A/N: Yes, it's been a horribly long time, and it's a horribly short update, but at least there's an update. Right?
Feedback of any kind very much appreciated.
Thomas was sitting in the study with the newspaper when he felt the wards surrounding the house react and capture someone. He tilted his head, waited for a moment, but when nothing else happened he remained seated, confident that the wards would keep whoever it was that had attempted to enter the property contained. He would have most likely finished reading his newspaper if Harry, sporting caramel red hair, had not rushed into the room, looking anxious.
"There's a man at the gate keeled over, he looks like he's in pain!" Harry shouted and waved his arms towards the window.
"I know," Thomas answered and turned the page on his newspaper.
"Shouldn't we help him?" Harry asked, still frantic. "Thomas?" he spoke his cousin's name hesitantly and the man finally lifted his gaze from the paper to look at the boy who would within a few months turn eleven. "How long have you known he's out there?"
Thomas frowned at the suspicious tone of Harry's voice, yet did not answer. Instead he stood and said, "Go to your room, Harry. I'll take care of it."
"He's in pain," Harry said in a demanding tone. "He's in pain and you don't care."
As it was not really a question, not when Harry stated it like a fact, Thomas didn't answer and neither did he rush to defend his actions, simply returned the boy's stubborn and accusatory stare with a blank and emotionless look.
"Upstairs," Thomas finally repeated his order for the boy to leave when it became clear Harry was not going to be quelled by just a look.
Harry fisted his hands and frowned, his mouth a thin line, but he turned on his heals and ran out of the room, stomping his feet on the stairwell. A loud bang echoing through the house told Thomas the boy had slammed his bedroom door that thankfully was located on the other side of the house, and had no view of the gate. Thomas could only hope Harry remained in his room, as he had no doubt the encounter he was about to have with the intruder was something he did not want Harry witnessing.
He went to the window and looked outside and at the figure hunched over by the gate. To his surprise he saw black, greasy hair that blocked Thomas' view of the man's face, yet the nose was easily recognisable, as was the sallow skin and the long fingers curved around the man's biceps. Severus Snape was not who he had imagined had gotten caught in the web of his wards. He had not thought even Dumbledore foolish enough to send the man, yet it was not the first and undoubtedly not the last time Dumbledore would commit an act incomprehensible to others, especially when it concerned Severus Snape, be it for the man's benefit or detriment.
Thomas moved to the front door and stepped outside, closed the door behind him and laid his hand flat on the wooden surface and incanted a phrase under his breath, one that would ensure there was no way for Harry to slip out and overhear something he shouldn't, or do what most boy's were prone to do when they were furious with their guardians; run off.
As Thomas got closer to the gate and their uninvited guest, he observed the hunched figure of Snape with interest. As Snape was the first bearer of the Dark Mark that had attempted to gain access to the property, this was the first time Thomas saw with his own eyes how his ward reacted.
Contrary to what Harry thought, it was not pain that kept Snape kneeled on the ground, pale and shivering, but terror. Terror that grew more intense with each moment the man spent within the wards, that made him twitch and stare with wide; frightened eyes in the direction of every sound he heard, that caused him to stare at Thomas with pure horror.
Thomas reached Snape, and smiled thinly when the man gave out a whimper as Thomas stopped right in front of him. He basked in the look of terror on Snape's face and considered what he should do with the traitor that had finally found his proper place, grovelling before him.
Not all of Riddle had been lost and not all of Potter had survived. Had the joining of their souls not been so complete, Thomas was sure the almost complete opposites of their personalities, their desires would have driven him mad.
"For the wards to react in such away, you must carry a significant amount of Dark Magic on your person," Thomas spoke with a cold drawl, not bothering to mask the enjoyment he gained at Snape's predicament. "What a nasty person you must be," he hissed with a pleased smirked and laughed in delight as Snape crouched further, attempting to coil into himself.
"No- Not- Not Dark ma-" Snape stuttered and despite himself Thomas was impressed that the man was still capable of coherent thought, even if he could not speak them clearly. "It's the Mark," Snape managed to spit out, and somehow raise his gaze, and to Thomas' utter surprise he found defiance beneath the terror shining in Snape's dark eyes.
"Clever man," Thomas muttered, impressed and wondered if he should end the man's cleverness here. It would be unfortunate to have a mind like Snape's working against him, yet he was needed. He was the only one of the Death Eater's that had betrayed Voldemort, the only one still alive, at least, and Thomas knew he would become invaluable should Voldemort manage to resurrect himself.
Eventually Thomas simply placed his foot against Snape's side and pushed him back so that Snape stumbled over the property line, far enough from the wards influence that he could stand on his own.
"Why do I have a Death Eater at my gate?" Thomas asked and Snape sneered at the question, still looking pale, his eyes shifting from side to side, looking for the cause of his terror, despite knowing he would find nothing.
"How do you know enough about the Dark Mark to be able to manipulate wards to correspond to it?" Snape asked in turn, instead of answering.
Thomas pulled out his wand and pointed it at Snape. "I'm not above cursing you, Death Eater," he threatened, keeping his voice deliberately void of any emotion. It wasn't as hard as he would have imagined, considering how much he loathed the man. It was not just Riddle's fury against a follower that had betrayed him, there was Potter's anger at the unfair treatment from his teacher, the baseless anger directed at a boy forced to pay for his father's sins. Yet most of all there was the feeling of betrayal, of so many things Snape had withheld from an orphan boy desperate to hear anything of his parents, especially from someone that had loved his mother.
"Dumbledore sent me," Snape finally answered, chin raised, lip curled in a smirk that radiated arrogance and Thomas knew Snape believed that was all he needed to say to have his way. In most cases, it would have. Rarely did people go against Dumbledore's wishes, even if they loathed the man. It wasn't wise to insult powerful wizards.
"And why would Dumbledore send a Death Eater to my house?" Thomas asked, cocking an eyebrow and never lowering his wand. "Unless he doesn't know you're marked. Or you're lying. In any case it makes no difference. I have no business with Dumbledore and I refuse to allow anyone with that mark branded onto their skin in the same house as Harry."
"You shall have no choice once he begins at Hogwarts as I am the Potion's Teacher," Snape told him, the smirk gone, replaced by a more familiar sneer.
Thomas opened his mouth, prepared to inform Snape Harry would not be attending Hogwarts, but managed to rein in his temper just in time, and only let out a frustrated sigh, lowering his wand. "Did you actually have any business with me, or was this just a social call?" he asked Snape, whose gaze wandered from Thomas to the house, and he knew from the narrowing of Snape's eyes and the tightening of his mouth, that Harry had not stayed in his room, but had come to one of the windows from where he could see the two of them.
"Harry Potter," Snape said the name strangely, not spoken with venom and spite as Thomas had began to expect, but with a neutral tone, as if Snape had not yet decided what to think of the boy. "The Headmaster is naturally curious, and would like to meet him. He has invited you both to attend Hogwarts leaving feast next week. It would give the boy a chance to see the school and get to know the teachers."
"I'm afraid I'll have to decline." Even if Thomas was not so adamant on keeping Dumbledore as far as he could from both of them, Harry was still not prepared for what it would undoubtedly be like to be the centre of so much attention, from so many people, even if most of them would be children.
"You cannot keep him locked up in your house and separated from the Wizarding World always, Potter," Snape told him. "He will have to face reality at some point, he'll need to be prepared!"
Thomas felt his eyebrows raise in surprise at Snape's outburst and the man, seeming to realise he had said too much turned away, paled and then flushed. He kept his eyes diverted from Thomas, and every now and then he would glance up at the house, at what Thomas presumed was the sight of Harry standing by a window.
"Harry," Thomas said, drawing Snape's attention back to himself. "Is not as separated from the Wizarding World, or reality as you and your," Thomas curled his lip as he spoke the next word "master seem to imagine. Neither do I see why those two points would have anything to do with him attending Hogwarts' leaving feast. Do all students receive similar invitations from the Headmaster?" he asked mockingly, deliberately pointing out something that had once been Snape's favourite subject; the special treatment Dumbledore granted the famous boy-who-lived.
"Not all students are in the boy's position, nor do they have a guardian such as yourself, who so adamantly refuses to allow him any contact with anyone of authority," Snape replied, the words practically dripping with disdain.
"You are accusing me of what, exactly, Mr Snape?" Thomas asked, unable to repress his smile, though there was nothing in the situation that amused him. "The only authority Harry needs in his life is me, his guardian."
"Until he begins his schooling," Snape replied, and when Thomas' smile turned from menacing to genuine, frowned in confusion.
"I think it's time you left, Mr Snape," Thomas said, and without bothering to wait if Snape had a response turned his back on the man and returned to the house, all along aware of Harry's gaze on him.
No doubt the boy had prepared a list of questions, not to mention accusations to present to Thomas, concerning his behaviour towards someone who in the boy's mind had done nothing wrong, yet Thomas had no intention of answering them. Even if Thomas had to endure a moody boy for the summer, he could bare it, knowing Harry would be safe, and out of Dumbledore's reach at Beauxbatons once summer ended.