Fudge gazed angrily at the people who had destroyed his coup, they crowded together on the edge of the dock, jostling each other as they sought to get first look at the boy. Fudge knew an emotion of pure hatred as his gaze settled on the pallid, wraithlike boy who was rather forcibly pushed onto the dock. Fudge had worked hard his entire life to reach his place and yet this repulsive whelp with no respect or appreciation of what he had, bore power which could unseat Merlin himself...and all for something he would never remember and could never be explained. Fifty years of bloody hard-work utterly destroyed by a miserable scrap of idiocy who couldn't even keep his blood to himself.
Azkaban had not been kind to Harry James Potter, anyone could see there was going to be a brutal period of recuperation. Potter was down by at least half his body-weight, his eyes shielded from the sunlight he had not seen in eighteen months and his pallor sufficient to draw admiring sighs from a vampire. Potter's gait was stiff and uncertain, but he clearly had a goal for all he couldn't see a thing.
"Thankyou." No one could have said who was more surprised, the recipient of Potter's hug, or the massed people who had been hoping for a hug and recognition. Tom Marvolo Riddle's expression was frozen, his form rigid and his eyes starting slightly.
"N-no problem." Riddle hastily handed the boy over to Dumbledore before waving Snape over. "He needs worming, bacterial restabilisation and a nutrient potion."
"Sir." Snape rather cautiously approached Potter, who had escaped the Weasleys and reattached himself in a rather limpet-like manner to Riddle.
"Why that order?" Potter's green eyes weren't focussing properly Snape noted as the dark glasses slid down the grubby nose.
"First we get rid of the worms in your gut." Snape handed over the first potion. "You can't afford to share what little you'll be capable of eating over the next few months." Snape took back the vial and handed over a second. "Bacterial stabilisation minimises competition for your food and maximises your ability to get what you need out of that food." Snape took back the second vial and checked his watch. "Nutrient potion is to remind your body what it actually requires to function and maximises what you get while minimising what you actually imbibe. Specifically focussed on someone who has been short of food for an extended period." Snape checked his watch again, watched it with a slight frown for almost half a minute and then handed Potter the third potion.
"Thankyou, sir." Potter handed back the vial and clamped a little more firmly onto Riddle for the man had attempted to escape while Potter was distracted by the exchange with the Potions Master.
"Who's he hanging onto?" The question fell in a strange lull in the numerous conversations and Snape noted that Potter stiffened. Not that Snape wasn't similarly curious, Potter was behaving as if the Dark Lord was his father not a former arch-enemy.
"Is he a wizard?" The query came from somewhere else and it seemed to break a dam for a torrent of questions came crashing forth.
"You didn't tell them, sir?" Potter's slightly off gaze was firmly fixed on Riddle.
"No." Riddle's tone was curt.
"Then..." Potter stopped and blinked. "They let you come without knowing anything beyond the fact that you were behind Fudge's back-down?"
"Dumbledore vouched for my presence." Riddle grimaced faintly. "Though possibly he's worried about what I'd do if he hadn't vouched for me."
"Oh." Potter blinked twice and then gave a shrug. "Thankyou for coming, sir."
"Who is he?" The frustrated query came from Ron Weasley, but it went unanswered as Fudge had decided it was time to exert his control over the situation.
"Now, there's the question of Mr Potter's place of residence." Fudge fully intended to get Potter into Ministry control on the simple grounds that the boy had no blood relatives left and was too young to be let live alone.
"Potter stays with me." Riddle's curt tone stunned everyone into silence.
"But..." Molly Weasley frowned in confusion. "What grounds?"
"Blood." Riddle's calm response drew a snort from Potter. Dumbledore seemed more than a trifle staggered and everyone else was simply looking confused.
"There are no other Potters left alive." The observation came from one side. "Harry's the last one."
"Why does everyone forget the fact that I had a mother?" Harry mumbled the observation into Riddle's sleeve.
"Because they're idiots." Snape took the opportunity of Potter looking up in surprise to force another potion on the boy. It was a second nutrient potion. Harry promptly buried his face again with an indistinguishable mumble about dungeon bats.
"A simple test at Gringotts will confirm my claim as the closest blood relative alive." Riddle brought the talk back on topic before frowning down at Potter, who was helplessly giggling. "Calming potion, Severus?"
"With pleasure." Snape pounced on the boy and had a potion down his throat in less than a second.
"Yuck." Potter scowled at both men.
"Preferable to those insane giggles." Riddle gave a sniff and then glanced around the accumulated people. "We're leaving now. You will see us again when Potter is ready to return to Hogwarts." Riddle pulled both Potter and Snape close before he simply apparated away.
"How can he possibly be related to Potter by blood?" Fudge had grabbed Dumbledore by the sleeve.
"Fudge?" Dumbledore's expression was one of pure confusion.
"How can that man claim a blood connection to the Potter line?" Fudge was on the verge of gibbering. "I checked days ago and there is no living blood relative inside of a four generation removal."
"Regrettably enough, Minister, the man spoke nothing but the truth...Tom Riddle's blood connection to Potter is actually closer than Harry's own parents." Dumbledore's tone was rather cold. "Now, if you don't mind, we have the press to deal with...and I suggest you make it sound like Riddle got custody due to his exemplary conduct and dedication to freeing Harry from Azkaban...you will look a fair fool if you even imply that Riddle stole the boy from under your nose."
"What is your problem?" Fudge was frowning, he had never seen such a worried Dumbledore in his life.
"Well, it may have slipped your memory, but Tom Riddle was the name Voldemort was given at birth by his mother. How do you think we're going to explain it to the press when the man successfully completes the murder he began in 1981?"
"..." Fudge's mouth flapped uncertainly for several moments. "Why didn't you say something before?"
"You've been too busy denying the man's return to hear anything." Dumbledore almost felt sorry for the pudgy minister. Infact he would feel sorry for the man, but for the fact that he was too busy feeling sorry for himself. How had they been so stupid as to allow this utter disaster to occur?