Author's Note: I posted this story a few years ago under my old pen name, but later deleted it. Now I'm posting it again.
The first thing the Dark Lord noticed when he opened his eyes was how green the trees were, which was curious since the date was the first of November. Then he looked at his translucent hand and realized that he was dead. Or was he? Had his Horcruxes worked or not? He had no way of knowing for sure. Only wizards and squibs could see ghosts, so he floated in the general direction of the nearby village of Godric's Hollow. He needed to test his theory as soon as possible. For the sake of his own sanity, if nothing else.
Slowly his memories of last night returned, but it wasn't actually last night was it? He had gone to kill the Potter child because of that bloody prophecy. Did he really believe in divination? No, but Voldemort had come too far, and was too close to his ultimate goals to take any unnecessary chances. He figured it was best to kill the imp now.
Just to be safe.
James Potter had fallen quickly, but his transfiguration skills had been impressive. The fool should have spent more time studying the Dark Arts. The mother hadn't even fought. She just begged for the life of her child. He briefly wondered what Severus saw in her. She was beautiful, but so were thousands of other women. Still, he owed the Half-Blood Prince a debt, and he believed paying his debts.
At least to his own Death Eaters.
He killed... what was her name again? Lily. He killed Lily Potter, but after her death he felt an unusual burst of magic. Being a cautious wizard he checked for any traps she might have left behind, but he found nothing out of the ordinary. Then he looked down at the boy in his crib.
Then... nothing. He had used the Killing Curse hundreds, maybe thousands of times. It was the source of his power, his mystique. Never once had it failed him, so what went wrong?
He musings were interrupted when a muggle woman began screaming. He could tell she was a muggle by her reaction; a witch would have politely asked for his name. She was looking directly at him, so he wasn't a ghost. Moving about in this new form wasn't easy for him, but when he took flight the banshee relented.
The woman would convince herself that the encounter had been a figment of her imagination, and soon would forget all about it. He had seen muggles do this countless times before when confronted with the existence of magic, and he often wondered why the Ministry of Magic bothered with Obliviators at all. The muggle's reaction meant that technically he wasn't a ghost, so what was he? And if his original plan had succeed, how soon could he return to his corporeal form?
Five years later Lord Voldemort found himself floating in the dreary muggle town of Little Whinging in Surrey. And he was still in his incorporeal form.
Was he going to be trapped in his own personal hell forever? As he surveyed the banal neighborhood it seemed possible, even probable. His long journey to this point had been a grueling one, and he still no closer to regaining his body.
It had taken a good year of practice just to learn how to move about without attracting attention. He was generally limited to the three or four hours just before dawn, since traveling at any other time was an invitation to disaster. Voldemort had a nasty feeling that Albus Dumbledore was still looking for him, and he couldn't afford to leave the old man even the smallest of clues. Nor was he willing to show himself to his Death Eaters. In his current weakened condition even his dear Bellatrix might be tempted to betray him, to say nothing of an opportunistic worm like Lucius Malfoy.
Secure in his ability to kept himself concealed, Voldemort slowly made his way to Diagon Alley. Hogsmeade was too close to Dumbledore's seat of power, and London offered endless places for a shade to hide. Once in the Alley he began hunting for discarded copies of the Daily Prophet lying about on the cobstones, and looking for information about the war. This was so frustrating and time-consuming that he began experimenting with animal possession. As the Heir of Slytherin he had a great deal of experience with snakes, but rats and small cats proved to be more useful. Perfecting this skill had taken him another year, but in the end the joy of having hands—or rather paws—again was worth the effort.
That joy turned out to be short-lived. In those old copies of the Daily Prophet he learned about the Boy-Who-Lived, and his miraculous defeat of You-Know-Who. It was all nonsense. Looking back over that night it was clear that Lily Potter had created some sort of magical trap just before her death. It pained Voldemort to admit it, but Dumbledore was just as much of a genius as he was, so his former Headmaster must have figured out the truth as well. So why he was his spreading this cock-and-bull story about the Boy-Who-Lived?
The logical answer was that he wanted to humiliate his former adversary. How could anyone take a Dark Lord seriously if he had been defeated by a child. This plan appeared to be working. Lucius was the first of many Death Eaters who claim that they had only served Voldemort because of the Imperius Curse. Bellatrix and a few others had remained loyal, but they were now locked away in Azkaban.
His decision not to trust anyone in his current condition had proven to be a wise one.
At this point Voldemort considered leaving the country and traveling to Eastern Europe. He had several hidden bases there, and they would provide him with a sanctuary while he plotted his next move. Then he got his first lucky break since his so-called death. One night that buffoon Cornelius Fudge had paid visit to Knockturn Alley, and he came out of a low-rent bordello too intoxicated to use the Floo at the Leaky Cauldron. On a lark Voldemort decided to follow the idiot as he stumbled back to his London townhouse.
Over the next few months Fudge's home office turned out to be a veritable goldmine of information. The man was taking bribes from anyone who offered them, including Lucius. His former Death Eater asked his new friend for many favors, one of which was the current address of Harry Potter. For a sizable quantity of galleons Fudge had actually handed it over. Did the moron have any concept of what would happen if Potter was killed, and he was discovered to be the source of the leak? The Ministry would probably feed his soul to the Dementors, and then throw his lifeless body into the Veil out of spite.
A few days later Voldemort traveled to Surrey so he could observe Lucius' assassination attempt. He had always kept a safe distance from Potter's new home. Whatever kind of defenses Dumbledore had protecting the boy, they were sure to be formidable. If he couldn't kill Malfoy and the other traitors himself, at least he could watch as they died during their futile mission.
But it was not to be.
Why? The answer was simple: blood wards. They stopped his former Death Eaters cold. They tried to bypass the wards, but the prospect of facing Dumbledore without their master's protection forced them to retreat in failure after only a few minutes.
Of all the magical defenses the old man could have employed. To combine even small amounts of blood with magic was considered a dark ritual by the Ministry of Magic, and was punishable by a long sentence in Azkaban. Yet here was the self-described Light Lord using it to protect the great Harry Potter.
The entire situation was so bizarre that Voldemort returned the next night to study the wards. There was powerful magic at work here in Little Whinging, and he had to understand it even if it meant delaying his search for a new body. Night after night he circled around the magical boundary. Then he finally remembered where he had felt this specific type of magic before. Somehow these blood wards were connected to the night when he had lost his body. Dumbledore had taken that unknown magic Lily Potter had summoned, and was now using it to protect her son. By Merlin he was a cunning old wanker.
But how to defeat it?
Voldemort racked his brain trying to remember everything he knew about blood magic, which quite a bit given his background as a Dark Lord. It was very dangerous and very useful magic, but it did have its limits.
Of course! The wards rejected his Death Eaters because they intended to kill Potter. As long as you meant the boy no harm, the wards would allow you to pass through unharmed. He had to test this theory. It was a foolish thing to do, but if he could no longer defeat Dumbledore with his wand he could still defeat him with his mind. His ego would accept nothing less than victory.
So here it was five years to the day after Voldemort's downfall that he was again going to pay Harry Potter a visit. He had made his plans months ago, but had opted to wait until Samhain to make the attempt. It was a sacred time for all wizards and witches. For on this one night the barriers between the various worlds were at their weakest, and many powerful forces were liberated for a short time.
Despite having no lungs he took a deep breath and passed through the blood ward.
His insane plan had worked.
After hiding in this wretched house Voldemort for a week still couldn't make up his mind about several subjects. Should he leave this place to continue his search for a new body, or should he stay and try to learn more about the unique magic which had almost killed him? Should he feel joy at Potter's suffering, or should he feel rage at these loathsome muggles? Was the boy's life a comedy, or was it a tragedy?
And most importantly, why was Albus Dumbledore leaving him here to suffer? It was a new experience for the Dark Lord to have so many questions and so few answers.
Potter's dreadful living conditions reminded Voldemort of his own youth, but in some ways this place was even worse. Yes, life at the orphanage had been brutal, but that had been true for all of the orphans. It was the survival of the fittest, and no one had been shown any love or even affection by the staff. But here in this house Potter saw how his Aunt and Uncle loved their own son, and how they despised him. Voldemort honestly believed that one day the boy would return and murder them, just as he had murdered his own muggle family all those years ago.
For the first time in decades—perhaps for the first time ever—Voldemort felt a genuine connection with another human being. Regrettably that other human being was dying for some unknown reason. The blood wards which surrounded and infused the house could not tolerate the boy's suffering. The living magic was reacting in strange and unusual ways, which was fascinating for Voldemort since he loved to study new forms of magic.
After a week the volatile blood wards attacked him without any warning. Fortunately he was hiding in the attic at the time.
After five years of feeling nothing at all, Voldemort suddenly felt far too much. He recognized at once that he had a new body, and he also had a new stomach that was empty. He was naked and lying on dirty wooden floor, so his new skin was cold and his new muscles ached. He was thirsty too. The attic was dark, so he tried to cast a wandless Lumos. It didn't go very well. In fact it felt like someone was jamming a hot needle directly into his brain. Something was terrible wrong with his magic.
A lesser man who have panicked, but not Voldemort. His magical problems would have to wait. First he had to get out of this house before anyone noticed his presence. It was about two in the morning, but he knew he still had to move quickly. If Dumbledore showed up to investigate this disturbance he was as good as dead. As he quietly got to his feet, Voldemort received another shock. In his past life he had been a very tall man, but now he was short. Very, very short. Probably a child.
Again he showed his mettle, because child or not he still had to leave. Voldemort had memorized the floor plan during his week-long visit, and as he lowered the ladder from the attic he mentally planned his escape. First he would hit the laundry, where he could steal plenty of clothes. Both boys left their shoes by the backdoor, so he would take a pair as he was leaving. There were two knapsacks and several coats hanging in a nearby closet.
But what to do for money? The fat Uncle left his wallet and keys in a porcelain dish by the telly, so that should be enough for now. If there was one thing Voldemort knew how to do in the muggle world, it was how to steal. It had been the only way to survive during his time in the orphanage. Besides all he needed was enough money to reach one of his hidden storage depots. And last but not least, he needed some food and water.
The one weakness in this plan was the fact that Harry Potter slept right under the stairs. But after a week of agony the boy's pain was finally gone, so he was now resting peacefully. Voldemort managed to get dressed and feed himself without a sound. The fat Uncle's wallet supplied him with thirty pounds, which was more than he had expected. As he was putting on an old pair of trainers, he looked up at a mirror hanging on the wall and saw his new body for the first time.
It was as he feared: this was the body of a child. But not just any child. He was a Potter. Not quite a twin of young Harry, but definitely a close relation. And his eyes—they were no longer red but instead a pale gray. Quite spectacular actually.
Voldemort stopped to ponder this puzzle. During his observations of Potter he had noticed that his mere presence had caused an intense reaction in the boy. The pain was usually centered around the strange scar on his forehead, and it affected him even while he was asleep.
As Voldemort laced up his stolen trainers, he came up with a new theory: perhaps Potter was a living Horcrux. Perhaps the blood wards which protected the boy had spontaneously created a magical bridge between the two of them. Then with one powerful burst of magic it returned to Voldemort the portion of his soul which he accidentally lost five years ago, and gave him a new body in the process. It made a certain amount of sense... or at least as much sense as magic ever did.
However the true explanation for his new body—and the problem of his erratic magic—would have to wait for now. The nearest bus terminal was four kilometers away, and he would have to be on guard for any law enforcement officers during the trip.
But it didn't matter, because Voldemort had never been so happy in his entire life.