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.
Author's Note: I began writing this story in 2004 and have since revised it to take information from HBP and DH 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.
Summary: What if the newly-disembodied Voldemort had noticed his link to Harry? A dark AU.
Strange Likenesses: Chapter 7
McGonagall seemed dazed as she led Potter to the hospital wing, her face blank and her brisk gait gone slow and uneven. The rest of the staff were waiting in the infirmary's main room: a flock of sheep and one draggled crow huddled beside the narrow bed that held Dumbledore's withered corpse. Tom noted the result of his curse with interest - he hadn't expected the effect to continue once the heart and brain were destroyed, but the old man's ankles seemed as blasted as his hands and face.
It hadn't been accidental. Dumbledore was wearing the ring.
Suicide? Tom wondered to Potter. What good did he think his death would bring to you or his cause? All his absence does is give me new opportunities. And such opportunities! The old man had always played things close to his vest. Tom would bet the remnants of his life that whatever Dumbledore's current plans had been, no one remaining could piece them together. Which meant confusion and dissent. He could work with that.
Dumbledore wouldn't kill himself, Potter said, briefly shocked out of the numb trance in which he'd been walking. And nobody will help you just because he's... just because...
Tom directed their gaze back to Dumbledore's right hand, the ring firmly seated on one finger. Maybe not. Either way, I doubt someone else put that on for him.
Potter made no reply, just reached up to stroke the phoenix perched on his shoulder. McGonagall pressed down briefly on his other shoulder before stepping toward her colleagues.
"What killed him?" she asked.
Snape indicated the ring with one pale finger. "Voldemort laid a death curse on his final Horcrux. The Headmaster was able to Apparate to a point just outside the castle wards, but without prior warning, I didn't have the necessary supplies on hand to slow or halt the curse."
The man sounded genuinely disturbed by the turn of events, lending support to Tom's suspicion that Snape had turned traitor instead of simply weaseling a comfortable hiding place out of Dumbledore's bad judgment. On the other hand, Snape could be acting and biding his time. Legilimency was no use, since Snape was a damnably skilled Occlumens and Potter would never agree to riffle through his thoughts in any case.
Time would tell. If Snape took advantage of Dumbledore's death to contact Tom, that would be a point in his favor, though not enough to remove all suspicion. If he didn't try anything, he was either a traitor or a useless coward, and Tom could plan a suitable punishment.
The phoenix trilled on Potter's shoulder, drawing attention to him. Several of the professors frowned.
"Minerva, the poor boy doesn't need to be here!" Pomfrey exclaimed, bustling over and seizing Potter's hand. "Sit down, Harry. I'm so sorry you saw this, but I promise we'll keep you safe."
Potter sank onto another narrow hospital bed, still staring at Dumbledore's corpse. "You should take the ring off before you destroy it," he said. The phoenix trilled again and nestled closer to his face, its red-gold feathers tangling in his hair.
Pomfrey looked taken aback. "What?"
"You need to burn the ring with Fiendfyre," Potter said tonelessly. "Unless he... did Professor Dumbledore want to be cremated?"
Snape and McGonagall exchanged a look over Potter's head, which Tom only caught from the corner of Potter's eyes and thus couldn't read. "His brother would know," Snape said after a moment, "but it might be safer to cremate him in any case, as we have no idea what other spells might be on the ring. The death curse is spent, but who knows what brought him to touch a Horcrux when he knew the risks?"
Tom stifled a flash of irritation. Nobody had the right to use his Horcruxes as vehicles for their own experiments! But it was a moot point now. Any hypothetical spells would soon be destroyed along with yet another fragment of his soul, leaving him tied to life only through Potter and the diary.
He hated being in the power of others.
"Very well. Severus, Quirinus, ask the Room of Requirement for a fireproof chamber and collect any- collect his ashes afterwards," McGonagall said, her voice wavering slightly. "Poppy, take Harry to his rooms. The rest of us will move to my office and decide how to break the news and who to hire as my replacement for the Transfiguration position. Join us as you're able."
Pomfrey pulled Potter to his feet and led him away. As they left the infirmary, Tom couldn't resist one last jab at the man who'd thwarted him for so long.
The old fool finally did me one better, he remarked to Potter. I was defeated by a hysterical woman and a squalling infant, but at least a prophecy and some volition were involved. He was done in by jewelry. Hardly the stuff of legends!
Tom settled back in the depths of their shared mind, considering how to take advantage of this new situation.
Annoyingly, they were abandoned in the prison suite for the next two days. House elves popped in and out to replace meal trays and the phoenix adopted one of the armchairs as its new roost, but no human so much as knocked on the entrance.
They could easily leave us trapped for the next century, Tom pointed out as Potter paced around the bedroom.
"Professor McGonagall wouldn't do that," Potter said irritably. "Madam Pomfrey wouldn't either. They're just busy."
Running about like panicked children, wondering what Dumbledore's intentions might have been, Tom said. Careless of him to leave such confusion in his wake.
Potter sent a wave of irritation through the currents of their mind. "You're no better - you never told anyone about your Horcruxes. If you'd been less paranoid you wouldn't have needed to possess me. We wouldn't be stuck like this."
Tom borrowed Potter's mouth and laughed aloud. "Would you trust Lucius Malfoy or Severus Snape with the secret of eternal life? Would you trust Bellatrix Lestrange? Peter Pettigrew? I chose my Death Eaters for other reasons."
Potter rummaged through their jumbled memories, pulling up impressions of Bellatrix and Pettigrew, and winced in disgust. "What reason could anyone have for choosing people like that? She's completely mental, and he's..." Potter trailed off, diving back into the memories. "He betrayed my parents! They were his best friends! What kind of person does that?"
A useful one, Tom said, ducking the blade of Potter's outrage. As for Bellatrix, her devotion, while wearing, meant I never had to worry about her turning on me. She made a lovely guard dog provided I kept hold of her leash, and her lineage was helpful in convincing other purebloods to join my cause.
"All your followers were mental," Potter muttered, throwing himself backwards onto the bed. "They had to be - they listened to you. I don't understand you at all. You're as smart as Hermione, maybe even smarter, but you're so stupid too. What's the point of taking over the world? What's the point of killing people who never did anything to you? What's the point of living forever when it rips you up inside and makes you into even more of a monster than you started out? If you wanted people to respect you, why not be like Dumbledore instead?"
This time Potter ducked Tom's frozen rage, sliding around the edges of their shared mind.
I am NOTHING like that old fraud, Tom spat. I didn't need to trick my way into making people love me. I EARNED everything I had, until you took it all away.
"You can't earn things by murder," Potter snapped.
Tom seized Potter's throat and tongue for a moment. "Of course not. The deaths were only proof that I had won - by learning the spells my enemies were too foolish or squeamish to think of, and by having the strength of will to use them to shape the world to my liking. I worked for my power. Unlike you, who simply stole mine."
"You stole my life," said Potter, his anger flaring to match Tom's. "You're nothing but a coward and a bully, and everything that went wrong for you is your own fault. I should find where Dumbledore hid your diary and get rid of you forever."
That would require killing yourself, Tom pointed out, stomping down his reflexive flinch.
"We should both be dead already," Potter said. Then he clenched his teeth as if he hadn't meant to let that thought out into the air, and began thinking very determinedly of Quidditch strategies, ignoring all of Tom's attempts to continue the conversation.
The worst part about possessing a body without the ability to control said body was the utter helplessness if Potter chose to temporarily deny Tom's existence. He didn't even have the option of reading to pass the time. And Potter's arrogance - that he could, would, and did pretend that the man who'd shaped his entire petty life didn't matter to him at all - burned like acid.
Tom settled in to build another memory castle, waiting for Potter to grow bored and come looking for him again.
Finally the start of fall term rolled around. McGonagall and Snape - who had somehow maneuvered the Board of Governors into naming him Deputy Headmaster - decreed that it was too dangerous for Potter to eat with his erstwhile housemates. "Nonetheless, it would be cruel to keep you locked away," McGonagall added. "You'll sit at the professors' table for the Sorting and the meal. If you'd like, I can pass letters on to your friends, though they won't be allowed to visit you."
Potter went still for a long moment, bubbling frustration fighting to break free from the weight of his resignation. Then he sighed. "Thanks. When do you need them?"
"I'll take them when I fetch you tomorrow evening," McGonagall said, and locked them into the suite for the night.
Potter's final draft was short and to the point: "I have a private suite now, to keep Voldemort away from people. I don't know if I'll be allowed to attend classes. I'm sorry I can't see you, but maybe I'll get to keep Hedwig with me and we can write to each other.
Say hello to Hagrid for me, will you? I haven't seen him since Professor Dumbledore died, and I bet he's taking it hard.
"Clever," Tom said. "Perhaps too clever. You're also neglecting to consider the fingerprint lock on the door."
"Hermione will understand, and the portrait won't keep them out forever. The three of us got through the professors' traps to the Mirror of Erised, after all," Potter said. He batted aside Tom's reach for his lungs and mouth. "Don't use my voice tonight. It takes too long to explain that I can push you back, and the professors won't let us out if they think you might take control."
If they have any sense they'll keep us imprisoned forever, Tom said. Of course, if they had any sense they would have killed you already instead of occasionally trusting us with a wand. Morals make everyone foolish.
"I'm not arguing about that again," said Potter. "I mean it about staying back, too. I don't want people to see me with red eyes."
Suit yourself, said Tom, and dropped back to watch the boy stew in nervous anticipation.
When McGonagall unlocked the portrait door, Potter nearly pitched himself headlong to the stone floor of the corridor in his haste to get out of the imprisoning rooms. Tom made no effort to stifle his laughter.
Shut it. You hate being locked in as much as I do, Potter snapped. Then he handed the letter to McGonagall, folded but unsealed so she could check it for signs of evil plotting. "For Hermione and Ron," he said. "Er. People only know about the Mirror and the Stone, right? Professor Dumbledore kept Voldemort secret?"
"Inasmuch as that was possible, yes," McGonagall agreed, tucking the letter into a pocket on the far side of her robe. "You'll be seated between Professor Snape and our new Defense instructor, who is covering for Professor Quirrell while he investigates the attempted theft of the Philosopher's Stone. They will make certain nothing untoward occurs during the Sorting and the welcome banquet."
There was a moment of silence.
Say something, Tom muttered.
Potter pushed a burst of irritation toward him and attempted to look attentive. "Okay. Thanks," he said to McGonagall.
"The carriages won't arrive for several minutes," McGonagall said. "Take the time to introduce yourself. We also have a new Transfiguration instructor, who may be of personal interest to you."
She opened the door of a small room adjoining the Great Hall, revealing a milling, chattering muddle of professors in varicolored robes. Three men turned at the sound of squeaking hinges: Snape, drawn up like a disdainful bird of prey; a shabby, tired-looking stranger; and Alastor Moody, grown old and battered, with a wildly spinning false eye, but still instantly recognizable as Tom's mad schoolmate.
"Harry, meet Remus Lupin and Alastor Moody," said McGonagall. "Gentlemen, may I introduce Harry Potter." She grimaced and continued. "I should also introduce the wretch currently sharing his body: Tom Riddle, whom you might also know-"
"-as Voldemort, because he's a bloody narcissist with a taste for melodramatic anagrams," Alastor finished, lumbering forward to clap a hand on Potter's shoulder. "I don't know how in blazes he got himself into your head, Potter, but we won't let him pull you down. One way or another, I'll get him out and give him everything he deserves. Believe me, I have a very long list of his crimes."
He grinned. The expression had only grown more unsettling with age.
Potter smiled tentatively back, as a faint glow of hope pushed against the smothering resignation he'd been carrying since Dumbledore's death. "Do you really think you can fix me? Dumbledore didn't say anything, but I think he wanted to use Voldemort's-"
Tom grabbed control of his voice before Potter could tell anyone of the diary's continued survival.
"-knowledge of my own organization to purge any remaining Death Eaters from the Ministry and other important positions, and to gain insight on underground magical networks around the world," he finished. "It would be rather counterproductive to kill me out of hand, not to mention fatal to Potter."
He met Alastor's gaze, knowing how disconcerting his eyes must look in Potter's face, and smiled.
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.
Further Note: So, about Moody. From what I can tell, McGonagall and Riddle were at Hogwarts together - she was either one or two years ahead of him, depending on whether she was the oldest or youngest student in her year, since her birthday would seem to be around the logical class cutoff point. We have no similar information on Moody, just that he attended Hogwarts sometime after Dumbledore and before Molly and Arthur Weasley. We also have no information on Moody's House.
There is, therefore, no reason not to suppose that he was a Slytherin whose time at Hogwarts at least partially overlapped Riddle's. And frankly, the idea of those two as classmates amuses me too much not to use, which is all the justification I need. +wry+