Disclaimer: All of this is based upon the lovely J.K. Rowling's work.
Warnings: Ignores the last two books but incorporates elements, implied violence, potential future slash, slight language
AN: This arose from reading too many time travel fics. You can take it as slash if you want, but it can go either way. No, Harry is not a horcrux here.
"For what is a villain without the hero to oppose him?"
- Luna Lovegood
Reality is like a haze over him, a fog of events and happenings. He doesn't know what year it is or how long he's ruled this place. Time is the abandoning friend, the parent who walks out on their only child. He looks around and has no idea where he is or how he got here. Some days, he can scarcely remember his own name.
No, that's not right. That isn't his real name, the one he tried and succeeded in forgetting. This is his title. The person everyone in the world worships and fears. False love. Love of ignorance.
That's more like it. The truth beneath the mask. A scared boy who only wanted them to love him, to even just see him. Who received nothing but pain and horror in return. Who turned on his abusers, who used and manipulated them in turn.
The boy who was so empty, even as he became a man. Who simply went through the motions. Never felt anything until anger, rage that this child had bested him. Obsession then, focus on nothing more than a mere boy. One just as lost as him. The only person to ever make him feel. Without Potter, he is nothing.
"I am Tom Marvolo Riddle."
And he begins to remember himself.
One day, he wakes up. Snaps out of his eternal daze. Blinks and looks around. Sees what the world has become.
Boring. Dull. Sycophantic. Stagnant.
Full of middle-managers and not adventurers. No excitement. No curiosity. There hasn't been an advance of any kind in decades or possibly longer. Living in the same haze as him.
No crime but no passion. No intrigue but no entertainment. No music or anger. No blood. No magic. No life.
The only ones remotely interesting are the Mudbloods and Muggles. Mostly because the first are a change of pace and the second aren't entirely ready to keel over and die. They're the only ones with any initiative these days, though most of it consists of plots to kill him and his supporters. Blood purity is a thing of the past. Something rather moronic once the purebloods became so inbred that they spend most of their days spitting on their chins or have such horrible defects that they die in childhood.
And he can't help but recall something he'd once heard, though the exact situation is fuzzy. What is he now without his enemy?
Empty. Lost. Forgotten.
A shell of himself. More a ghost than when he was a bodiless spirit.
The memories start to come back then, and it's ironic how things centuries ago are clearer than what he did last week. How he can still see Potter, green eyes glowing, but he can't remember the name of his most current flunky.
And he stares into the mirror wondering who the hell is staring back.
Snake features long ago stripped away, supposedly more for decorum's sake than actual vanity. The eyes are still red, fierce and burning. Skin pale as snow but smooth. Hair dark as it ever was, black on the darkest night. His apparent age is ambiguous, the magical-in-between that shows up in most wizards. Not old, not even middle-aged but certainly no teenager.
However, the real problem is when this happened. When he made this transformation because he honestly can't recall. Could've been yesterday or a week after he killed Potter. Perhaps even earlier.
He just cannot recollect. Lifetime leaking from his mind like a sieve. Surrounded by a world gone brittle and hollow.
He once heard, or at least thinks he did, that there are worse things than death. Undoubtedly, this is one of them.
The option once presented is so very simple. He doesn't like the way the world is, so he'll change it. Things were better when Potter was still around, so he'll just go back to when the brat still was.
It takes him less than a day to come up with a plan. A few more to figure out how to do it. But he hesitates before the final plunge, thinking that this is what insanity feels like. He's won. He triumphed. Bested them all. Only to find out that victory is hollow indeed. That in the end, he lost more than he ever gained.
His rival. His soul. His sanity.
He teeters on the edge. He could change the world as it is now. Maybe. Possibly. But it'd never be the same. He'd forever have to babysit everyone just to keep them from backsliding. This way, his way, is so much better.
At the end of the day, Tom Riddle is still a selfish man. He must have what he desires regardless of the cost. He needs to be more than what he is. More than the tired dictator of a monotonous world. Needs to be the cold and ruthless but passionate being he once was.
He steps to the precipice and leaps. And it's one of the easiest decisions he's ever made.
Going back is both easier and harder than he imagined. He supposes that he could've tried to end up in his past body, merge souls or whatever the hell it's called. But he couldn't bring himself to bother. Besides, the prospect of being "Old Snake-Face" – as Potter had once called him – is surprisingly disturbing. He likes his current looks, thank you very much.
His past self definitely has to go. As he was, he'd never share power, not even if everything is painfully explained. And he'd certainly never understand just why things have to change. The Death Eaters will have to go with him. He can't have one of them killing Potter in revenge.
Still, it's not like the world could be any worse if Potter won. Well… that's not entirely true. Without Voldemort to kill off all the idiots, the world would undoubtedly implode with stupidity or a thousand other moronic things. He'll have to take them out, too. Leave only the competent behind.
The only real problem though is that many of the fine details still elude him. He can now recollect the big things, major events and players. But the little aspects are out of reach. It's like being in a contest where he doesn't know all of the competitors or even the rules. Mostly making them up as he sees fit. And he's the secret contender in a free-for-all between his past self, the Ministry, Dumbledore's lackeys, and a few other people. The useless have to be culled, but he has problems remembering just who exactly he's supposed to kill.
And the irony isn't lost on him. He's helping his sworn enemy to essentially defeat himself. Suicide by proxy. He'll need a trip to the Mind Healers by the end of this; he just knows it.
It doesn't take long to recall where he stashed all the horcruxes. He retrieves the ring first. Liberal use of Imperius gets him the cup and a visit during a Hogsmeade weekend secures the diadem. The locket is trickier, but he eventually steals it from a crook in Knockturn Alley. The diary involves another bit of time travel and some quick timing to grab and replace it with a fake just before Potter destroys it. He never got around to making a seventh one, which means only Nagini is left, but he'll get to her just before he kills himself… his counterpart.
How he'll avoid a paradox is beyond him at the moment. But he is Lord Voldemort, king of everything but nothing, and even the universe will bow down to him if need be.
The truly hard part is reabsorbing the pieces of his soul, taking them back in after he had forcefully fractured them. But once he has them again, they merge and are whole like nothing had ever separated them. Killing on its own doesn't break a soul, no matter what those idiots say. He could throw puppies into a fire every day for the rest of his life and would hardly put a scratch on his. Still, murder can and does help in the process. Makes it just that much easier. Strange that he doesn't really have to force it back together again. That the soul seeks to heal itself.
The rest of the time he spends observing. Discerning who to keep and who to leave in a ditch. The former is a distressingly small group, while the list containing the latter grows exponentially. At this rate, perhaps a dozen will be left alive, mostly Potter and his minions. Not much of a magical world if it only has ten people.
He thinks about telling Potter. After all, what good would it do to have a rival, an enemy who doesn't even know he exists? The entire point is to have and keep the boy around. Wouldn't make much sense to let the boy go off and die when he isn't looking. He'll take care of Voldemort; all Potter has to do is lay low and sit it out.
But the main problem is explaining it all. The whole "I won but was bored without you" doesn't seem to cut it. There's also the fact that he'd have to get close to the boy, get him alone. He doesn't fancy telling his sordid tale with an audience of Potter's lackeys or Dumbledore's Order. A rather distressing prospect, especially since he'd have to put up with the old man and his damnable eyes. Only this time, he can't have them forcibly removed.
More's the pity. And the lengths he'll go to keep Potter happy or at least not burning with murderous rage. He needs the boy to oppose him, not actively try to kill him. The latter would be bad for his continued mental health if and when he destroyed Potter again.
Still, he considers his options. Vague plans in mind. But a few things have to be done first, a number of dangers removed.
Nonetheless, his nights are disturbed by vivid green eyes that are always watching him. Seeing his every move. A lightning bolt scar that pulses and writhes with psychic venom. Dreams of endless corridors and the laughter of Hogwarts' halls.
And her words echo in his head. A memory of whispers as she lay dying, calm as death crept in. Villain and hero. A thin line between them indeed.
There is no good or evil. Only blatant stupidity.
And Salazar, he'd forgotten just how annoying the Ministry was. He doesn't even have to try to take down Fudge or even put in the effort to kill him. Simply plants a Recording charm in his office and then broadcasts the results on the Wizarding Wireless. The Hogwarts High Inquisitor, eleven different Department Heads, and over thirty Aurors all go down with the flaming wreckage that's the Minister's career. Never again to be trusted with anything more than cleaning public toilets.
And the best part is that no one knows who's responsible for the revelation. His counterpart hexes Death Eaters left and right as they struggle to discern the truth. Even killing several in the process for sheer ineptitude.
The rest he'll either off himself or trick and steal away. And if they don't believe him about inbreeding and Blood Purity, then it's their own funeral. Magic will continue on in the half-bloods and Mudbloods long after their lines have been reduced to ash. He'll even keep the Muggles around, see what they could've become without his interference. He has come to appreciate them on many levels, particularly their understanding of things like genetics and inheritance. And their ability to persevere even in the face of him at his worst makes him respect them now as he never did in his youth.
Besides, even if he will never admit it, he's always had a fondness for Muggle cinema. A part of him wonders if Potter does, too.
The Wizengamot is a slightly harder nut to crack, and they're already suspicious after Fudge's humiliating decline. He circles around them like a wolf, searching for any and all weaknesses. Just waiting to pounce.
In the meantime, he plots and ponders. Takes to wandering around Diagon and Hogsmeade, looking for inspiration.
But one weekend, he forgets. Has the knowledge completely escape his mind. Too engrossed in his own thoughts to hear the footsteps crunching the snow behind him. He does, however, feel a tingle just as someone casts a spell. He sidesteps and whirls, wand magically in hand. Then, his face drains of color.
Potter in all his Gryffindor glory stands before him, red and gold scarf a contrast to his dark hair. The boy fingers his wand, but it's pointed at the ground. His gaze is fixed forward, searching but guarded.
Something inside Tom twinges. He should've already Apparated away. Should've cursed the boy a hundred times over. Or even a dozen other things. But all he can do is stare. He can only stand there frozen in something akin to shock and awe as the weight of centuries crashes down on him.
Fucking faulty memory. It's a Hogsmeade weekend. And now, Potter has caught him. Has recognized him.
For once in his life, Tom Marvolo Riddle has no idea what to do. Has no plot or plan. No way out as his brain misfires and struggles to catch up.
And then, Potter does the unthinkable. He tucks his wand into his back pocket.
"I know that you're from the future," the boy says, not knowing about the roaring sound in his ears. "I've dreamt about what you're doing."
Well, that certainly makes this easier.
"Why?" Potter asks after he finishes explaining. "Why would you do this? You won."
The question stumps him. "I… I don't know."
And he honestly doesn't. There are a thousand reasons he could give, but none of them are the truth. Not the whole truth. Not even a fraction.
Perhaps it is… or rather was the prophecy. But that doesn't explain why he continues on; the bloody thing was fulfilled. Not how Dumbledore wanted but fulfilled nevertheless. It binds them together. Neither can survive without the other. Can ever truly live.
Maybe it's something else. He was bored, frustrated. There was no challenge. No excitement. Or perhaps he's simply tired of being alone.
But something in Potter's eyes shows that he understands even without an explanation. And Tom is rather surprised when the boy asks what he can do to help. His arguments are unexpectedly sound and reasonable, flying in the face of the Potter he's always known. The boy is even willing to learn Occlumency to keep their secrets.
They use their connection to work in his mindscape, private lessons that seem to last hours with only minutes going by in the real world. The boy, Gryffindor though he is, willingly practices on weekends and throughout the winter holiday. But the thing that shocks him the most are the flashes he gets, the glimpses. When he realizes just how alike they really are. When he looks at Harry Potter and sees himself reflected back.
And later, when Harry calls him Tom, he can't find it within himself to argue.
Perhaps this is the power he doesn't know. The power to make his enemies go completely insane even when he isn't there. Particularly when he's not there.
Tom is only glad that he's no longer on the receiving end.
The plot to thin out the Wizengamot is purely Potter and works surprisingly well. Veritaserum plus Rita Skeeter and an agreement with Luna Lovegood go a long way. Having Tom hunt down Pettigrew and dump him alive and well in the middle of Diagon Alley – Dark Mark bare for everyone and their brother to see – gets rid of the stragglers. The public doesn't like to think the government abuses its power and even less so when that fact is shoved into their collective faces.
The decision to be rid of the prophecy orb, however, is his. Tom uses Polyjuice to impersonate an Unspeakable and waltzes right into the Department of Mysteries. He retrieves the orb instead of immediately smashing it if only to give them both a chance to hear the real version. The boy is just as surprised as he at the full text of it, turning to gape at him. It explains so much and so little at the same time.
In the meantime, Tom is picking off Death Eaters. Some through death, most through trickery. Potter comes up with how to handle Lucius Malfoy, though Tom does most of the dirty work. The boy's plans are equal parts brilliant, devious, and amusing. Oftentimes outright vicious. Usually they involve a great deal of embarrassment for the victim, which is rather cathartic for Tom himself. An excellent way to funnel his frustrations.
As for Malfoy senior, he can't get out of Britain fast enough taking his spooked family with him. Similar fates await the Parkinsons and Notts, though the head of the former and his only child now have a permanent twitch that will hopefully be genetic. And several unspeakably hilarious things happen to other Death Eater families.
They sadly aren't the least bit amused. Personally, Tom can't help but smirk.
Avada Kedavra was never this entertaining.
Potter is annoying and stubborn. For all his initial wariness, the boy begins to see good in him that simply doesn't exist. Thinks that it's acceptable to tease him. Him! Once ruler of this world.
He isn't nice. He isn't kind. Little birdies and a halo do not encircle his head. And the universe can go rot for all he cares.
But the last words ring hollow even to himself. The same phrase echoes over and over again inside. Villain and hero. Hero and villain. And he firmly tells her to shut up.
Tom has done things that are beyond his goals. Things that will keep Harry happy for that end in itself. Saves Arthur Weasley and the Unspeakable Bode. Protects members of the Order from their own stupidity. Humiliates Death Eaters and politicians instead of killing them. Anything to keep disgust from those haunting green eyes, to make Harry keep looking at him and never turn away.
He's never had a friend. Nor an equal. And Tom thinks that this must be what it's like.
By June, Death Eater numbers have plummeted. Voldemort's existence isn't even public, but he barely has two dozen followers to his name. Bellatrix and her husband are long gone, victims of a house-elf under Imperius and Basilisk venom. Dolohov is dead in a ditch somewhere with Rookwood smart enough to decide that a quiet life in the Americas is what he really wants. Severus Snape still remains, but he's a kingdom onto himself. Left alone unless they are threatened.
Voldemort is too preoccupied with the prospect of the prophecy to really notice how bad it's gotten. Or perhaps he's simply too insane to care. Gone mad without the stabilizing effect of his connection to Harry.
The final confrontation comes soon enough. Tom walks into Riddle Manor like he owns it, which he technically does. The two guardsmen are transfigured into a teapot and cup before they can even react, and he invisibly slips into the throne room, idly marveling at the wonder that's Harry's cloak. His counterpart is exactly where he expected, Nagini at his feet. But others are present throughout the room.
Tom's timing couldn't have possibly been better. The middle of a meeting. And all that remain of the Death Eaters now kneel on the floor. He just sneaks over to the left and waits for the perfect opportunity.
And there it is. Voldemort's attention is fixed on the other side, and Tom lets loose a spell. It shoots to the right, picking up and flinging a man into his neighbor. Voldemort is on his feet then, demanding to know who's responsible. He curses them when he doesn't get a response, and in the meantime, Tom races to the right side. He sends out another spell to the left followed by two to the middle. The Death Eaters don't just sit quietly this time. Instead, they choose to retaliate.
And soon, curses are flying back and forth. Voldemort screaming from his throne.
Tom himself is by the dais, and Nagini perks up at his approach, obviously smelling him. With a flick of his hand, he magically cuts her in half and summons the horcrux to him. She's dead in an instant, not even recognizing what's occurred.
But Voldemort has, and he casts a shield that reflects Tom's next curse into the still fighting minions. It hits Horatio Montague square in the face, evaporating most of his skin and the underlying muscle on contact. His shriek is thankful cut short.
Tom rips off the Invisibility Cloak then to keep from tripping, and it lands somewhere near the wall. He's visible less than a second before the first curse comes his way. He responds instantly.
They aren't evenly matched, but it's a close thing. Tom is magically stronger and more used to this body, and Voldemort has done nothing but train since he was resurrected.
The Death Eaters are too busy battling each other to notice the intruder in their midst.
The Heirs of Slytherin volley spells back and forth for several minutes. A few connect though most do not. Only two Death Eaters remain by this point, the others dead or unconscious. Tom summons both of them as a shield again the Killing curse and follows through with throwing them at their master. Voldemort manages to sidestep the first, but the second hits him full on. Tom takes the opportunity to cast Sectumsempra right to his neck followed by three other spells just for good measure. All of them connect.
Voldemort manages a single gasp before his body dies. Tom quickly banishes the last and unneeded soul fragment and sinks to his knees on the throne steps. He did'nt survive the battle uninjured, blood gushing from the wound in his side, and his vision has already started to tunnel in. Tom struggles to stand.
Instead, he grows closer and closer to the stained floor. Every part of him is on fire, but cold starts to seep in. First in his fingers. Then his arms. Finally his chest. He can hardly stay awake, stay conscious.
And the last thing he sees before it all goes black is a pair of molten green eyes.
He wakes up in the hospital wing. Sore and cranky and more than just a bit relieved. Harry is asleep in the chair beside him, head resting in a position that he'll most certainly regret come morning. And standing at the foot of his bed is Albus Dumbledore, sparkling eyes and all.
Tom is certain he's been sucked into an alternate dimension as the old man force-feeds him potions and then helps him sit up against the headboard. His head has stopped pounding by this point, a good thing considering that the headmaster launches in a rather confusing account. It involves Harry dragging him back to the castle, bloody but triumphant. Only to confess to Dumbledore his true identity and their actions over the last few months.
Tom is certain that his partner in crime left out a few choice details, else he'd be strung up in a cell. But he doesn't bother to correct the old man.
Dumbledore just smiles and pats him on the back. "I knew you could do it, my boy."
And Tom thinks that the old bastard knew the entire time. He wouldn't put it past him.
Harry starts awake several minutes after that, rubbing at his pained neck. His face is open and obviously glad. Thrilled. Ecstatic. He's free, after all. No more looming prophecy or attempts on his life. No more Voldemort. No more Tom Riddle.
The last leaves a bad taste in Tom's mouth. Makes his throat go dry and hands shaky.
But then, Harry asks for something unbelievable. He asks for Tom to stay with him. For the truth not to be revealed to the world. For him to have a second chance.
And that bedamned twinkling increases tenfold. Dumbledore gives the largest grin imaginable, face full of pride. But something inside Tom screams for him to run. To run away as quickly as he can. Flee for his very life.
"Well," Dumbledore begins, eyes all but glowing, "I've always wanted a grandson."
Then, the old man hugs him. Tom is too startled to pull away.
When all is said and done, the Wizarding world has their hero. The Dumbledore family fame has reached epic proportions. The government is mostly competent, and anyone who threatens that has an unfortunate accident, the more humiliating the better. And Tom has somehow been conned into not only removing the curse from the Defense position but also taking it next year.
Life, for all its pitfalls and obsessive fans, is at least interesting. The great adventure he finds that he delights in. He has everything he never knew that he always wanted.
And Harry… Harry is just as stubborn as before. But happier. Free. He's just fine the way he is. They're both fine. Both alive. More than they ever were before.
For what is a hero without the villain to oppose him?
Just a man. And that's more than enough for the both of them.