It shouldn't have bothered him. Tom shouldn't have let it bother him.
It bothered him.
Voldemort was supposed to be all about making sure magical children didn't suffer the same fate that he did; estranged from their rightful heritage and powers, condemned for something that they had no control over. Hated for a gift. How could anyone not see what a gift magic was?
Harry was twisting, screaming, in the bedsheets again.
He couldn't say he cared about killing Potter's parents - people died in war, and if they'd been soldiers foolish enough to stand against him, then their lives had already been forfeit. They could have taken their child and ran instead.
People died all the time, a few more for the goal of something beautiful was nothing.
Really, a few abused children should be nothing by that logic too, but his blood felt curdled still.
It had been a week.
He heard Lestrange swear and groan, and Abraxas shove a pillow over his ears in the darkness. He wasn't sure if he should feel pleased or irritated that they expected him to deal with the boy, and seemed to take it for granted. Of course, he had made his claim clear enough, but nonetheless.
He rose, having anticipated this already. Had the routine down to an art. Expected the thrashing limbs, and the eyes that always locked inevitably on his future and never his present, before the glaze of hateful fear faded again.
Harry's pulse raced beneath his fingers, chest heaving as they stared at each other in the darkness. Heavy breathing fading, to the sound of the Slytherins shifting back to sleep with this as their routine too.
"...you're still on top of me," Harry said eventually, a little hoarsely. "I'm awake."
He wondered what Harry dreamed about. What was it that had him writhing in the gloom, until his shirt was soaked through with sweat? Voldemort, obviously. He could tell that by how Harry always looked at him in those moments - it was a slight rush, admittedly, to know he could be such an object of terror to even so defiant a boy.
Did he dream about his childhood too?
He wanted to kick himself. Wanted to kick Harry too, for making him consider such things, like a two-penny fool. Yanked the boy viciously out of bed, without warning, just to watch him stumble.
"Oh for god's sake!"
Zevi's eyes flicked open briefly in the darkness, before the boy rolled over and Tom had already dragged Harry into the common room. Dismissed the one student still poring over a book with a cold glance, and claimed the seats before the fire.
Harry definitely looked awake now. Still, he didn't bolt for the exit this time, which was a change. Instead, Tom found himself under the other boy's scrutiny. Which was hardly unusual, though the neutrality of the look rather was.
"Are you going to spit it out already?" Harry rubbed his eyes. Tom blinked.
"You're doing your 'let's make Harry into a lab experiment' expression again. Seeing as it's a well known fact that I don't sleep well, I don't need to add concern that you're going to drug me in my sleep on top of that."
"You already have that concern, your bed is warded."
Annoyingly well, in fact. Harry scowled.
"You actually tried?" the boy snapped. Tom gave his best smile. Harry huffed. "Just ask your question."
"You don't answer my questions. I can hardly be faulted for satisfying my curiosity in other ways," he dismissed. And maybe he didn't know quite what to do with that far more neutral expression.
It was easier when Potter looked at him like he knew everything about him, as infuriating as it simultaneously was. Someone who assumed nothing made a far more dangerous enemy. Harry raised his brows, the silence stretched.
He didn't know what to do with that, either - Harry not struggling at the mere idea of conversation. It was very suspicious.
"How can you defend them?" curiosity got the better of him. "After everything that they've done to you?" His tone barely leashed fury, despite his efforts.
Harry didn't even look surprised by the question, a wry smile twisting his lips.
"Same reason I can still defend wizards, after everything you've done to me."
That brought him short. Jaw clenched. Potter looked disgustingly satisfied by his reaction.
"I hardly killed your parents out of bigotry. They were soldiers, oppositional pawns in a far greater plan, no doubt," he said stiffly.
"You can't judge a whole group of people on the actions of a few who have wronged you. I doubt every wizard and muggle you've slaughtered did anything to personally offend you, outside of existing of course. You killed them out of bigotry."
"We should not have to hide who we are because of them. I am seeking the liberation of our people, it is completely different-"
"-liberation through genocide? Oh fantastic. That sounds great, sign me right on up to be even worse," Harry rolled his eyes. "Most of them don't even know that magic exists."
"And those that do-"
"-Vary as individuals." Potter stared him down, hard. "We got a bad lot. Just like some muggles get a bad lot - or Squibs. I don't see you campaigning for their rights. They're not all like that!"
A bad lot. Understatement of the century. How could Harry possibly be so forgiving in the face of everything that had been done to him? Tom didn't understand; stared as if he could somehow pry the sense of it out of that maddening head.
Maybe Potter really was an idiot or something.
But Knowledge was Power, and he refused to allow a boy to exist beyond his comprehension.
The silence stretched.
"What was he like - what is he like?"
The phrasing of the question was light, careful. The very fact of shifting tenses still revealed a startling amount, of maybe Harry simply felt it did, coloured by the muted light of the Slytherin common room. It made everything seem more ethereal, dream-like.
His gaze shot up again.
"Voldemort?" he confirmed, heart suddenly slamming.
"Lord Voldemort, yes," Tom said.
Harry's head tilted. He couldn't, shouldn't, read into that question. Curiosity for the future was natural, and the smallest hint of legitimate humanity was no basis for redemption. Still, his mouth felt dry.
"He's a monster," he replied. "Completely insane, certainly not entirely human anymore." Maybe that revealed too much too. Riddle's expression didn't change. "I told you that."
"Broad generalizations of your hate, all things considered, are of no use or interest to me. It merely confirms your assumptions of knowledge. Monster is by the large an umbrella term for anything different."
Harry's eyes flashed, fists clenching.
"You can't trick me into giving you more explicit details of the future."
"No trick," Tom assured, lips curling. "Merely helping a fellow classmate. You seem to have a lot of feelings to work through on the matter - it may help you to verbalize them."
"Bastard." Worse, it was true. At least in the sense that Harry got unparalleled gratification from seeing Tom's blood spill, or hearing his bones crunch in a duel. A power he never quite felt he had with Voldemort, when he was stuck fifty years before everything he knew. The war bubbling up again, as he sat here.
He knew they weren't actually happening at the same time, that he wasn't wasting time, but it felt like it.
"Working them out with you hardly seems helpful," Harry said.
"Who else are you going to talk to? Who can truly understand the frustrations of your situation?"
"You have no idea."
"You believe it is not frustrating to have you before me, and not know of your full significance on my timeline or your true intentions in coming here?"
"True intentions?" Harry gaped. "It was a bloody accident! Trust me-"
"Trust me," Harry persisted, through gritted teeth. "Spending this amount of time with you is the last thing I intended."
"So you say."
"You don't believe me?"
"As I have indicated it would be a remarkable coincidence that, out of all the days of history, you should happen to fall into mine. You are a perfect trap, Harry Potter, and I have long grown suspicious of perfect things."
"You're so sweet," Harry sneered. "Deluded, but sweet. If I were planning something – such as a handy rock smashing into your brain whilst you slept, and what a fun plan that would be – I wouldn't have waited this long."
"As stereotypically Gryffindorish as your tendencies can be, you won't convince me that you're not capable of a more insidious plot than blunt assassination. The hat - to all that you have led us to believe - did still place you into the house of the cunning."
"What, you think I lied about my sorting?" That wasn't the point here. He shook his head, raised his brows in the picture of condescension.
"Are you sure you're not projecting on me again?"
"Maybe we're simply more similar than you would like to admit," Tom replied.
"Just because you keep saying that, doesn't mean it's true," Harry muttered. "I'll never be like you."
"You already are."
Harry rubbed his eyes, staring off into the fireplace, watching the flames dance as his jaw clenched. Always dancing and circling around the same topics and issues, him and Tom. Always the same - except for that lost look on Tom's face, splintering everything.
He couldn't get it out of his head. More than any of Tom's cruel smirks, or mockeries.
"Why does my childhood bother you so?" He asked quietly, looking back. "I understand why you would insist we were the same, however true or not true it is. You think if i identify with you, you can somehow convert me. I mean, 'why do you defend muggles?' C'mon…"
It was an obvious attempt on their 'shared experience.' Harry could understand that manipulation, could understand that Tom would want to make him think and see the world like he did.
The lost look on Tom's face, however, made no sense. A jarring anomaly. Because as the earlier question had suggested, that more than anything was an identifying point Tom had no qualms about using.
Tom's jaw tightened.
"Do you know what my aims are?"
"Blood purity? Genocide of muggles? That's certainly your known ideology."
"Magical Purity," Tom said. "I see no reason why we should have to hide who we are because of their fear and hatred. It's a matter of wizarding pride."
Of course that would be it. If Harry was still in a position to be despicably treated for his magic, by muggles, than it meant that Voldemort's hadn't succeeded, and won. Maybe he'd been an idiot for assuming anything so human as empathy. Still.
"Wizarding pride?" he jumped on the phrasing. "I thought it was magical purity?"
"Wizards aren't the only beings with magic. What of werewolves?" Remus' face bloomed in his mind - Hagrid too, with the sneer Malfoy wore at the mere mention of the 'half blooded oaf.' "What of centaurs and house elves?" Hermione too, with a rush of fierce heat. "What of witches? Muggleborns? I don't see you campaigning for them either, just like you don't for squibs as I said earlier. Maybe you should fix that, instead of acting like the magical world is perfect except for the evil oppressive muggles!"
Tom stared at him.
"You wouldn't assign a beast with the same rights-"
"A beast?" Harry nearly laughed in sheer outrage, blood pounding. "It's not magical purity you want, clearly. It's blood purity. It's human pureblood wizard superiority, and it's disgusting. The second you say muggleborns are less worthy - the second the word mudblood comes out of your mouth - the second you imply that to be considered a true magical creature worthy of rights you need a wand...you prove what it's really about. You can try and pretend you're some kind of enlightened vigilante liberator, but we both know what it's really about, don't we?"
He surged to his feet, temper from 0 to 60 in the space of seconds. Breathing hard. Tom shot to his feet too, expression cold. Back to everything he had been before that moment.
"So you agree that our world needs to be torn down, for something better. Someone needs to break the structure. Non-human magic forms-" Tom grabbed his arm as Harry started to move past, sick of the whole conversation, other hand lashing to grip his jaw. "Non-human magic forms are oppressed in accordance to their visibility to muggles. If hiding was no longer an issue, then perhaps more could be done for them."
"That doesn't make it okay! That's a bloody excuse to make it not your fault for oppressing them-" There were so many things wrong with that claim.
Tom gave him a shake, and Harry nearly snarled, nails digging into the Slytherin Heir's wrists. Riddle continued.
"Werewolves cannot be controlled. They are a marker of every stereotype of viciousness that muggles would use to position themselves as superior to us, with magic as savage and dangerous-"
"...what?" Tom seemed to lose steam. Harry ground to a mental halt at the incomprehension.
"Wolfsbane potion?" Still nothing. Realization clicked - it hadn't been invented yet. Tom's world was a very different one to his own; still a war, but so much more too.
Bombs on London, all the things that Harry took for granted as history. Werewolves were a true and undefinable threat without wolfsbane so what else was different?
But it didn't excuse that comment.
"The oppression of non-human magical creatures is on wizards, not muggles! You can't treat them like that and blame it on muggles. Muggles aren't enforcing that."
"Well, I have to start somewhere," Tom said. "You can't fight fire with kindness. You are a naive fool if you think that anyone can."
How did they even get onto this topic? Harry wanted to scream that Tom was content to dismiss the matter like that.
"You can't make a better world by hating everyone," he countered, rubbing his arm. "If that's what you're truly trying to do...which I'm deeply skeptical of.."
Tom was staring at him in that way again - not the lost way, but something inscrutable, searching. Different in the nuances to his normal.
"I don't hate everyone."
"You hate a lot of people. So does Voldemort," Harry said. "You asked me what he was like, and that's what he is...he's like...he's like the human embodiment of hate. I've been inside his head. It's the worst place imaginable. When I say he's insane, I'm not getting into a moral debate with you about what's considered normal or not." His fists clenched. "I'm talking madness like poison. He's -" god, he couldn't believe he was saying this. "He's not like you. You're brilliant...uh, intellectually speaking."
Maybe something about the fact that he was actually being finally complimentary, got something through on his feelings towards Voldemort.
"Will you show me?"
Tom's lips didn't even flicker at the word choice.
"You said you've been inside of his head? Will you show me?" There was a hint of cruelness now. "If you think it will aid you in your mission to ensure I don't become him?"
Well, it hadn't even remotely been a mission, before the bastard suggested even a thing like that. Harry wasn't sure it was even possible! Timelines and all.
But all he knew was that he didn't necessarily think it was impossible either. Tom was never going to be a good person, but there was a distinct difference between being a manipulative git and being Lord Voldemort.
Though it said something about Tom's view on him, to assign him to the role of hero, however disparagingly. And, for all the cruelty, the request itself seemed sincere...even if the motives were probably more scheming.
"And how exactly would I do that? I'm not letting you in my head to poke around, thank you very much. You already know too much. And I doubt the Headmaster would just let us nip up and use his Pensieve."
"It's not his Pensieve. It belongs to the castle; students just generally are not encouraged to use it. But it has been used to deal with high level disciplinary issues before."
"It's in Hogwarts, a History." Tom gave him a scathing look. "You should really read it."
Harry felt a rush of immense guilt for being reminded of Hermione.
Still, the opportunity of the Pensieve left his mouth dry, and he folded his arms. He had no idea what kind of effect seeing anything of Voldemort would have on Tom - it was dangerous, reckless. He could be utterly gleeful at what he saw.
Though then, he supposed, Harry would know either way on the matter of redemption either way. But if there was even the smallest chance of Tom being repulsed by Voldemort…
Of course, it could change history entirely.
Saving Tom should not be so much more tempting an option than even killing him. If he'd resisted the latter, he probably shouldn't succumb to the urge to meddle now.
Though of course, wilfully staying uninvolved made Voldemort's actions and all those deaths his fault, if he just stood aside and let it happen.
How could he just stand aside?
His chest ached. Tom watched him, expectantly. Harry wetted his lips, before giving a sharp nod.
"Alright. You want to see Voldemort, I'll show you him."