Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter and I'm not making any money off of this. It's just for fun. This is the disclaimer for the entire story.
AN: This is a sequel for my story Life in Reverse. I tried my very best to make it understandable without having to read that. If you read this chapter and like it but are a little confused, you can find the previous story in my profile. The gist of it is this: Harry accidentally got sent to New Years 1926 and adopted baby Tom Riddle. Also, the future Voldemort's soul is stuck in his head.
To anyone who read the previous story and came back to read more, thank you! You ladies and gentlemen have been very encouraging. Hopefully this story will be better than my last one.
Dec. 31st, 1934
There's no such thing as a Love Potion.
Harry was sure that if everyone dropped the euphemism and started calling them Rape Draughts he wouldn't be spending New Years trying to catch whatever bastard was selling Amortentia like it was Hiccoughing Solution. He should be in the backroom of Annie's shop, helping with the preparations of Tom's seventh birthday party, not stuck at Auror headquarters trying to wring answers out of an illegal potions pusher.
Trying to control his impatience, Harry laced his fingers together and put his elbows on the plain, wooden table of the interrogation room and tried unsuccessfully to meet Oswald Maher's shifty gaze. The short, balding man was known to his friends by the charming moniker of Ossie the Lizard, so Harry wasn't really surprised that he wanted to slither his way out of having to identify his supplier.
"Ossie, look at me," Harry said finally, proud that his voice sounded neutral.
The nervous wizard finally focused his watery brown eyes on Harry. "I told you," he pleaded in the tone of a consummate salesman. "I brew my own product. It's the only way to guarantee client satisfaction!"
Harry leaned forward and rested his chin on top of his laced fingers, too tired to dredge an appropriate amount of disgust at that statement. "What do I look like to you?"
Ossie looked taken aback by the question. For a moment, Harry could almost see the gears of his opportunist mind trying to think the best possible answer. "You look like an Auror," he said after a few moments.
"Really?" Harry asked, pulled out the scroll with Ossie's information out of the table's drawer, and threw it on the table. "Because I was thinking I must look like a moron to you," he rolled open the scroll and pointed at the spot in the parchment that showed Ossie's Hogwarts marks. "You didn't even pass your potions O. W. L. and you expect me to believe that you've been brewing Amortentia well enough to sell and make a profit? Who are you working for?"
Ossie didn't even look at the table. "I practiced after I graduated!" he insisted.
Harry looked at him flatly. "You know what," he started and stood up, "I don't have time for this." He picked up the scroll and walked out of the interrogation room, ignoring Ossie's pleading for him to be reasonable. Once outside, he gave the scroll to the Auror trainee in charge of escorting Ossie.
"See that Weasley gets those and escort that bug back to his cell," the trainee nodded and sighed. Harry offered him a weak smile. He remembered what it was like being at bottom of the Auror hierarchy and having to handle the most tedious of tasks. Thankfully, he'd been spared guard duty on the major Holidays, probably because everyone assumed he was a widower with a kid to care for.
He headed towards the Ministry service lifts and hoped that Septimus Weasley had better luck with Ossie. His interrogation skills were much better than Harry's. In fact, they'd both wordlessly settled on letting Harry questions suspects first even though he rarely got anything out of them. Septimus insisted that Harry's stony unreasonableness made them more likely to spill whatever they knew to him. Ironically, Harry had ended up playing "bad cop" to a Weasley's "good cop".
When he'd imagined himself as an Auror back at Hogwarts, he'd always assumed he'd be the nice Auror to Ron's rude and impatient one. Other Aurors hadn't really played into his fantasy, much less Aurors from the 1930s. Then, when the Ministry turned against him during Voldemort's second rise to power, Harry assumed that he'd never be an Auror. At one point, he'd been sure he wouldn't really be anything at all, mostly because he'd decided to die in an attempt to destroy all of Voldemort's Horcruxes.
Harry had died, or something close to it. After being hit by one last Killing Curse from Voldemort, he'd found himself in a blank space unsure of what he was supposed to do. The painful breaths of a strange baby whose body had been scraped bloody and raw had alerted him that he wasn't alone in the strange limbo just as he wondered if he was in the afterlife. Under Harry's initial disgust and fear, he'd felt an overwhelming urge to help it. Dumbledore had appeared shortly after to warn him that it was Voldemort's soul and that he should leave it alone. And then, in a moment of immense stupidity, Harry had let the resentment he'd been feeling towards Dumbledore get the best of him.
He'd grabbed Voldemort's soul, a mistake he was still paying for seven years later. Somehow, touching it sent Harry back to the moment of Voldemort's birth. The reason was unclear, though it was obvious that it had been done by the Deathly Hallows. Harry had panicked for an entire night before realizing that he had an opportunity to stop Voldemort from killing his parents and turning his friends' lives into a nightmare. Originally, he was going to kill baby Tom Riddle but it'd turned out that infanticide was easier planned than done.
In the end, he'd realized that the only thing he could do was try and raise the baby as best he could. He'd gotten first papers calling James Harry Riddle, pretended to be the newborn Tom Riddle's uncle, and gotten him out of Wool's Orphanage. At first, the plan to raise him went surprisingly well. He'd gotten a job at the Leaky Cauldron, he'd found a really good friend in Annie Moreau, and baby Riddle seemed to be turning out normal enough. For the first time in his life, Harry had found himself leading a surprisingly stable life. And then . . . well, to make a long story sure, Harry had found out that Voldemort hadn't died.
No, Voldemort had gone back in time as well. And, contrary what Harry had assumed, he hadn't sought refuge in his younger self. Voldemort had been unable to seek refuge anywhere because the Deathly Hallows somehow attached his soul to Harry's. Attached his restored soul, much to Voldemort's baffling rage. Harry had obviously panicked when he realized that Voldemort was entirely inside his head, but it hadn't taken him long to realize that it was much worse for Voldemort than it was for him.
For starters, Voldemort couldn't really do anything. He had no way to torture Harry or take over his body. Well, technically, Harry's body was also his body. The point was that there was absolutely nothing he could do without Harry's approval and cooperation. Since Voldemort had no interest in doing anything that didn't involve him becoming more powerful, he had retreated to the back of Harry's mind to constantly mock his thoughts and emotions.
No matter how awful it was, how many of Voldemort's memories he was forced to witness, how many times he had to isolate himself from every other living person because Voldemort was going through a rage, or how much of his own life he had to sacrifice, Harry didn't care. He'd won. Voldemort's insanity had been brought to a halt.
He'd even gotten what he'd wanted, he mused as he admired the Christmas decorations around the Ministry for one last time before they were taken down until next year. He was an Auror, though he suspected that had more to do with Scrimgeour's determination to keep Dumbledore under his sphere of influence than on any of his personal qualities. His partner was even a Weasley, though Septimus didn't have much in common with Ron besides the last name and the red hair. First of all, Harry was the mean Auror to his nice Auror. Second, Septimus was patient, studious, and unconcerned with proving himself to anyone even though he had six siblings. There were other differences, but those were the most glaring ones.
He was on the elevator to the Muggle world, wondering if he'd become short-tempered and impatient because he was constantly dealing with Voldemort bitter frustration when the evil monster shot him a thought for the first time in days.
Don't blame me for your many shortcomings, Potter.
They'd been stuck together for so long that Harry wasn't even startled. As a matter of fact, he wasn't really all that comfortable with Voldemort staying quiet for too long. The respite from the constant mockery should be a welcome change, but Harry never allowed himself to let his guard down. For all he knew, Voldemort only distanced himself to try a find a way to hide his thoughts from Harry or because he was trying to come up with a way to truly posses him.
In fact, whenever Voldemort stayed quiet for more than a week, Harry used a meditation technique he'd learned from Rosalind Potter and went into his mind to find out what Voldemort was doing. The visits usually earned Harry a headache thanks to whatever awful memory Voldemort decided to put him through, but they were worth it because they showed him if Voldemort was up to anything. Unfortunately, Harry was always being verbally harassed by Voldemort or wondering if Voldemort had finally found a way to turn him into a vegetable. Either way, he lost.
And don't forget that after the brat's birthday party it's my turn for a birthday present.
Harry sighed and stepped into one of the gentlemen's underground toilet that connected the Ministry of Magic to Whitehall. Like he could ever forget about any of his deals with Voldemort. It still made him feel vaguely ill every time he was forced to bargain with him. It didn't matter that it was necessary if he wanted to function. It still made him feel like he was betraying his parents' memory.
I'm betraying everything I am every second I don't do everything in my power to destroy your will to live, yet somehow I manage to not whine about it constantly.
Without bothering to respond, Harry made sure that no Muggle had accidentally wondered down to the underground toilets and then Disapparated to the backroom of Annie's shop.
He found Annie putting the final touches on Tom's birthday cake, using a basic Levitation Spell to arrange the sparkling sugars to her satisfaction. "Good late morning," she said after glancing at him. Harry noticed that she'd changed into a bright yellow set of robes and a head scarf with golden thread that reflected the light from the light bulb above her head. "Was it something too bad?"
"A trainee picked up someone I've been looking for," Harry answered and started to remove his outer robe. He knew Annie disapproved of the way he dropped Tom all over the place to answer summons from other Aurors, but he hoped she wouldn't reprimand him about it today. He was putting his long, black robe in a coat closet when Owen thankfully walked in and distracted Annie.
He was carrying their youngest daughter on his arm, making her look even smaller because he was so big. Even Annie barely reached his shoulder. He kissed Annie on her forehead glanced at the cake before waving at Harry with his free hand. "Everything good?" he asked.
"Well enough," Harry answered and waved to little Odette, who'd just turned five a handful of weeks ago. Owen put her down and she raced over to Harry, waving a Chocolate Frog Card in her tiny hand.
"Look Uncle!" she said. "It's a new lady witch!"
Harry leaned down and made a show of examining the card in her small hand. It was Bridget Wenlock's entry. "Good find!" he told Odette and patted her head lightly.
"Our dresses match," she continued, pointing at Wenlock's purple robes, which were almost the same shade as her dress. "I'll show Alice and Tom!" she said and scampered out of the room, presumably to find the other two children.
Harry straightened up and walked towards the table Annie had been working on. She'd already finished the cake, and was now working on the biscuits and salty treats. He pulled out his own wand and started imitating her work on the plain biscuits, adding chocolate chips and different colored sugars to the tops. Owen was helping as well, but since he was a Muggle he had to use his hands and frosting spatulas.
When Harry woke up in the past exactly seven years ago on a small clearing near Wool's Orphanage, he'd had a mild panic attack. For some reason, he'd decided to Apparate near the Leaky Cauldron and then stumbled into the place babbling incoherencies. He didn't know where he'd be if Annie hadn't decided to take him under her wing. Later, she'd introduced him to her then-fiancé Owen Williams and they'd both become his closest friends in the past.
"How many kids are coming?" Owen asked after a while.
"Just Michael's son," Annie answered. "I think we'll get more adults, actually. We can always sell the leftovers."
Harry couldn't help but feel a little sad about being unable to invite any of Tom's classmates to the party, but there was just no way to have a celebration full of witches and wizards and expect them not to reveal something to a bunch of Muggles. Harry preferred that the party not be ended by a group of irate Obliviators.
This wouldn't be a problem if you didn't insist on surrounding yourself with Mudbloods, interjected Voldemort. Harry felt a flash of disgust originating from the spot the bitter spirit always seemed to occupy in his mind, but refused to answer for a third time.
He decided to join in on the small talk between Annie and Owen, determined not to let Voldemort ruin the entire day for him. It wasn't like he was going to start solving Arithmancy equations at the top of his mental voice just to give Harry a headache. Not today, at least. They had a deal and Voldemort wouldn't infuriate Harry into breaking it. There was nothing Voldemort hated more than monotony, and that's what he'd be getting if Harry got too angry.
Once all the treats were done, Harry put his wand back in his trousers and went to the front of the shop. Annie had decorated the place as best she could, considering the shop was located east of central London and it catered mostly to Muggles so she couldn't use magic. The edges of the glass windows were dusted with blue and golden glitter. At the right edge of the counter, there was a small tree with blue and gold oval ornaments and glass icicles hanging off of it. A miniature nativity scene rested at its feet, most likely to please Annie's mother. The costumer tables all had a glass vase glittered to match the front windows.
The shop would be closed all day since Annie liked hosting Tom's birthday party in the afternoon and a New Year's celebration in the evening. Most guests hadn't shown up yet since the party didn't officially start until 1:00 PM. The only people who were in besides him were Mrs. Wilkins and Felana. Mrs. Wilkins was playing with Odette and Alice—Annie's older daughter. She was laughing as the girls did a little dance in front of her, lifting her orange robes when the girls danced close enough to step on their hem. She'd been babysitting Tom, Alice, and Odette since they'd been born.
Felana—Annie's mother—was playing a round of Fanorona with Tom. It was a checkers-like game often played in Madagascar, the place the Moreau family had come from. Felana was fond so of Tom that she let him sit on the Malagasy lessons she often held for Alice and Odette. She wasn't as fond of Harry. At least, she hadn't been since he'd tried to stop her from teaching Tom a new language. Harry hadn't meant to be offensive. He just wasn't thrilled with the idea of Tom being able to communicate in a language he didn't understand.
Of course, he'd been unable to explain why so Annie and Felana had both assumed that he didn't want his white kid speaking in a language used mostly by black people. That conversation had been very brief, unpleasant, and it'd ended with Harry withdrawing his objections to Felana's language lessons. Annie seemed to have forgotten the whole thing, but Felana seemed to have taken as a free pass to be as cold towards Harry as she wanted. Not that she'd been particularly warm towards him before that fiasco. Almost to make sure he got the message, she went right ahead and taught Tom French as well.
Steeling himself for the usual awkwardness, Harry waved to hello to Mrs. Wilkins and walked over to Tom and Felana. Tom noticed him when he was almost at their table and acknowledged him with a small hand wave.
"I'm back," he said when he was standing at Tom's left.
Tom nodded without looking up and Felana said something in Malagasy Harry didn't understand. He stood there for a few seconds and then Felana smiled and picked up the last of the black pieces on the board. She said something else in a happy tone and flicked Tom's nose. After furrowing her eyebrows in Harry's direction, she grabbed her cane, stood up, and slowly walked to the backroom in a stilted gait. She probably disapproved of his disappearing during Tom's birthday even more than Annie did.
After Felana disappeared into the backroom, Harry sat on the chair she'd been using. "She beat you?" he asked Tom.
"Yes," Tom answered and finished clearing the board. "Granny Felana will be sad if I win all the time. Do you want to play?"
Harry agreed and felt guiltily relieved that he wouldn't have talk while they were playing. Tom started arranging the pieces quietly and Harry couldn't shake the feeling that he should at least apologize for taking off.
"Sorry I had to leave again," he said as Tom finished with the white pieces and started with the black ones.
"Did you get the Dark wizard?" Tom asked, still not looking at Harry.
"It wasn't a Dark wizard," Harry answered. Tom finally looked up at him and tilted his head. "It was someone selling potions he wasn't supposed to."
Tom's pursed his lips and his big, dark brown eyes narrowed. "What potions?"
". . . Illegal ones," Harry answered and made the first move since Tom had given him white. He didn't want to explain what a Love Potion was and why they were illegal to use. Not today anyway.
Tom frowned a little but turned his attention to the game. Harry tried not to feel too embarrassed when he lost his twenty two white pieces very quickly. The truth was that he couldn't really beat Tom at most board games anymore. You're too stupid to defeat a child in a simple strategy game, Voldemort told him and sent him a shot of derision.
"What potions?" Tom asked again, before Harry could even register his older self's words. He was looking up at Harry again, an expectant look on his young face. Harry reached over and brushed some locks of messy black away from his forehead.
"Potions that made people do things they didn't want to do," he answered. Tom's eyes widened and he opened his mouth. "Enjoying your birthday so far?" he asked before Tom could ask another question about the potions.
Tom frowned again and bit his lower lip for good measure. "Aunt Annie made my favorite biscuits and everyone will bring books again," he answered and began to rearrange the board. He motioned to the white pieces when he was done and Harry made the first move.
They played a few more rounds in silence. Harry tried to pay more attention, but he ended up losing every round anyway. He wondered why Tom was never kind enough to let him win a few games.
You're a moron, let me play, Voldemort said and made his disgust at Harry clear.
Harry ignored him and let Tom set yet another round of Fanorona. He would never allow any interaction between the Tom Riddles. Voldemort's feelings for his younger self fluctuated between indifference, anger at the boy's easy friendship with "Mudbloods", and bitter jealousy. Not only was Tom's soul safely housed in his own body, he was also having an infinitely better childhood than Voldemort had suffered through. Tom was showered with praise and positive attention by everyone around him, something Voldemort had not experienced before Hogwarts.
Most importantly, he was being raised by a magical parent who didn't declare him insane when he talked about magic. Never mind that Voldemort hated Harry, he was still better than the orphanage matrons.
Don't pretend I would have preferred to be a around you, Voldemort mentally hissed in Parseltongue and Harry felt a brief flash of pain. As usual, the implication that he actually envied Tom infuriated Voldemort. Harry consoled himself with the knowledge any pain he felt was also felt by Voldemort.
Harry was losing a sixth round of Fanorona when he heard feminine voices coming from the counter. He looked up and spotted Rosalind Potter, the only one of his ancestors he'd built a relationship with since finding himself in the past. Thankfully, she was a gifted Legilimens so she'd helped improve Harry's rather atrocious Occlumency skills over the last seven years. Harry waved to her and beamed when she looked towards him and Tom.
Rosalind kissed Annie on the cheek and headed to their table. Harry noticed a beautiful witch in scarlet robes walking beside her, thick waves of brown hair falling down her back. She provided a stark contrast to Rosalind's more staid, light green robes and graying black hair tied back into a bun that reminded Harry of Professor McGonagall.
"Happy New Years, dear," Rosalind said when she reached their table and bent down to kiss Harry's cheek.
"Happy New Years," Harry responded with a smile.
"And Tommy!" Rosalind said excitedly. "Soon, you'll be grown man!" She bent down and gave Tom a hug, then pulled back after kissing the top of his head. Tom actually graced her with a big smile. Rosalind was a magical historian and a dedicated tutor. There was nothing she loved more than finding an intelligent student who appreciated literature as much as she did. She and Tom got along very well.
"Happy New Years, Aunt Rosalind," Tom said and then looked at the brown-haired witch. "And you too miss."
"Oh, yes!" Rosalind said and looked at the woman beside her. "May I present my niece, Cedrella Black?" The witch bowed her head in Harry's direction and smiled at Tom. "Harry, you might remember her. She was with me the very first time you came to see me."
"Nice to meet you," Harry said, mentally admitting that he didn't remember her. All that had happened in the first few months after he'd found himself in the past were a blur.
"I need to have a word with you," Rosalind said. "Tom, why don't you teach Cedrella how to play Fanorona?"
Tom nodded and Harry gave Cedrella his chair. With one last smile to the both of them, he followed Rosalind to the opposite end of the shop. "We have a problem," she said when they were seated at another table. "Charles knows your real last name."
"How did he find out?" asked Harry and pressed his glasses against the upper bones of his nose.
"His child was born three days ago," Rosalind responded. "It was a boy. He was going to name him Harry and asked Hattie if there were any other Potters with that name."
"And she couldn't lie to him," Harry finished. Hattie was the Potter family's House-elf. She'd found out that Harry was a Potter when he'd been forced to give her an order seven years ago. He'd forgotten to order her to keep his existence to herself, so she'd told Rosalind the truth about his last name. It was the only reason Rosalind knew who Harry really was.
"Charles is quite upset," Rosalind said. "He believes that you're a bastard and that Father has been unfaithful to mother. I've managed to convince to speak to you before confronting Father."
"And what am I supposed to say?"
"The truth?" Rosalind suggested and raised her eyebrows.
"The less people know the truth about me, the better," Harry protested.
"If Charles confronts our father, you will have to explain yourself to both them," Rosalind pointed out.
Harry was about to ask about distant relatives, but he heard more voices coming from the backroom door. He looked over and saw Septimus Weasley followed by their Division Leader at Auror Headquarters, Albert Diggory. Harry looked back at Rosalind. "Send him my way. Now, if you excuse me, I need to talk to Weasley and Diggory," he said before standing up and ignored the exasperated expression on her face.
Rosalind looked like she wanted to argue, but she just waved a hand dismissively and stood up as well. She headed towards Tom and Cedrella and Harry walked over to his fellow Aurors. They seemed to be arguing about something, which was incredibly odd since Septimus usually tried to avoid confrontation.
". . . A deck of Exploding Snap cards, really?" Septimus was asking with an uncharacteristically sarcastic note his voice.
"He's turning seven," Diggory responded with an eye roll. "What was I supposed to get him, the latest edition of Busty Witches Monthly?" His handsome features were twisted into an irritated scowl. It was quite a common look for him, but it still seemed strange to Harry even after knowing him for so many years. He'd never seen Cedric looking so put upon, and Albert Diggory resembled his future grandson enough to make Harry feel out of place.
"Hey," he said when he reached the counter. "Did you get to talk to the Lizard?" he asked Septimus.
"No," he answered with another unusual scowl. "Let the piece of filth stew for a while."
"Are you all right?" Harry asked, unused to seeing Septimus in such an obviously foul mood.
"The Holidays have been unkind to our gentle Mr. Weasley," Diggory answered for him with a slightly mocking edge to his voice. "Come on you two, we need to debrief." He walked out from behind the counter and headed towards a table in the center of the shop. Harry and Septimus followed him.
They had to discuss what little progress they'd made on the Amortentia case even though they'd been working on it for months, carefully tracking a dramatic increase in the number of people who complained about being fed Love Potions. Scrimgeour hadn't really paid much attention at first since Love Potions weren't lethal. That had changed when Obliviators started sorting through reports of Muggle police officers trying to find some kind of "drug" that convinced people they were in love with strangers.
"What did you get out of him?" Diggory asked Harry once all three of them were seated.
"That he's afraid to rat out his supplier," Harry answered. "Ossie doesn't have friends. He would've tried to make a deal with me if he wasn't scared of whoever's giving him the Amortentia."
"And we're sure he's not brewing it himself?" asked Diggory.
"He's dumb," Harry reminded him.
"Even if he is, someone's giving him the ingredients," added Septimus. "We checked with the goblins. He's deposited too much gold in a short amount of time for someone financing large scale brewing of Amortentia."
"Then whoever's really behind this will have more than one pusher," Diggory said and leaned back on his chair. "I'll spread the word around. We should know next time an Auror picks someone up for selling Love Potions. Do we have any idea who the pusher might be?"
"They'll be rich," Septimus started. "And arrogant enough not to care about covering their tracks."
"Or too stupid to understand one of his pushers will eventually make a deal with us," Harry continued. "Maybe both."
"I'm thinking someone worried that there aren't enough baby wizards being born," Diggory said and then frowned at no one in particular. "Except, we'd need to rule out most old, Pureblood families since they'd never promote an increase in Half-Bloods."
Harry felt Voldemort's impatient annoyance when Diggory finished speaking. "Not necessarily," he said and tried to sort out why Voldemort disagreed.
"If they're just handing out Amortentia to random pushers, they can't control who they sell it to," Septimus said before Harry was forced to outright ask Voldemort to explain his feelings.
Diggory sighed and nodded. "We need to let Ossie out so we can follow—" he stopped abruptly and looked towards the table where Tom and Cedrella were still playing Fanorona. Cedrella had just let out a delighted laugh. Harry looked over as well. Cedrella was beaming at Tom, who shrugged and started setting up another round of Fanorona. Harry wondered if she'd managed to beat him.
"Since when—" Septimus started to ask but Diggory interrupted him.
"Who's the woman playing with your kid?" he asked Harry.
Septimus spoke before Harry could answer. "Cedrella Black," he said and turned his back on her and Tom.
"Riddle, tell you're not in a relationship with her," Diggory ordered, still looking in Cedrella's direction.
"She's not even out of Hogwarts," Septimus answered before Harry could say anything.
"How do you know?" Diggory asked, turning his attention towards Septimus.
"Because I've met her," Septimus answered. Abruptly, Harry remembered that Cedrella Black and Septimus Weasley were Ron's paternal grandparents. Thankfully, neither Septimus nor Diggory were paying much attention to him so they didn't notice any change in his expression.
"When?" asked Diggory.
"I'm sorry," Septimus said in another uncharacteristically annoyed tone. "I wasn't aware I needed to give you detailed reports about my life."
"What's wrong with you today?" asked Harry just as Diggory readied himself to speak.
Septimus glared at him and opened his mouth but deflated and closed his it again.
"You've been acting strange," Diggory added with a concerned expression on his face. Harry was happy that the conversation wasn't going to devolve into the usual bickering that went on between them.
"I'm sorry," Septimus said with a sigh. He put his right elbow on the table and pushed his forehead against his right hand. "I just hate the Holiday season. If I have to stop another argument between estranged family members, I'll go Dark myself."
"Let's just stop talking about work for now," Harry said. "We'll plan what to do about Ossie later. It's supposedly our day off." He stood and walked over to Tom and Cedrella's table, certain that Diggory would do his best to calm Septimus down. They were really close friends. After nodding at Diggory, who pulled out a new deck of Exploding Snap cards and passed it to him, Harry stood up and made his way back to Tom's table.
He supposed he should at least make an attempt to spend some time with his adopted son on the boy's birthday. Once he got to the table Tom was playing at, Cedrella excused herself and went walked off to join Rosalind and Annie. Harry sat down on her chair and gave Tom the Exploding Snap deck. "From Albert Diggory," he said.
"I don't have a wand," said Tom after reading the instructions in the back of the box.
"I know," Harry said with a smile and pulled out his own wand. He got the deck out and arranged twenty cards face down on the table. "Sit on my lap and tell me which cards to tap."
They spent a good couple of hours playing with the deck of cards. Tom fell in love with the game, probably because it was the only one in quite a while that was actually challenging him. No matter how intelligent he was, he still had the reflexes of a seven year old child so he lost many more games than he won. Harry mentally thanked Diggory for being clueless enough to get a child a game that involved literal explosions since it was giving him a chance to bond with Tom without having to force stilted conversations.
Eventually, Alice and Odette came for Tom after Annie's brother brought his son to the party. The children went off to play and the adults sat around making small talk. Harry noticed that Septimus was carefully avoiding Cedrella, who sometimes forgot herself and stared at him. Diggory probably noticed as well. Harry hoped for him to be able to support Septimus throughout his relationship with Cedrella. Harry didn't know the details, but he remembered Cedrella's name being blasted from the Black family tree. Hopefully the Weasleys wouldn't be so vehemently against the relationship as well.
By late afternoon, Voldemort started complaining about their deal and threatening to make Harry look like a madman in front of all his friends. With some resignation, he excused himself from a conversation he was having with Owen and Michael, stood up, and looked around the room. Tom was playing a thumb war game with Michael's young son near the small Christmas tree. Harry walked over to them, touched Tom's shoulder, and smiled at Michael's son before leading Tom into the backroom.
"I have to go again," he said and raised Tom up to sit on the large cooking table so they could see each other eye to eye.
"You don't want cake?" asked Tom.
"I'll eat some other time," Harry answered and offered him a weak smile. "I'll give you your present tomorrow."
"Why not today?"
"Because there's something I have to do," Harry answered. "Is there anything you want? I'll try to get it before coming to get you tomorrow."
Tom's eyes never left Harry's. "What kinds of potions make people do things they don't want to do?"
Harry looked down in case he couldn't stop his face from contracting into a scowl. Voldemort was laughing in the back of his mind. Harry held back a sigh and looked back at Tom. "They're potions that make people desperate for the approval of whoever gave it to them. They'll do anything the person asks them to do even if it's something they wouldn't have done before drinking the potion."
While Harry searched Tom's blank expression, Voldemort continued to project his delighted mirth into Harry's consciousness. He was so vindicated by Tom showing signs of interest in coercion that he wasn't even hurrying Harry along. "What're those potions called?" Tom asked after a few moments.
"They have different names," Harry answered, thankful that it was technically true. With some apprehension, he asked Tom the question that was niggling at the back of his mind. "Do you want one?"
Tom actually seemed to consider it for a few seconds. "Why would I want one?"
"I don't—" Harry and shook his head, trying to ignore another guffaw from Voldemort. "Why did you ask me about them?"
"Because I want to know," Tom said quickly and tried to hop down from the table. Harry helped him down and wished he had more time to talk to him but Voldemort's amusement was ebbing. "I want a book about electricity," Tom said and then turned around and walked back to front room.
Harry ran his right hand through his hair, walked over to the coat closet, and pulled out his outer robe. He should probably go tell Annie he was leaving, but he wasn't in the mood for her disapproving stares. With a sigh, he Disapparated to his favorite sandwich shop to get some food and then to the house he'd bought at the northern edge of London. It was painted a calming shade of blue and it had a nice backyard with a gardening plot he made very good use of. His neighbors were quiet and unassuming and the closest one lived about two hundred meters away from him. The house was very peaceful.
He'd bought it with the money he'd gotten after selling the Riddle manor about seven years ago. Since he'd taken the surname Riddle to get Tom out of Wool's Orphanage, he'd technically been the only relative left to claim the Riddle family fortune after all its Muggle members were killed by Grindelwald. It was pointless to feel overly guilty about it. Technically, Tom was the last Riddle alive and Harry was his guardian, so he was entitled to the Riddle fortune.
Eager to get the evening over with, Harry headed to the upstairs bathroom. He was relieved that he hadn't filled the house with magic portraits. The shame he was feeling because of what he was about to do was undoubtedly written all over his face. With another tired sigh, Harry twisted the bath's faucet open and let the water start filling the wide, oval-shaped tub. He stood motionlessly until Voldemort made his impatience known.
Harry supposed it was best if he got it over with. Once he felt Voldemort scratching at the edges of his consciousness, he mentally began counting backwards from ten. He felt Voldemort slide into his limbs as if he was putting on a full-body skin suit (no, that's what Voldemort felt—Harry felt like he was falling asleep standing up, like he was standing behind his own body, like he was the stubborn ghost who refused to go away). Soon enough, he'd lost control of his body.
He wondered why counting backwards made this process so simple and, as usual whenever his consciousness merged to closely with Voldemort's, the answers came to him automatically. Numbers did not come naturally to the human mind so when a person counted backwards their entire consciousness, including the subconscious parts connected to sub-cortical association regions of the brain, were engaged in what was a deceptively simple task. All of the mind's natural defenses simply vanished, allowing an external force to slide into the brain as though it was an empty cocoon.
Voldemort rolled his—Harry's—neck the moment the process was complete and then shot Harry a wave of mockery for being so dumb. He stretched and stood on the tip of his toes and looked at the tub. It wasn't even half-way full. After bending down and touching the surface of the water, Voldemort grabbed the box with the food and sat on the floor. He grabbed the sandwich first, unwrapped it, and the bit down. Faintly, Harry tasted grilled chicken marinated with garlic and chunks of sundried cherry tomatoes. Voldemort sighed with contentment and reached for the pineapple juice in the box.
He pushed off Harry's boots and socks, as he ate. When he was halfway done with the sandwich, he looked into the lunch box again and pulled out some salty chips and a large slice of chocolate cake. Voldemort took his time with the meal, savoring everything with such concentration that Harry got flashes of how everything tasted—even the mild lettuce and bell peppers in the sandwich, not just the sharper tastes of the cheeses and garlic coating the chicken.
After the finished with the sandwich and the ships, Voldemort looked back at the tub and saw that it was almost full. He motioned at the faucet with his—Harry's—right hand and tried to use magic to close it. Nothing happened. Voldemort sent a surge of irritation in Harry's direction so Harry grudgingly allowed him enough access to his magic to force the faucet closed. Harry felt's Voldemort's usual anger at having to ask Harry for permission to use even the simplest bit of magic.
It was the one true advantage Harry had in the whole messed up connection. Voldemort could take over Harry's body whenever he wanted and he had done it suddenly quite a few times just to terrify him. Harry never cooked when Tom was in the kitchen and kept all the knives under lock and key. Technically, Harry could regain control of his body easily, but it only took a second to plunge a knife into someone's chest. Harry could not be vigilant every second of every day. No one could.
But Voldemort could never use magic without Harry's cooperation. Dumbledore had tried to explain why. Access to magic was connected to a person's identity, not their soul or physical being so Voldemort could not use Harry's magic even when he was controlling Harry's body. Voldemort also understood the concept, though it was hard even for him to put it into organized thoughts. The important thing was that that it gave Harry a winning edge in his constant struggle with Voldemort.
The train of that was making Voldemort irritable, which gave Harry a petty sense of satisfaction. Voldemort pointedly ignored him and reached for the chocolate cake. In life, Voldemort had hated cloyingly sweet desserts but Harry's taste buds loved them. Voldemort ate the cake slowly, savoring every aspect of it—the rich taste, the smooth textures of the icing, and the crunch of the peanut bits in the filling. He even enjoyed the way Harry's throat began feeling a little sticky.
After he was done with the cake, Voldemort finished the pineapple juice and stood up. He quickly removed Harry's clothes and used magic—which Harry grudgingly allowed a second time—to heat up the water in the tub to a pleasant temperature. He got into the tub slowly, savoring the way the water made him aware of every in inch of Harry's skin. Once he was sitting on the tub, Voldemort took a deep breath and submerged Harry's body completely under the water. He held Harry—himself—under the water until Harry's lungs felt stretched to their limit and then came back up, enjoying the way he was acutely aware of the air entering Harry's lungs with every quick breath he took. For someone who claimed to despise the "mundane necessities of a mortal body", Voldemort certainly was a sensualist.
Abruptly, Harry realized that he'd just thought of Voldemort as sensual. If he'd been in control of his body he would have gagged. Voldemort actually laughed out loud, making the sound of Harry's laughter sound distorted. It was then the definition of the word sensualist popped into Harry's mind—a person who enjoys the physical senses—which was thankfully not the same thing as sensual at all. Harry really hated it when Voldemort's vocabulary mixed with his. He usually ended up saying or thinking embarrassing things with words he normally wouldn't use.
You truly are barely literate, Voldemort thought at him and extended his hand for the small book Harry had put in the bathroom's counter. Voldemort would have preferred a magic book, but Harry refused to read about nasty Dark spells. Even if he were willing, he wasn't going to risk his job getting books that tickled Voldemort's fancy. The bastard would have to settle for Agatha Christie's latest mystery novel and feeling smugly superior to the Muggle author when he guessed the culprit halfway through the book.
Tomorrow, Harry would have to give Tom the most depressing birthday present ever. Then he'd have to send him off with Dumbledore on an even more potentially soul-crushing field trip. He'd do it personally if he could be reliably trust that Voldemort wouldn't have a psychotic break the moment they got to the place. He certainly hadn't corrected Harry's assumption that he would. It was something that Tom needed to know regardless. Harry would do his best to spare him from growing up in the dark about his origins, even at the risk of ruining their relationship. He just hoped that Tom appreciated his honesty.
AN: I'm very happy I got this finished before classes officially started. Tonight, I begin Molecular Biochemistry!