him down into the depths of the subconscious, held in place by a web of uncontrolled magic.
There must have been more to that prophecy than Snape had known, Tom thought as darkness began to swallow him, and when he finally got out of this mess -- no matter how long it took -- he was going to string the greasy bastard up by his thumbnails and hold him under Cruciatus until he figured out what had gone wrong.
AN: Thanks for reading, and please review! I appreciate all comments, but I'm particularly interested in knowing what parts of the story worked for you, what parts didn't, and why.