Pairings: None at present
Story Summary: Voldemort is dead, but in his place is an eleven year old Tom Riddle pulled out of time, with no idea what is going on.
Setting: Harry's sixth year. AU. Conforms to books 1-5, pretty much. Borrows some stuff from #6, but mostly ignores HBP canon.
Author notes: We begin to find out a little more about why Tom is so difficult.
The last week and a half had been really, truly awful even by Tom's standards. It had been bad enough finding out all about what his older, evil self had been up to for the last fifty-something years, but it had been more than that. Everyone had found out who Tom was – or at least, that Voldemort had once been Tom – and he'd found himself getting called names and attacked in the hallways. Dumbledore had given Tom his own suite in the castle for a bit (under the watchful gazes of half a dozen portraits), not only because he wanted to keep an eye on Tom (he understood Dumbledore's not-quite-hostile mistrust now) but for his own safety. During the day he had Tom sit in his office. Tom suspected there were wards of some kind in there.
It had also been borne in upon Tom that he was fifty years in the future now, and that it was a very different future to what he could have imagined. The spells were different, the history was different, the people were different. Everyone went around talking about things he hadn't heard of, in language he didn't understand. And the older boys and girls were sometimes scandalisingly indecent. Once he'd spotted a boy and a girl in one of the hallways, up against the wall. It wasn't simply kissing – Tom had seen the odd chaste kiss, before, after all – but hungry mouths on mouths, tongues moving, pressed against each other, hands inside clothes. And moaning. No one in Tom's time ever moaned like that. Tom had stopped short in horror, and a moment later the girl had seen him out of the corner of her eye and broken off the kiss – with a sort of slurping, sucking noise that made Tom feel a bit ill – and called out, "oi, there's some kid watching us!"
The boy hastily looked around to glare at Tom.
"What the hell are you staring at, you little perv? Get lost!"
He looked as though he'd rough Tom up a bit if he didn't go away, so Tom fled, deeply shaken and shocked. The morals here were clearly very different.
It had looked as though things were looking up when Harry finally stopped being unconscious and wandered in to talk. Tom couldn't believe someone actually wanted to look after him, even if it wasn't actually about him. Maybe he'd actually have some sort of weird family or something now, he wondered. Before he could talk to Harry more Poppy had burst in, scolding and threatening, to drag Harry back to bed. Harry sent Tom an apologetic and sheepish look, meekly obeying the mediwitch's orders, as though he couldn't have got her to leave him alone perfectly easily if he'd wanted. Harry, Tom suspected, was the sort of person who went around humbly and amiably doing almost everything people asked, and saved getting his own way for the important things.
He was proved right when that redheaded bint friend of Harry's told someone at the Ministry about him. She'd come smack up to Tom and grabbed him by the collar, shaking him until his eyes rolled, telling him in a low threatening voice exactly all the things she was going to do to him, starting with her telling the Ministry he existed. She'd banged him against the wall hard enough to make him see stars, then walked away. Clearly Harry's offer of protection didn't apply to protecting Tom from his friends, Tom thought. He felt sort of angry and hurt at this, because in spite of himself he'd allowed himself to hope that Harry really did intend to protect him.
Still, Harry had certainly protected him from the Ministry. He stayed perfectly reasonable, but simply became immovable. He told the Aurors that he wasn't going to allow them to take Tom, and that if any of them tried then he was very sorry, but he would stop them. Harry told them this in a perfectly friendly way, even greeting a couple of them by name. But when they'd tried to abduct Tom anyway, Harry simply stunned them all and attached them to a portkey that sent them back to the Ministry. A while later an even larger contingent of Aurors arrived, this time with the Minister. Minister Scrimgeour had been quite disagreeable, but Harry had been very polite the entire time. And when Scrimgeour had threatened him Harry, still smiling but quite serious, replied,
"Then I will disable everyone in the Ministry one by one until they are no longer a threat to me or anyone who is under my protection. And Tom is one of them." He'd added frankly, "I'd rather not have to do that, though, because while it would be rather nice to sort out the wizarding world I think it would be far too much work to run it all properly."
After that Harry had been going every day to talk to people like the Wizengamot, presumably over Tom. He was still doing that when term ended at Hogwarts and he, Tom, Ron and Hermione all moved into Harry's house.
"And no setting fire to anything!" Hermione yelled from behind him as he started up the stairs.
Tom rolled his eyes. He set something on fire once, and now Hermione brought it up every time he went anywhere! He hadn't meant for the fire to get so out of control. But that seemed to be Hermione all over.
Tom didn't quite like Hermione. Not only did she nag everybody, but she acted like he was a little boy. Tom was only eleven, but he wasn't stupid. It galled him the way Hermione talked as though he wouldn't understand or know about what she was talking about. He was the best student in his year, him, and Professor Dippet himself had said he was brilliant! Brilliant! Not just intelligent, but brilliant. But Hermione seemed to think he was some sort of idiot.
He didn't know why Harry put up with it. He liked Harry rather a lot. He was smart and friendly, and when he wasn't being Gryffindorish and amiable, reassuringly Slytherin. If he'd had a family, Tom would have wanted someone like Harry for an older brother. But Harry was only keeping Tom to stop him getting into trouble, so there was no use thinking about things like that. Tom would just have to be grateful for what he had. The thought made him even grumpier.
Tom wandered about the old house. It had no doubt been a very expensive house, once, but now it was in quite some disrepair, especially the bits of it people weren't actively living in. The woollen carpets had been eaten by moths in places, and the brocade wallpapers were stained and peeling. There were strange, sinister ornaments here and there that Tom, mindful of Harry's warning, was careful not to touch.
Eventually Tom found a bedroom, a guest room by the looks of it, that had clearly been abandoned for a long time. It was cream and gold, with faded bedclothes in a light green. Against one wall was a chest of drawers; against the other was a stand containing a washbasin, and a dressing table with an ornately-carved mirror. It had clearly been a girl's room, but Tom liked it all the same. If it weren't for the thick layer of dust over everything, it would make quite a habitable room.
He eyed his wand speculatively. There were rules about under-age magic, of course, but even if there hadn't been adults living in the house (making it impossible for the Ministry to know that it was him performing magic) this was the home of a noble and highly wealthy family, which meant it probably had all kinds of wards to prevent anyone detecting what went on in the house.
Tom's smile was sly.
Hours later Tom wandered back downstairs in search of dinner, tired but satisfied. His room was now clean, and neat, and appropriately furnished with items relocated from elsewhere in the house. After all, he supposed, it wasn't actually stealing, and he'd only taken things from abandoned rooms that clearly belonged to the house, so that should be fine with Harry.
Tom found the kitchen fairly easily and trudged in to find Harry preparing dinner, Ron frowning at the newspaper, and Hermione trying unsuccessfully to help Harry. So far she seemed to be making a mess with eggs.
"Get out of the way," Tom told her irritably, pushing her aside, "that's not how you do it."
Over the next few minutes he became Harry's helper, expertly assisting Harry with various tasks, Hermione watching first in annoyance, then interest. Eventually Tom plonked plates and cutlery on the table and Harry served food on to each plate.
Tom cheerfully flung himself onto a chair and began to eat.
"You're good at cooking," Hermione observed. Tom looked up; she looked genuinely curious, and without her usual superiority.
"Used to help with it at the orphanage," Tom explained. "Most of the other boys didn't because it was 'women's work', but it was a lot easier than some of the other stuff. Cook put me in charge as her assistant because she said she needed someone with sense."
"Well you did a good job tonight," Harry said. "No offence, Hermione, but you're hopeless."
Hermione scowled at him while Ron sniggered. She didn't really seem to be offended, though.
"So what'd you get up to once you vanished into the depths of the house?" Harry asked Tom. "I could feel you doing magic up there."
Tom glanced up guiltily, but Harry was smirking a little. Tom relaxed.
"I found a guest room," he explained. "It's nice. It was all dusty though, so I was cleaning it up a bit and moving things about. I borrowed a bookcase from one of the other rooms, and some things with snakes on them that I liked. I checked them for curses first, though."
"I'll have to go have a look at it later," Harry said. "But I'm glad you found somewhere you liked." He hesitated. Tom could feel that he was suddenly hopeful, apprehensive, excited and other things too subtle for Tom to discern. "There was a final Wizengamot meeting this afternoon about what's happening to you, Tom. The paperwork all needs to be filled out, but…" swallow "I've been granted guardianship of you. So we're, sort of a family now."
Tom blinked at the rush of emotions from Harry. Pride, uncertainty, hope, happiness, worry…
"You want me?" he blurted out, and immediately cringed at having said that out loud. He glowered at everybody to show he wasn't some kind of wuss or anything.
Harry looked surprised.
"Well, I guess so," he said, as though he hadn't really thought about it. "I mean, you're a bit of a handful, and sort of enraging, but –" he shrugged again " – I'm committed to you, I guess."
"Oh." Tom looked at his feet.
"I don't really know how to go about this whole guardian thing, but I'll try," Harry said awkwardly. "I guess, to start with, you follow some reasonable rules, like no stealing, or setting things on fire, or imitating Hermione behind her back –"
Oops. He hadn't realised Harry had seen him doing that. He looked apprehensively at Hermione. She was glaring at him indignantly. Ron, though, seemed to be fighting a grin that suggested that he too had seen Tom's mimicry.
" – and keeping you room clean and doing your homework and not being unspeakably rude to guests, unless we don't like them either – "
Hermione interrupted again with an admonitory "Harry!" Ron was definitely sniggering this time.
" – and I'll do stuff like make sure you get food, and clothes, and stuff, and no one threatens you or beats you up or anything." He'd completely ignored Hermione's interruptions, but now he hesitated. "And we'll see where we go from there."
"Oh." For some reason this whole discussion had rendered him unusually in ineloquent, Tom thought. Warily, daringly, he decided to test Harry's words.
"What about the Weasley girl, then?" he glared, arms crossed in a posture of definite I'm not impressed by your unreliable promises.
All three of them blinked.
"What about Ginny?" Harry said.
Ron and Hermione exchanged uh-oh looks.