Part Four

Tom has a plan. He's been waiting for a chance, any possibleopportunity he might have to escape.

He's still not sure about the reliability of this plan- there may be wards that he hasn't yet encountered. He wouldn't put anything past Dumbledore.

But it's worth a try. He can'tstay here any longer- he's being driven slowly mad. The combination of the nightmares and Snape has him crippled by confusion.

He's not sure what he's planning to do when he escapes- probably get a wand and leave the country. Too many people here know who he is- he needs obscurity.

Possibly Albania- he would like to revisit, to reconnect with the place that he had once made a home.

Yet, he doubts that he will be able to resume his position as Lord Voldemort. This… life, this entire rebirth… it has left a mark on his soul. He can't close his eyes for picturing flashes of green light, hearing screams of pain and anger, feeling the raging confusion that won't die down.

He's never been cared about, nor has he ever cared for another. Now, though- Snape is hardly worthcaring about, hardly shows any sign of caring for him, and yet… he feels some strange connection to the man, some strange unconditional- understanding.

Snape understands him as well, or at least, he seems to, if Tom reads deeply enough between the lines.

It's not like Tom to use a hazy, unfocused plan that hasn't been tried out and thought through. Still, he simply has no choice anymore.

He has to leave- Tom deliberately pushes the word 'flee' from his mind- before something bad happens- something like… not love, it's not remotely close to love, more- companionship.

The Dark Lord never has had, nor has he ever wanted a companion, Tom recalls. And yet… lately, he is starting to want something more than the insurmountable loneliness of captivity.

The high cruel voice is all but gone from his mind, no longer whispering to him in his waking hours, no longer urging him to insanity, and Tom feels the worst fear he has ever felt in all his life as he stares at the door to his bedroom.

It's fear of the unknown, of what lies ahead, and Tom can acknowledge this as a very real, very present danger. His guide to the path he was once sworn to has left him, discarded him, perhaps thinking him weak.

But Tom knows the boundaries he has pushed, he knows the strength of both his mind and his will. He may not be Lord Voldemort any longer- but he sure as hell isn't weak.

And so, he makes his decision. He has assessed the situation, and decides to flee during the day- his bedroom door is heavily warded at night. Snape is just another obstacle he will have to face during the day.

He approaches his bedroom door and makes to walk out of the room just as Snape is entering the room. Tom groans in frustration, rolling his eyes.

Snape seems fidgety, nervous. "May I sit?" he asks, indicating the chair.

Tom heaves a long-suffering sigh and merely nods his head.

"Now," says Snape. "I've been thinking and, well, I wanted to say I'm… I'm sorry."

Tom locks eyes with him. "What? Whatever for?" he asks.

Snape looks abashed. "You know," he mutters, not meeting Tom's eyes.

Tom smirks to himself. Might as well have a bit of fun before he goes, rile old Snape up a bit. "You mean, that other day, when you rather rudely barged into my personal space in quitea non-mentoring kind of way?"

Snape glares up at him. "Trust you to make this difficult," he snaps. "Yes, that, I'm sorry, okay?"

Tom tilts his head to the side, mock thoughtfully. "Oh, well, I guess you're forgiven, then."

"Just like that?" Snape's voice is disbelieving.

"You seem surprised."

"The Tom Riddle I know would not accept that as adequate apology, that's all."

Tom takes a step towards Snape, closing the gap between them. "Make it up to me," he whispers, seeing Snape swallow heavily.

"Tom," he says, and his voice is husky. "This- this isn't right. I can't- not again, I-"

"Shut up." Tom moves closer to Snape, a swagger in his step. "Just, forget about Lily for a minute, okay? I know, I don't look like her, but I want this, and I want you, and-"

"It wasn't about Lily," Snape interrupts, making eye contact with Tom. "It wouldn't- I would never have done that if it was just about her."

"What was it about then?" Tom asks, but he doesn't let Snape answer as he bends and catches his mouth in a searing kiss.

When he pulls away several moments later, Snape's eyes match the lust that Tom can feel in his own. "This," Snape gasps hungrily. "It was about this."

Tom closes his eyes and breathes for a minute, trying to contain his arousal. "Think we can do it properly this time?" he says. "On the bed."

"I give the orders around here," says Snape, even as he moves towards the bed, unbuttoning the cuffs of his white collared shirt.

"Yeah, whatever you say," replies Tom, amused, only to bite back a sharp gasp as Snape pulls him forward by the wrist to sprawl, rather undignified, on the bed.

"It was your first time, wasn't it?" asks Snape, even as Tom is pressing open-mouthed kisses along any part of him he can reach.

"Yeah," answers Tom.

"God, I'm sorry," Snape closes his eyes as Tom nips at the skin on his inner thigh and shudders.

"Bygones," says Tom dismissively. "Besides, I stopped complaining eventually."

Snape smirks a little, and then throws his head back as Tom laps experimentally at the head of his cock.

"Oh, God, Tom, keep going. But… I didn't even let you come last time."

Tom swallows down as much of Snape's length as he can handle in one quick, sudden movement, and Snape groans loudly.

"Merlin, boy, don't stop doing that. Now suck me, yes, just like that."

Tom bobs his head obediently, swirling the first few drops of precum with his tongue. It's a weird feeling this, yet he wouldn't stop for anything now.

He lets go of Snape, making a small popping noise, and looks at him, where Snape's hair is splayed across Tom's pillow.

"Don't stop." Snape doesn't even open his eyes.

Tom bends back down

"Fuck, Severus, fuck me."

Snape shakes his head. "Ride me," he says instead, bringing his hands up to rest on Tom's shoulders.

Tom chances a glance at the still sleeping Snape on the bed. He is getting ready to make his escape now.

He considers leaving a note- or a token, of sorts- some sort of message for Snape, explaining. But he's Tom Riddle- he doesn't need to explain himself, to anyone.

He looks back down at Snape. Somehow, he doesn't want to leave like this, without a goodbye. He curses his own foolishness and exits the room, walking towards the front door.

If he knows anything at all about Dumbledore, he knows that the protective barrier radiates at least half a kilometer around the house. Escaping the house itself is the easy part- Apparating away once the alarms (that were surely there) were set off- that was the harder part.

He stands before the front door and feels. He should have done this weeks ago, really. Any magic, no matter how strong, can be reversed, and he should have remembered that.

Never mind that now, though. He closes his eyes and moves his hand around the door, testing the nature of its barriers.

The simple way to do anything- he tries to touch the doorknob- it won't let him. He can't touch the hinges, nor, indeed, any part of the outer wall.

Annoying, but ultimately, not foolproof. The lack of a wand is an irritating hindrance, but he will be able to manage without.

The barriers about the door are strongest, so he moves to the nearby window. Here, too, the barriers are strong, but Tom concentrates hard on the gap between the two layers of glass.

He pictures it shattering before his eyes, pictures the barriers disintegrating with his touch, pictures the glass simply vanishing, and when he opens his eyes after nearly five minutes, he finds the window open.

He smirks to himself and scrambles out the window. The moment his feet touch the ground, an alarm sounds out, as he had expected. Dumbledore and his gang will be alerted before long.

He runs- he's not sure what direction, nor is he sure where he is, but he knows he has limited time before Dumbledore and his cronies station themselves around the border.

Snape will be awake by now and after him- Tom pushes the thought away. It doesn't matter if Snape hates him.

He manages a wandless Disillusionment Charm, but it won't protect him against the likes of Dumbledore- he needs a wand.

He concentrates for now on pacing his breaths, determined to make it past the boundaries without tiring too much.

As he runs, he feels a wild exhilaration rise up in him, threatening to overpower him. He laughs, wildly, maniacally, as he runs, ignoring looks from nearby pedestrians.

He is free at last.

The euphoric feeling of escape is quick to wear off, especially when Tom realizes that he is essentially homeless, with neither money nor a wand.

It's been a week since he escaped, and he has been hiding, on the run, making his way towards London.

It isn't until eight days' time, when he's curled up in a ball, covered by newspapers, on a park slide, that a flash of brilliance comes to him.

The Knight Bus. How could he have not realized? In all fairness, Tom muses, it wasn't as though the Knight Bus had been around when he was in school.

Not wanting to waste any further time, he makes his way to the street and sticks his right arm out. He can find a way to deal with the money issue later.

"I'm Stan Shunpike, and welcome to the Knight Bus. For an overnight bed to sleep in, you pay-"

"Yes, yes," Tom cuts in. "Just get me to the Leaky Cauldron, and fast."

Stan Shunpike grumbles a bit about rude, impatient customers who can't wait for him to finish a sentence, but makes room for Tom to shove past him and sit down.

"That'll be twelve Galleons, then," says Stan, pausing to poke Ernie in the shoulder. "Take it away, Ern."

After that, it's child's play to dash out of the Bus as soon as it stops near the Leaky Cauldron, ignoring the indignant yells and curses of both Stan and Ern.

Stan gives chase, but quickly tires after a few minutes and returns to the Bus. Tom looks around him quickly, making sure he has not been recognized, before entering the pub and making his way for the back, the entrance to Diagon Alley.

He filches a hair off the back of some warty, seedy looking wizard and heads for the apothecary.

The Polyjuice Potion is in the very back, unguarded. Tom uses a handy spot of wandless magic to unseal it, take a quick swig, adding the hair, and reseal the bottle, placing it back on the shelf.

He exits, smiling genially at the owner as he does.

Later, Ollivander doesn't notice anything amiss when Tom spills a tragic tale of how his pesky children got into his things and managed to snap his wand.

When Tom has tried pile after pile of wands, however, to no avail, Ollivander peers closely at him.

"Sometimes a wand will not align himself with a wizard," he murmurs, too close to Tom's face for his liking, "if the wizard will not reveal himself to the wand."

Tom's dislike must show on his face, for Ollivander backs away quickly and heads for yet another shelf.

"Who is he, I wonder," Tom hears him say. Tom remains silent.

It seems that Ollivander may know more than he's letting on (and how Tom knows this, he cannot say), for when he returns, his eyes are bright with anticipation as he hands yet another wand to him.

"Try this."

Tom takes the wand and immediately feels a connection with it. It's not as good as his old wand, but it will do. The medium matters less to him than the power that lies behind it, and this is as good a wand as any.

Ollivander merely nods to himself. Tom eyes him calculatingly for a moment.

"All right, old man, you've had your fun. What is the significance of this wand?" he demands finally, his curiosity getting the better of him.

Ollivander merely places the wand into a carrying case for Tom and hands him a receipt. "You will send me the money by post, Mr. Riddle, if you please."

Tom gasps. "How do you know who I am?"

Ollivander smiles at him, a true smile. "My dear boy, fourteen years ago, I placed this wand aside for Mr. Harry Potter. I believe the two of you are acquainted?"

Tom opens and closes his mouth, not finding anything meaningful to say.

"Potter? Why would it- what, I don't quite understand what you're saying."

"You'll find, in due time, Mr. Riddle, that you and Mr. Potter are far more alike than you give either him or yourself credit for."

Ending on that cryptic note, Ollivander turns on his heel and disappears behind the shelves and mountains of wands and cases.

Tom feels a bit like an eleven year old once more, holding a new wand for the first time. He wants to do everything all at once, can't quite make up his mind which spell to perform first.

Still, he should be careful. For all intents and purposes, he's sixteen, and using magic without discretion can still get him into trouble with the Ministry unless he is near another witch or wizard at the time.

He's standing outside Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Shop when he hears a familiar voice- a voice that plagues his nightmares.

"Mrs. Weasley, do you mind if Ron, Hermione, and I go for an ice cream?"

Tom freezes and turns slowly. Harry Potter is heading towards him, flanked on either side. They haven't noticed him yet, and Tom is keen to ensure that it stays that way.

He manages a nonverbal Disillusionment Charm just in time, as Potter turns his head to face the direction in which Tom is standing.

He goes to stand behind them as they place their orders and sit down at a table. Potter is speaking in a low voice to his friends.

"Dumbledore says there's still no sign of him anywhere. He's afraid he might try to come after me again. There's no telling."

Tom snorts. They're talking about him- and Potter's ego doesn't seem to have deflated at all. Tom has minimal interest in Harry Potter nowadays.

The ginger one snorts. "I told you it was dodgy to let Snape hold him. Probably helped him escape or something."

The Mudblood gives him a reproving glare. "Ron! You know Professor Snape has been beside himself that he let Riddle escape- you heard him at the Order meeting last week. He's clearly beating himself up with guilt."

Reallynow, and wasn't that interesting. Tom most certainly does not feel guilty himself. He doesn't feel things like that.

"Either way, it's my responsibility to find Riddle," says Harry. Tom rolls his eyes. It most certainly is not.

"We can't trust him- there's no telling what he'll do if he decides to return to power. He'll be even worse now that he's had some experience. I say, try this, it's excellent."

Tom shakes his head mockingly and turns from them. If only they knew, the sad little children- he can't go back to being Lord Voldemort now, not with this stupid soul festering inside him.

Well, they told him some interesting bits of information, at least. So, Dumbledore still fears that he will revert to his old ways. And apparently- Tom tries not to feel anything by this- apparently, Snape is feeling quite guilty over his escape.

Well, it wasn't entirelySnape's fault. Perhaps Tom should have thought about the consequences of his leaving- and how it would reflect on Snape.

"I don't know why I'm here."

Snape looks up from where he is sitting, holding a mug, and his expression transforms into one of utter disbelief.

"What the hell are you doing here?"

Tom steps into the room. "I- I suppose I wanted to see that you were okay."

Snape stands and folds his arms. "I'm fine, why wouldn't I be?" he asks.

"I've heard that the Order is upset with you for not being able to control me."

A tired smile crosses Snape's face. "Oh, Tom," he sighs. "Who would be able to control you?"

Tom scowls. "Don't patronize me. The point is, they don't think you helped me, did they?"

Snape shrugs noncommittally. "They don't really know what to think. Dumbledore set those wards up himself, you know. You shouldn't have been able to breach them, especially wandless. It's worrying Dumbledore quite a bit, actually- he's not sure of the depth of your powers anymore."

Tom smiles. He likes the sound of that. "I always said I was more powerful than that old coot."

"Yes, well, it looks like you may be right," Snape says seriously.

A few moments pass in which neither of them says anything. "Why did you come back?" Snape asks.

Tom doesn't answer immediately. He crosses to the window and draws a line with his finger in the dust on the sill.

Looking at his now dusty finger, he slowly states, "I'm not sure, really. I sort of just felt… purposeless, you know? Like I didn't have anything to do, anywhere to be, just… empty."

He turns to find Snape watching him closely and shrugs, an easy smile gracing his face. "Saw Potter in the streets of Diagon Alley, reminded me of you, thought I'd come by and say hello."

Snape is trying to read the expression on his face, but Tom keeps his countenance light, and Snape looks away after a moment in frustration.

"Well," he says at last, "what do you want?"

"I can't really say," says Tom. "It's a bit annoying, really, going from a plan of immortality and invincibility to not having so much as an idea for the future. But I suppose I've got to deal with what I've got."

"I meant from me."

"Oh." Tom is brought up short. What does he want from Snape? He can't answer that question- at least, the answer that comes to mind first isn't one he wants to admit.

He doesn't answer, so Snape continues.

"I'm surprised to hear you say that, as a matter of fact. You really aren't the Dark Lord anymore, are you?"

"I thought we ascertained that long ago. I'm just… a shell of what I used to be."

"What are you talking about?" exclaims Snape. "You're ten times the man you were!"

"I don't even know what my aim in life is anymore!" insists Tom. "How can I even compare to what I was?"

Snape shakes his head. "I thought you would have figured that out by now." His tone is sorrowful, regretful.

Tom steps towards him. "Then maybe you can teach me?" he asks, keeping his tone casual. "Let me stay here, with you. You know all about beginning life anew."

Snape looks away. "I don't think that's a good idea," he says, almost gently.

"Why not?" Tom's jaw is set stubbornly. "Dumbledore would be happy. I wouldn't be in this… this rut. And you- you wouldn't be lonely."

Snape glances at him sharply. "I am not lonely," he snaps icily.

"Yeah, right. But it's a good idea!"

"Tom," Snape murmurs, his voice barely audible. "We shouldn't."

"Why?" Tom doesn't care that he's close to begging now. "Why is it so wrong?" He's aware now that the topic has shifted to something else that has gone unspoken for too long.

"You're sixteen, for Merlin's sake, and-"

"But it doesn't matter!" cries Tom, frustrated. "You and I both know that I'm no teenager, at least, not in mind."

"Be that as it may," says Snape, frowning. "I'm not sure you should waste-"

"If you're going to say 'waste your time'," says Tom through gritted teeth, cutting Snape off once more. "I will murder you, on the spot."

Snape looks as though he doesn't know whether to be annoyed or amused. "It's true, though," he insists.

"Look," says Tom. "It's not like I'm asking you to marry me, or even to be romantically involved with me. Hellif I even know what romance is! I just want, I dunno, a place to stay, and a person to stay with, that's not so hard, is it?"

Snape gives him yet another long, searching look. "There are so many loose ends we have yet to tie up, though," he says.

Tom recognizes a win when he sees one. "It doesn't matter," he says triumphantly. "We have time. All the time in the world. We're only just beginning life!"

Snape shakes his head. "Youare just beginning life. There's a difference."

"I've already lived a previous life," Tom points out.

"But not well," Snape counters. "Life isn't worth living unless lived well."

"Well, don't expect me to become a white hat," Tom warns. "I'm the Dark Lord, remember. I have darkness in me, and you can't erase it from my soul."

"I wouldn't try to," says Snape. "The fact that you are willing to start again is enough for me."

Tom falls silent once more. "So where do we go from here?"

Snape shrugs. "The usual, I suppose. Stealing candy from babies. Scaring small children in the street. Attacking bunnies."

Tom looks sideways at him. "You Order people have a skewed idea of what it takes to be evil, you know that?" he remarks.

Snape smirks. "I'm not just any old 'Order people.' I have darkness in my soul, too."

"I know," says Tom regretfully. "It's probably why I like you so much."

Snape seems to choke on air, he splutters a bit, his face going red, before seeing Tom's grin.

"The look on your face!" Tom laughs, before sobering up. "Don't worry. I won't offend your delicate sensibilities by declaiming my everlasting lo-"

"Don't even say it," Snape cuts in with a shudder. "Just don't."

So Tom doesn't.