Hello again after a long break! I've been working on this story with the help of OrionTheHunter In all honesty I can say he's co-written it as his input and work goes far beyond the call of the Beta. I'm thrilled to say he will be writing additional chapters/universes on his own.

Typically I like to write a story in full, then post it, tweaking it in from reader's reviews, which makes for fast chapter posting. In this case I've had to struggle in places with writers block, and work out smooth transitions with OrionTheHunter. So this is a WIP, and I will update as frequently as possible.

This story is child-friendly when it comes to swearing, but it is violent in places. I do not go into gory detail, but a parent might want to look it over before allowing their child to read it. There will be subtle allusions to intimacy later on in the story, but I feel confident in giving this a T rating. JK Rowling started the Harry Potter series as a story for older children, and I prefer to keep it that way.

'The Hardest Riddle' is an alternate universe Harry story. It takes place after the 5th year when Harry realizes he's being used and starts a career of hopping from world to world, helping various Harry Potters defeat their Voldemorts. This story is basically a sneaky way of being able to write a ton of alternate universe Harrys in short, easy-to-digest bites. No slash.

Needless to say, Harry Potter belongs to Ms. Rowling, and we are only borrowing the characters for a bit.

The Hardest Riddle

Chapter One - After the Veil

The tall, eerily snake-like figure of Lord Voldemort sat on his throne. Below the dais cringed his servant, a disgusting excuse for a wizard named Peter Pettigrew appropriately nicknamed 'Wormtail' because of his rat animagus. Wormtail was waiting for a command or punishment (or both, as was usually the case) from the Dark Lord, and had no desire to interrupt his master's pondering, thereby hastening the inevitable pain.

Voldemort frowned, deep in thought. He was aware of Wormtail's presence and fully cognizant of the man's nervousness – he just didn't care. His thoughts were centered on Harry Potter and the events at the Ministry of Magic last month. Voldemort had recovered from the injuries that Dumbledore had inflicted on him, but the pain and inconvenience had been worth it. He now knew beyond a shadow of a doubt Potter's weakness. He smiled an oily, evil smile.

Potter. How he wished he could kill that boy and have him out of his life. The child was living, breathing proof that some people possessed too much luck. He was Felix Felicis on two feet – all the times Potter had foiled his plans proved that. But death was not an option – the curse scar and subsequent link between the two of them forged a bond that could not be tampered with. If Potter died, he died. If Potter's magic was removed, his would be as well.

The boy had power – that was certain. Voldemort, for the life of him, could not understand why Dumbledore did not train the child. Oh, it would be years before Potter would be any real threat or challenge, but each year the fool for the light put off the boy's real training, was another year to gather strength and forces of his own. To make it all the more strange Voldemort was certain he could sense blocks placed on the boy's magical core. Few were capable of that level of magic – it was probably Dumbledore who did it. But why?

If anything Dumbledore appeared to be helping the Dark by keeping the boy weak, untrained, and clueless. The Ministry and Daily Prophet gave Potter no reason to love the light – by their actions they were driving him away from the magical world. Leaving the boy with abusive relatives was not forging any kind of faith or trust for the wizards who were supposed to be looking out for him. Voldemort could easily find the Dursleys – he did know how to use a muggle phone book after all. But keeping them alive meant keeping Potter abused and resentful. An abused and resentful Potter would end up hating Dumbledore if he didn't already.

If not for the unfortunate killing of the boy's parents 15 years ago, it would be easy to entice him over as an ally. Who knows how powerful the child truly was under the blocks binding his magic. But the muggle-loving Potters were dead and their offspring was unmoving in his blame – an alliance seemed out of the question.

He drummed his fingers on the arm of his throne and narrowed his blood-red eyes. He had the ability to rip open a portal to another dimension and force the brat through. Dimension hopping was a talent of his, and he was quite good at it. Another dimension would have to deal with Potter (or even two Harry Potters at that point), and it was possible the boy would defeat his counterpart in the new dimension, which wasn't a concern of his. But casting the spells and performing the rituals left one weak and vulnerable – while performing the magic necessary Dumbledore could possibly defeat him, or even Potter himself, seeing how his luck seemed to run.

No – Potter had revealed his great weakness – it was his insane trust and love for his Godfather Sirius Black and his friends. It was too easy to lure the boy to the Ministry with the vision of Black in danger. A sane, clear thinking wizard would have checked before rushing in, and Potter had not. Dumbledore had obviously succeeded in isolating the boy from adults he could trust – the boy came with other children for assistance, leaving Dumbledore to scramble and catch up. It would be easy to lure Potter back again, and this time push him through the veil as well. That way Potter would be permanently placed in another dimension, their link would be severed and safe, and this world would be free for the taking.

Voldemort smiled. This was going to be easy.

Harry woke with a gasp, green eyes wide, sweat dripping down his face. With supreme effort he calmed his breathing, and prayed silently that he had not woken his aunt and uncle. The house remained quiet and he lay back down in the bed gazing at the reflections from the street lamps on the ceiling of the small dingy bedroom.

It was a vision that woke him. In it he was back at the Ministry, gazing at the veil. A hand was reaching out and a voice pleading with him, begging for his help to come back. The voice belonged to his Godfather, Sirius Black. But was it a vision of current events, a glimpse of the future, or a trap from Voldemort?

Tears dripped down his cheeks. This was the only time he was allowed to grieve – his 'loving' relatives kept him slaving away and beaten down during the daylight hours. Hermione had tired to warn him that the Ministry was a trap, but he rushed in and the loss of his godfather was the result. No matter what anyone said, it was his fault.

Harry had begged the headmaster to let him study advanced dueling for the next time, but Dumbledore merely twisted the conversation around and declined. He begged for a better teacher in occlumency to prevent Voldemort's deceit from happening again. Dumbledore chastised him for not trying hard enough with Snape, who wasn't trying very hard himself. He begged for a summer away from the beatings of his aunt, uncle and cousin. Dumbledore twinkled his blue eyes and told Harry it couldn't possibly be as bad as all that.

So here he lay in Privet Drive, bruised ribs, welts on his back and sunburn on his neck and arms – heart broken, hopeless, and oh-so-lonely. If only his friends would write, but in three weeks he hadn't received one letter. It was likely the letters were being intercepted, like they had the summer of his second year, but insecurity was getting the better of him. The tears slowed and he drifted back to sleep, still not sure of the nature of the vision that had awakened him.