Title: Tainted

Pairings: Harry Potter/Tom Riddle, Draco Malfoy/OMC(Sebastian Rosier), minor het and slash pairings

Spoilers: Compliant with Deathly Hallows but ignores the epilogue.

Summary: EWE. The war is over, but Voldemort isn't as dead as everyone believes. Harry returns to Hogwarts, expecting a normal school year, but a sixteen-year-old Tom Riddle has other ideas. It seems sometimes the line between good and evil is very blurry and fascination and hate can easily coexist. Features: powerful!Harry, Dark Arts, Slytherin schemes, and very twisted love.

Warnings: slash, sexual content, strong language, darkish Harry, underage sex(Harry is 18, Tom is 16), top!Harry.

A/N: Some readers appear to be surprised that Harry is tall. In the books, it is said that Harry was short for his age when he was eleven. That, however, doesn't mean he stayed that way. In Deathly Hallows, it is said that he's exactly the same height as James, who is described as a "tall, thin man." So by the end of the seventh book, Harry is tall, and since this story isn't AU, he is tall in this story as well.


"You either die the hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain."

— Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight

Chapter 1



"This is a joke," he said, looking blankly at McGonagall. "Tell me this is a bloody joke."

The headmistress's face remained gravely serious. "I am afraid I am not joking, Mr. Potter."

Harry laughed. He knew he sounded nearly hysterical, but who could blame him, really?

Bloody hell. He couldn't wrap his mind around the mere idea. He just couldn't.

When he'd received McGonagall's owl this morning, requesting him to come to Hogwarts to discuss a matter of great importance, that was the last thing he expected.

"How?" he managed finally. "He's dead. He was dead. I killed him—you saw it, you were there, professor!"

Leaning back in her chair, McGonagall sighed. "I am not sure, Harry. I am inclined to think that Voldemort had done something no long before the final battle, after he found out that his horcruxes were being destroyed. It is possible he performed another ritual to ensure his immortality, or at least a semblance of it. I do not know anything for certain, even Severus didn't." A shadow crossed McGonagall's face, as it often did lately at the mention of Snape. Harry knew that she had taken Snape's death particularly hard upon finding out about his true allegiance.

"Severus's notes were informative, but there was nothing on the matter. He only mentioned that Voldemort was particularly reclusive and secretive by the end. It appears that closer to the end of the war, Voldemort trusted no one, not even Severus whom he believed to be his most loyal follower after...after Severus killed Albus."

"But how?" Harry said through his teeth. He would be calm, damn it. He was calm. He was calm. He wouldn't damage McGonagall's office. "We destroyed all his horcruxes. He should be gone for good!"

McGonagall's shoulders slumped. She frowned, looking very tired. "I don't know. I'm afraid only Voldemort could answer that." She closed her eyes for a moment before meeting his gaze. "I went to school with him, Harry. Tom Riddle was many things, had done many terrible things, but truth be told, he was the most brilliant wizard I have ever known. If there was anyone who could accomplish such a feat, it was him." She looked almost...sad.

"Okay," Harry said, taking a deep breath. He curled his hands into fists.

He had to calm himself. He didn't have the luxury of losing his temper. Especially not in front of McGonagall. Not in front of anyone.

It was easier said than done.

Since the Battle of Hogwarts, he could barely control his temper and magic. No one knew the extent of his problem, but Hermione still noticed something and wouldn't leave him alone. She had a whole theory that involved his traumatic childhood, constant scrutiny and expectations, post-traumatic stress, and so on and so forth. The last time they had talked, she even tried to gently suggest that he needed to see a psychologist. Harry had to disagree with her. Their disagreement resulted in a destroyed room and a very upset Mrs. Weasley. They still weren't talking.

Harry pushed the thoughts away; in the light of McGonagall's news, their argument felt so insignificant and stupid. "Alright. How did you even find out about it, professor?"

McGonagall fidgeted a bit. "We found him right after the final battle."

"What?" Harry jumped to his feet in outrage. Behind him, something shattered. "It's been months! Why didn't you tell me sooner? Why keep it secret for so bloody long?"

McGonagall gave him a stern look. "Language, Potter. Sit down and control yourself."

Harry glowered at her. She glowered back.

Only when Harry did as told, she continued, "When we found him, we didn't know what to do. Mr. Potter - Harry, you should understand that the timing was ...unfortunate. Everyone was celebrating the end of the war, and if we... I could not take it away from them. Not after so many losses."

Harry looked down, biting his lip.

Andromeda, sobbing over her daughter's body; Mrs. Weasley's empty eyes as she clutched Fred, and Arthur trying to comfort her that he died a hero; Colin Creevey's mother crying hysterically that he was just a boy, her little boy

Harry swallowed and nodded curtly, and she continued. "Hagrid and I were the ones who found him, and incidentally, we were one of the few people who knew Tom Riddle in his youth and could recognize him." She looked away, pursing his lips. "Rubeus wanted to kill him, but I couldn't let him do it. He's just a child, Harry. He's not He."

"He is," Harry hissed out, jumping to his feet again and starting to pace the room. "He's not just a child—never has been. You don't know what he's capable of, professor! He's cruel, and nasty—and—he's a murderer already! He killed Myrtle when he was bloody sixteen! He nearly killed Ginny when he was just a diary! How can you say that he's just a child? He isn't!"

"Mr. Potter," McGonagall said, unimpressed with his outburst. "I'm fully aware of those facts, but we're not killers."

Harry snorted.

"Killing in the heat of a battle, and killing in cold blood are different matters entirely, Harry," she said, looking disappointed in him. "Surely you are not suggesting me to kill a defenceless sixteen-year-old boy, who's forced to deal with suddenly ending up fifty years in the future, in a world where his death is celebrated on national level?"

Harry grimaced and chose not to comment on the "defenceless boy" part.

"So what are you going to do with him? I can guess you didn't give him to the Aurors."

"No, I didn't, and I don't intend to," McGonagall said before pausing. "He's going to attend Hogwarts."

For a moment, Harry could only gape at her. "Are you out of your mind?"

McGonagall gave him a stern glare. "Mr. Potter, you may be the Saviour of the Wizarding World, but here in Hogwarts, you're just a student and I'm your Headmistress. If you continue to use such a disrespectful tone, you will be in detention for the entire term. Is that understood?"

Harry opened his mouth, but closed it when McGonagall have him a hard, warning look.

Harry's jaw tightened. He sighed. "Yes, Professor. Sorry."

McGonagall's expression softened.

"Harry," she said, her voice softening as well. "I understand how hard it must be for you. I understand that you were looking forward to finally having a life free of him. I wish I didn't have to make you deal with any version of Tom Riddle ever again, but we have no choice. He can't go to Azkaban. Even if I wished to, punishing him for Myrtle's death is not possible, as we cannot prove it without telling everyone about the Diary Riddle's confession to you. And you very well know that we cannot do it."

Harry nodded, albeit reluctantly. Telling the general public about horcruxes was out of question. The details of Voldemort's defeat had been glossed over to omit any mention of the horcruxes and the Hallows, and it had been done for a reason: it was too dangerous. Harry didn't want anyone to find out he was the master of the Elder Wand, and no one wanted Dark wizards to learn about horcruxes.

"I see you understand," McGonagall said. "While it's not possible to hand him to the authorities, I'm fully aware what he's capable of. We need to keep an eye on him. Therefore he's attending Hogwarts."

"How are you even going to pull it off?" Harry grumbled. "People are going to freak out when they see him."

"You're forgetting that most people don't even know Voldemort's real name. Even those who used to know Tom Riddle back in his school days, hardly connect him to the Dark Lord. No one knew of his origins, not even his followers. Those few who knew belonged to his first Inner Circle, but all of them are long dead." A flicker of amusement crossed her face. "Who would connect a charming teenage boy to that reptile-like creature?"

Harry snorted. "So what, did you forge his documents or something?"

For the first time that day, McGonagall looked truly uncomfortable. "Indeed. Everyone would know him as Tom Vergne, a sixth-year transfer student from a small wizarding school in Wales. The headmaster of the school is my old friend, and Kingsley was kind enough to provide me with all necessary documents."

Harry's jaw dropped. "Shacklebolt agreed to forge his ID? Blimey, he's the Minister of Magic!"

If possible, McGonagall looked even more uncomfortable. "He doesn't know the truth. I told him the boy was my distant relative, whose parents were killed in the war and whose documents were lost. Kingsley had no reason to distrust me, and, as the Minister, he had too many matters to worry about to check the boy's background."

"Looks like you have everything covered," Harry muttered with a scowl. "Where's he now?"

"Mr. Riddle, or rather, Mr. Vergne, is here, in the castle."

Harry went still. "Here?" he repeated, his heart speeding up.

She raised an eyebrow. "He has nowhere else to be."

"I want to see him."

McGonagall frowned, eyeing him warily. "I do not think it is wise, Potter."

"With all due respect, professor, I'm doing it anyway," Harry said, turning to leave.


"I won't kill him, don't worry," he threw over his shoulder.

Her voice stopped him when he almost reached the door. "Mr. Potter, this information must stay between us. Of course, Ms. Weasley is going to be informed as well, but other than that, the less people know, the better."

"Of course, professor," Harry said, not without sarcasm. "I understand completely. For the Greater Good and all that."

He left, wondering if the tendency to keep things from him was inherited with the position of Headmaster of Hogwarts. At least she deigned to tell him in three days' advance.

As soon as he was out of her office, he pulled out the Marauder's map.

"I solemnly swear that I'm up to no good," he whispered, his heart pounding against his ribs.

Hogwarts was empty but for a few professors here and there, since the reparations were finally finished a few days ago.

His heart skipped a beat when his eyes zeroed on the dot by the lake.

Tom Riddle.

He stared at the dot, feeling like he couldn't breathe. It was real. It really was happening.

Slowly, he closed the map and headed towards the exit of the castle.

Once outside, he quickened his steps, irrationally feeling like he needed to hurry.

For all intents and purposes, he's sixteen, Mr. Potter. He doesn't remember anything beyond his fifth year. He's just a boy. A confused, innocent boy.

Harry snorted, recalling McGonagall's words. If Riddle was innocent, he would eat his wand.

Halfway to the lake, he sensed it: magic. It was almost calling to him. He stopped, bewildered and out of breath. He couldn't remember ever sensing Voldemort's magic so clearly from such a big distance, and yet, yet... It was weirdly, achingly familiar, and he felt his own magic flare up in response.

Shaking the strange feeling off, Harry resumed walking.

He came to an abrupt halt again upon seeing a dark-haired boy sitting under an oak, seemingly engrossed in a big book. It was Twenty Greatest Wizards and Witches of the Twentieth Century. Harry knew the book; it came out just a month ago. Hermione had been very proud that he was named the very greatest, but Harry didn't feel particularly flattered and honoured, no matter what she had said, especially considering the fact that they named the murderer of his parents the second greatest wizard.

Adjusting his wand in his hand, Harry headed to him. When he was a few feet away, Riddle finally lifted his head.

It was like a physical blow to his chest.

Riddle looked exactly the same as he remembered: handsome, aristocratic features, slightly wavy black hair, pale skin, lips that looked almost red in contrast, and dark eyes that burned with odd intensity.

Harry wet his lips, his pulse thundering and palms suddenly sweaty.

Riddle's eyes narrowed slightly. Then, he smiled. The smile didn't reach his eyes. "Harry Potter, I presume?"

"Riddle," he heard himself say, voice empty and flat. "You should be dead."

Riddle laughed, the sound so normal and human that it threw Harry off. "I'm sorry to disappoint you, Harry. Can I call you Harry? After all, it's not every day you meet your murderer-" With a mock-gasp, he brought a finger to his lips. "Oh, wait. I'm alive. "

"Ha bloody ha." Harry said coldly, tightening his fingers around his wand. Merlin, he was itching to hex the bastard. "We can always rectify that."

All trace of mirth left Riddle's face so suddenly that it looked unnatural. He sneered slightly, getting to his feet, so that they were face to face now. "Can you? I see you are very sure of yourself, Harry Potter."

Memory was a funny thing. Harry remembered Riddle as being very tall and physically intimidating, but they were actually exactly the same height now. It made sense; of course Riddle would seem impossibly tall and imposing to a scrawny twelve-year-old, and Voldemort's tall, skeletal body was hardly his original one. Not to mention that Harry himself was no longer the midget he had used to be.

"Listen to me," Harry said flatly, bringing his wand to Riddle's pale throat and pushing. "I'll do as McGonagall wants and will say nothing about you to anyone, but if you're up to something - or I think you're up to something - I'll kill you. Simple as that."

They looked into each other's eyes in silence, Riddle's gaze coldly calculating, Harry's, deadly serious.

Finally, Riddle inclined his head slightly. "I believe you. I believe that you will try."

Harry pushed the wand harder into Riddle's skin, acutely aware that Riddle couldn't retaliate because he was underage. But instead of making him ashamed, the knowledge made him feel good, almost drunk with power. He could do anything to him. "There will be no trying, Riddle," he said. "I survived all encounters with you when I was a child, and I killed a more experienced and knowledgeable version of you with a bloody Expelliarmus. Don't you think I'm quite capable of killing a teenager?"

If he wasn't looking into Riddle's eyes, he would have missed it when they flashed with rage. "And yet I'm here, Harry Potter." He leaned closer and whispered almost against Harry's face, "I guess you weren't good enough. You failed, Harry. So many died because you weren't good enough, fast enough-"

Harry grabbed him by his throat and snarled, "You remember everything, aren't you? I knew it! I knew you fooled McGonagall that you have no memories. Answer me, damn it!"

The bastard smiled. "Aw, Harry. So naive. Are you really so stupid to think that I would admit it? Even if it were true?" And Riddle had the nerve to pat his cheek, as though Harry was a cute but very dumb kitten.

Harry shoved him away in disgust. "Remember, I'll be watching you. One wrong move, and you're dead." Recalling McGonagall's earlier words, he smiled coldly. "I'm the bloody Saviour, after all. I can do no wrong, and the death of some orphan of dubious origins can be easily explained and dismissed."

A strangest expression crossed Riddle's face. He looked almost intrigued. "Interesting. You have potential, Harry Potter."

Harry's stomach churned. He couldn't help but remember the Diary Riddle's words. "I'm not like you. We're nothing alike."

Riddle cocked his head, regarding him with an inscrutable expression. "Did I say that you were, Harry?"

"Stop calling me that," Harry said, his face heating up. The way Riddle said his name... there was something about it that made him uneasy.

Riddle smirked. "Why ever not? Is it not your name? Harry."

Scowling, Harry strode away before he could give in to the urge to kill him.

It can't be happening. It can't be happening to me, he kept thinking angrily as he walked briskly towards the boundaries of Hogwarts' wards to apparate away.

He needed a plan.

First things first, he had to find Hermione and Ron and tell them everything. Together, they would figure it out, or at least decide what to do.

Decision made, Harry apparated to the Burrow.

He took a few deep breaths to calm himself - it wouldn't do to destroy yet another room - before entering the house.

The house was quiet, as it had always been ever since Fred had died and George moved out. As usual, the silence unnerved him, making him walk quieter.

Harry reached Ron's room and was about to open the door when he heard his own name.

He went still.

"...about Harry. Ron, I'm worried." Despite being muffled by the door, he could clearly hear that Hermione's voice was trembling.

"Come on, love, don't be ridiculous! It's Harry. Just Harry."

"I know, but- Haven't you noticed anything, Ron? The way he behaves sometimes? The look in his eyes when he gets angry? It scares me. We had an argument the other day and he threw a vase at my head!"

"Come on, Hermione, it was an accident! Just his magic acting up, is all. He didn't mean it."

"Exactly, Ron. Harry would never hurt me intentionally! Haven't you noticed that he can barely control his magic these days?"

"Well, yeah. I think. And he's more moody than usual. But aren't we all?"

Hermione sighed. "I don't know, Ron. I tried talking to him, to make him open up, but he... You know how he is: he says that he's fine and walks away. I feel like he's not telling us the whole truth. Something's going on with him. Something bad."

"What do you mean?"

"I know it may sound crazy...but I think he's not coping well with Voldemort's death."

Ron laughed. Harry wanted to join him. Was Hermione mad?

"It's not that funny, Ronald. Just think about it: so far, Harry's entire life revolved around Voldemort- hell, he had his soul in him practically his entire life! Now he's gone, and Harry's depressed because he's left without purpose in his life."

What a load of bullshit, Harry thought angrily. He wasn't depressed. And he sure as hell didn't miss Voldemort.

"I guess it makes sense," Ron said thoughtfully. "In a twisted sort of way."

Harry couldn't believe them.

"But what can we do about it, Hermione?"

She sighed heavily. "I don't know. I don't know how to help him when he doesn't want help. But one thing I'm sure about is that we shouldn't tell him about our plans yet. Not now. If he finds out that we want to live together after Hogwarts, without him, he'll feel betrayed. It's better to wait until he's less depressed and angry."

"Yeah, I think you're right, love. He won't understand." There was the sound of kissing.

Harry turned around and walked away.

Ginny. He needed Ginny.

"What did McGonagall want?" Ginny asked breathlessly between his kisses.

"Nothing," Harry murmured, sliding his hand under her shirt and closing his palm around her full breast. He squeezed. "'Want you. Let's go to your room."

"Harry!" Ginny said, flushing and pushing him away. "Come on, we talked about it. You know I want to wait until marriage."

"Fine," Harry snapped and stormed out of the room.

He leaned against the wall outside the Burrow and closed his eyes.


What was happening to him?

He knew he was acting like a git. He knew he should respect Ginny's wishes, and most of the time, he really did. It was just... Yes, Harry was eighteen, and his body had needs, but it wasn't even that. He needed- an outlet. Lately it felt like a good orgasm was the only way to deal with his temper, the only way to somewhat control his violent magic. His magic thrummed under his skin, wanting out, wanting to be used, just wanting, and the more pissed off he got, the harder it was to push it back under his skin. After his earlier encounter with Riddle, after Hermione and Ron's lies, it was particularly difficult, nearly impossible. And a part of him... A part of him didn't want to put his magic away, loving the rush he got, the sense of...power.

And it scared him.

Hermione was right about one thing: he'd been Voldemort's horcrux almost his entire life.

Harry couldn't help but wonder if Voldemort's soul had tainted him irrevocably.


September the 1st was a rainy, cloudy day.

It suited Harry's mood perfectly.

He spent the entire train ride avoiding Ginny and arguing with Ron and Hermione. Ginny was upset that he hadn't told her about Riddle and that she'd had to find out from McGonagall. Hermione was angry with him for holing up at Grimmauld Place for days and ignoring her owls, and Ron was angry because Hermione was angry. Nothing surprising there: ever since they got together, Ron always sided with her.

Even before overhearing their conversation, sometimes (all right, more often than sometimes) Harry felt like Hermione and Ron had moved on with their lives, leaving him behind. He knew he should be happy for his friends, and he was. Sort of. It was just… It was hard to deal with the fact that they had stopped being Harry, Ron, and Hermione and became Harry and RonandHermione. He always thought of them as family, his real family, but lately, it was glaringly obvious that they didn't think the same. Now, Hermione and Ron had their own secrets and inside jokes he didn't understand, and more and more often, he felt like the third wheel, like an outsider, looking into a life that was never his own. Soon enough, he would be literally an outsider when Ron and Hermione moved in together.

Yes, it was petty of him not to tell them about Riddle; he didn't care if it was petty. They discussed him behind his back and had secrets from him; Harry had the right to have one bloody secret from them.

Besides, Hermione's words that he didn't talk to them weren't true. He didn't exactly have the opportunity to do so when they were so caught up in each other. How many times had Ron dragged Hermione upstairs with a shout, Not now, mate, leaving Harry standing in the Weasleys' living room, the silence only occasionally broken by Molly's muffled sobs coming from the kitchen that everyone pretended not to hear? Too many.

They won the war; that was the important thing, right?


"Hi, Harry," said Luna, interrupting his musings, her voice as dreamy as usual as she clutched a giant book to her chest. "Are you excited to return to Hogwarts, too?"

Her book was upside down. Harry couldn't help but smile at her. He guessed some things never changed, no matter the war. It was a comforting thought. "Hi, Luna. Yeah, I'm pretty excited."

"You're lying," Luna said with a serene smile. "But I don't mind."


Luna had been right. He really wasn't excited to be returning to Hogwarts. Harry's prevailing emotion was one of trepidation, followed by anger and frustration.

The fact that everyone was gawking at him, pointing and whispering wasn't improving his mood any.

It only got worse when he got to the Great Hall. Harry scowled, sticking close to Neville, and sat down next to him.

He looked around the Hall, trying and failing to ignore the empty seats and missing students.

"Are you looking for someone, mate?" Neville asked, and Harry shifted his eyes back to him.

"No," he said curtly.

He managed to concentrate on McGonagall's welcoming speech for all of two seconds before returning to scanning the crowd. It wasn't like he hadn't heard a variation of her speech dozens of times this summer at various Ministry events he was forced to attend. He didn't want to hear again about all the losses, his supposed heroism and how the Wizarding World was eternally indebted to him and proud.

He could feel him – his magic – in the room but couldn't see him anywhere.

"... a transfer student this year."

Harry's gaze snapped back to McGonagall, then to the tall boy standing by the sorting hat.

"Please welcome Mr. Vergne to Hogwarts," McGonagall said primly. "He will join sixth-year students after the sorting. Filius, if you wouldn't mind?"

Professor Flitwick nodded eagerly and handed the Sorting Hat to Riddle. Harry watched as Riddle sat on the stool and placed the hat on his ebony locks. It didn't surprise him in the least when the Hat shouted "Slytherin!" immediately.

Harry followed Riddle with his eyes as the boy walked to the Slytherin table.

"My, he's so dreamy," Lavender said from Harry's right. "And he looks older than sixteen."

Parvati giggled and whispered something in her ear.

Harry looked to where Ron, Hermione and Ginny were sitting. Ginny looked very pale and anxious. Hermione and Ron were discussing something heatedly (Probably me, Harry thought darkly) and didn't seem to be paying Riddle any attention; it didn't look like Ginny had told them.

Harry looked back to Riddle. The other boy was talking pleasantly with his new housemates, a reserved but confident smirk on his lips. Slytherins were watching their new housemate with interest – but with no more interest than any new student would normally receive.

They had no idea. They had no idea who was sitting among them.

After watching them for a while, Harry had to concede that Riddle was a natural leader. Even though he didn't seem to be trying at all, he had the confident, superior air about him that seemed to affect everyone. Before Riddle joined the table, other Slytherins had been subdued and anxious—nothing surprising there, considering that most of their parents were either dead or in Azkaban—but with Riddle's presence, Slytherins seemed to be reverting to their old selves right in front of Harry's eyes: heads lifting, shoulders squaring, expressions turning confident and arrogant.

By the end of the hour, Riddle had every Slytherin around him hanging on his every word.

It made Harry anxious.

He couldn't help but think that Voldemort could have been truly great. If he had been saner, if he were smarter, he could have become anything, even the Minister of Magic.

The thought made him shudder.

"I would like to make a few announcements," McGonagall said as the feast neared the end, making Harry to tear his gaze from the Slytherin table.

The Great Hall hushed as the students turned to look at their Headmistress.

"As you couldn't possibly fail to notice, we have a large group of returning seventh years who, for various reasons, either did not attend Hogwarts last year or did not get satisfactory NEWTs due to...poor quality of education received here." McGonagall looked almost pained as she admitted it. "The Ministry of Magic and the Hogwarts Board of Governors have decided to make a special exception for those students and they were allowed to retake their final year. However, most of the seventh years' rooms could not accommodate the extra students, and we were unable to persuade the castle that we needed additional rooms for 'eighth years,' as it is highly irregular. The magic of House dormitories is as old as the Sorting Hat and can be...stubborn and unpredictable." She looked slightly pained again. "As you are probably aware, the castle's repairs were finished only a few days ago, so we had neither the time nor resources to create a new, separate dormitory."

Harry frowned.

"Therefore," McGonagall continued. "We had no choice but place all returning students in the only House that had extra rooms."

Harry looked at the Slytherin table, which had more empty seats than the other tables put together. Did she really...?

She did.

"Due to various reasons, twenty-one Slytherins did not return to continue their education at Hogwarts." Her lips pursed, her face grim. "Therefore, the 'eighth years' would be placed within Slytherin House."

"No," McGonagall said when some of the eighth years started protesting loudly. "It doesn't mean your Houses have been changed to Slytherin. The arrangement concerns only your dormitories. You may choose to sit at the Slytherin table, but it is not required, and any earned points would still go to your respective Houses. The Slytherin prefects would show you the way after the feast." She sat down.

A murmur ran among students. Non-Slytherin eighth years didn't look happy. Most of Slytherins looked pissed off.

"Oh great, mate," Neville said with a groan. "They're throwing us into the snakes' den."

Harry looked back to the Slytherin table and shrugged.

It definitely made keeping an eye on Riddle easier.


"The password is 'Scorpio,'" said the seventh-year Slytherin prefect. Harry thought her name was Amanda, but he wasn't sure. She certainly hadn't even attempted to introduce herself and made it clear that they were unwanted in Slytherin House.

The stone door concealed in the wall slid open and they—all twenty-seven of them—followed her inside.

The common room looked exactly like Harry remembered it from his second year: a huge, low room with rough stone walls and ceiling from which round, greenish lamps were hanging on chains. A fire was crackling merrily in the fireplace, making the room surprisingly comfortable and warm despite the dark furniture. Green and silver curtains draped the underwater windows.

It all looked expensive and elegant. And yeah, there were snakes everywhere.

The common room was mostly deserted but for the first years, who were receiving a welcoming speech from Slughorn.

"Girls will follow me," Amanda said coldly and disappeared into one of the many dark corridors. Hermione glanced back at Ron and Harry before following the other girls.

The male prefect, who had been silent up until this point, turned to them. He was a handsome bloke, tall and solidly built, with brown hair and a smiling mouth that looked at odds with the hardness of his cobalt blue eyes.

"My name is Sebastian Rosier. I'm a Senior Slytherin prefect. You will follow my instructions. I don't care if some of you fancy yourselves as heroes and think you are above the 'filthy house of snakes.' Most of you aren't Slytherins, so let's make it perfectly clear for once and all: while you're in Slytherin territory, you adhere by our rules. The rules are as follows: you won't bother Slytherins and you will keep to your rooms and avoid the common room as much as possible. And if you tell our password to anyone, you will wish the Dark Lord was alive. Any questions?" He smiled at them pleasantly, flashing white teeth.

Harry and Neville looked at each other.

"Good. Follow me, then," Sebastian said, heading to one of the dark corridors.

They followed.

"Why is it so bloody dark here?" Seamus complained, stumbling once again. "Lumos!" The corridor remained dark. "What the hell?"

"It's just a clever illusion. The charm was created by Salazar Slytherin himself," Rosier replied. "He didn't want non-Slytherins sneaking around his house. To all Slytherins, the corridors look perfectly lit."

"Bloody great," Ron grumbled. "And how are we supposed to find our rooms without breaking our necks?"

"You'll manage," Rosier said with laughter in his voice. "McGonagall put you all nearby the common room, so finding your rooms won't be hard once you remember the location. Besides, there are a few Slytherins among you; they can help you...if they choose. Other years' rooms are located deeper into the dungeons. Stay away from them, or else you might get accidentally lost." He sounded more amused than threatening.

Rosier opened a door. "Boot, Goldstein, Corner, Cornfoot. Your room." The Ravenclaws went in, and Rosier resumed walking. About twenty feet later, he stopped again and opened another door. "Smith, Finch-Fletchley, Macmillan, Longbottom."

Rosier walked down the corridor and opened yet another door.

"Zabini, Goyle, Nott, Finnigan."

"That can't be right," Malfoy said tersely. "I should be roomed with the other Slytherins!"

"Yeah, let's trade, Malfoy," Seamus said quickly.

"No one will trade anything," Rosier said, his voice losing all trace of amusement. Now it sounded dark and malicious. "The matter isn't up for discussion. Blood traitors don't belong with Slytherins, Malfoy."

"I'm not a blood traitor!" Malfoy's voice was shaking with rage.

"Tell that to your mummy," Rosier said with a sneer in his voice. "As far as we're concerned, you aren't a Slytherin anymore."

"You—you fucking— I'll—"

"What? What will you do, Princess? Daddy isn't there anymore to help you. Daddy is too busy being under a house arrest, isn't he? How the mighty have fallen."

"That's enough, Rosier," Harry said, his voice hard. "Or should I tell McGonagall that her Senior Slytherin prefect is a bully?"

"Saved by your Hero again, Malfoy?"

"Shut up, Potter," Malfoy snapped. "I don't need your help!"

"You never do, you ungrateful prat," Ron muttered.

"Oh for fuck's sake," Seamus said and stomped into the room, following the Slytherins in. Harry grimaced. He didn't envy him.

Rosier stepped to the opposite wall and opened another door. "Malfoy, Potter, Weasley and Thomas. Your room. That's it. If you have any problems...well, figure it on your own. Don't come to me unless someone's dying."

"Charming fellow," Dean said when Rosier shut the door behind him.

"How dare he to talk to me like that!" Malfoy hissed out, red in the face. "I'm a Malfoy, I'm older than him, and I should have been the Senior Prefect, not him! Rosier was a nobody when I was Slytherin King!"

"Calm down, Malfoy," Harry said, looking around the room with interest.

It was...nice. The four-poster beds had dark green curtains and covers, and a thick carpet of the same colour covered the floor. The walls were painted a light grey and had beautiful paintings of what he guessed was the Forbidden Forest. A single window took almost the entire wall, a thick glass separating them from the Black Lake.

The green light from the window fell in rippling waves on them.

"Wow," Ron said.

"My thoughts exactly, mate," Dean said, whistling.

Malfoy scoffed. "My old room was miles better." He looked around. "But I suppose it's not that bad. There are no bad accommodations in Slytherin House. We have standards, after all."

Harry thought of another Slytherin, who had to be somewhere nearby.

His stomach clenched.


The advantage of living in the same House as Riddle didn't turn out to be such a big advantage as Harry had initially thought.

For one thing, he'd barely seen Riddle in Slytherin dungeons. Nothing surprising there, considering that non-Slytherin eighth years weren't welcomed in the common room—to put it lightly—and Harry had no idea where Riddle's room was. He'd tried to follow him a few times under his cloak but quickly lost him in the dark corridors, and the Map was completely useless, since the Marauders hadn't put Slytherin dormitories on the map. Yes, he could perfectly see Riddle's dot somewhere in the middle of the territory marked by the Marauders as Slytherin dorm, but actually finding him in a maze of dark corridors was bloody impossible. Stupid Salazar Slytherin and his stupid charm.

By the end of the week, Harry was more than a little frustrated.

And the worst thing was, he didn't even have anyone to talk to. Ginny was the only one who knew, but she disliked talking about Riddle, preferring to pretend that he didn't exist.

"...arry! Harry! Stop staring at him," Ginny hissed out.

Harry looked away from the Slytherin table. "I'm not staring, Ginny. I'm keeping an eye on him. Someone has to. Constant vigilance, remember?"

She pursed her lips. "You have a problem, Harry. It's called paranoia."

Harry laughed harshly. "Yeah, you're right. I'm sorry for being paranoid about the bloke who killed my family, a bunch of my friends and terrorized the wizarding world for decades. How stupid of me, Gin, huh?"

"Don't take this tone with me, Harry Potter," Ginny said, flushing with anger. Her voice cracked as she continued, "You're not the only one who lost someone in the war."

Harry didn't know what to say to that. She was right. Of course she was right.

Ginny sighed. "Harry, I know better than anyone how you feel, but you do realize that he's not the same person, right? I'm not saying that he's an angel or anything." She snorted. "Actually, I don't doubt that he's probably planning world domination all over again, but right now, he's just a teenager! He's even younger than us. There isn't much that he can do. His old Slytherin gang is dead. His basilisk is dead. Who of the remaining Death Eaters would follow a cute sixteen-year-old boy?"

"Cute? Bloody hell, he's not cute, Ginny!" Harry scowled. "Kittens and crups are cute. Riddle is..." Not entirely out of his will, his gaze returned to the Slytherin table. "He's evil," he finished.

"I don't understand you, Harry!" Ginny said angrily. "Why don't you take the chance to live? I don't know about you, but I'm bloody tired of war, of constant paranoia and... thinking about the dead. I want to be carefree, want to finish school, and think of the future. Is this too much to ask?"

Harry nursed his pumpkin juice, wishing for something stronger. "I'm sorry, Ginny, but I can't. I can't, not with him here. I don't trust him. I know he's up to no good."

She sighed heavily.

"I was right about Malfoy, wasn't I?" Harry said into his juice.

"Yeah, you were," Ginny conceded and finally changed the subject. "So what is it like to live in Slytherin House? Ron said you share a room with Malfoy."

Harry shrugged. "He's not as bad as he used to be." He chuckled. "Well, he's still annoying, arrogant and spoiled, but I'm not the main object of his insults, so I don't mind him that much, I guess."

Ginny looked at him curiously. "Really? Then who is?"

"Rosier." Harry motioned with his head towards Sebastian, who was sitting at the head of the Slytherin table. His eyes drifted to Riddle, who was seated to Rosier's right, looking cold, confident and untouchable.

Despite Rosier being the leader of Slytherin and Riddle being a newbie, it was obvious how much Slytherins already deferred to Riddle, their faces full of respect, admiration and fascination when they looked at him. Riddle was the only sixth year seated at the head of the table with the seventh years, and Nott was the only eighth year. Zabini and Goyle usually kept to themselves; as far as Harry could tell, they weren't shunned, but neither were they respected. And Malfoy... Malfoy sat at the other end of the table with first years. Harry would have felt sorry for him if Malfoy still wasn't the same arrogant, spiteful little bastard.

"Rosier?" Ginny repeated, looking at the prefect as he stood up.

Harry nodded. "Not that I blame Malfoy. Rosier is a prick to him. I don't know what his problem is, really. Normally, he's on okay bloke – for a Slytherin. Got a decent sense of humour. But when it comes to Malfoy, he acts like a git."

"Hmm, makes sense. Malfoy used to snub him, treat him like dirt under his feet. The Rosiers are an old pureblood family, but they're poor." She scoffed. "And well, you know Malfoy. He used to treat him even worse than Ron and me. But in his fifth year, Rosier started gaining some power in Slytherin – and Malfoy was too distracted by Voldemort's task to do anything about it. And, little by little, Rosier took away almost all power from him, though Malfoy still wasn't as shunned as he is now." Ginny snorted. "Can't say I feel sorry for Malfoy. It's nothing he didn't deserve. It's ironic that now Slytherins call him a blood traitor – the same thing he called us. And no wonder, after you testified on his behalf that he refused to identify you at Malfoy Manor. Good thing he's finally gotten over his silly crush on you or he would've—"

Harry choked on his juice and started coughing. "What?"

Ginny rolled her eyes. "Honestly, Harry, don't tell me you didn't know. It was obvious he had a giant crush on you since you were twelve."

Running a hand throw his hair, Harry shook his head. "I had no idea. That's just...too weird, Gin."

She frowned. "I never thought you were a homophobe. Charlie's gay too. There's nothing wrong with liking blokes!"

"I'm not a homophobe!" Harry shouted—too loudly.

All conversations stopped. Heads turned his way. Harry flushed.

"Ten points from Gryffindor for disrupting other people's meal, Potter," Rosier's voice announced from behind him.

With a sinking feeling in his stomach, Harry turned around. Riddle and a few other Slytherins stood next to Sebastian, probably on their way to the exit.

"Go bother someone else, Rosier," Harry said, eyes on Riddle.

"Another ten for being rude to a prefect," Rosier drawled lazily before heading to the door.

"Never took you for a mindless minion," Harry said when Riddle turned to follow the other Slytherins.

Riddle stopped. He studied Harry strangely. "Do we know each other?" he said innocently before his gaze shifted to Ginny.

Harry felt Ginny stiffen beside him, her whole body radiating tension. She grabbed Harry's hand and squeezed it. Her hand was clammy.

"Ginevra Weasley, I presume," Riddle said, glancing at their clasped hands. "Charmed." His tone was anything but.

Ginny was pale. "Go away."

Riddle shook his head. "Tut, tut. How rude, Ginevra. But very well."

With a last look at Harry, he walked away towards his 'friends.'

"Merlin," Ginny whispered, squeezing Harry's hand. "He looks exactly like..."

"I know," Harry said curtly.

Ginny cleared her throat.

"Rosier took points from you for nothing. Do Slytherins bother you often? What is it like to live with them?" Her voice sounded forced.

"Like living with venomous snakes that are itching to bite you."

"That bad?" she said sympathetically.

"You have no idea. They hate us, Gin." Harry chuckled. "Me especially."

"Well, it's...kind of understandable."

"I didn't put their relatives in Azkaban nor did I kill them."

Ginny made a face. "Yes, but you did kill their leader, winning the war for the Light. That's enough for them."

Harry snorted. "They have their precious Dark Lord among them. They just don't know it yet."

Ginny let out an irritated sigh. "I changed the subject because I'm tired of talking about Riddle! Can't you get a clue?" Huffing, she stormed away.

Harry swore under his breath.


"Tom Vergne is such a sweetheart, isn't he?"

Harry lifted his eyes from his essay and looked at the sixth-year Gryffindor girls sitting at the desk by the window. He didn't know them well, but he thought their names were Emma and Megan. The girls weren't speaking loud, but the library was so quiet that their voices reached him easily.

"Yeah, for a Slytherin, he's an angel," said Megan with a soft smile. "He helped me with my Ancient Runes homework and adamantly refused any payment. And you know he can't really afford refusing money. He's an orphan, after all."

Emma sighed. "Poor thing. I can't imagine how awful it must be to be completely alone in the world. It's obvious that speaking of his parents' death still hurts him a lot."

For the next five minutes, Harry listened in disbelief as they discussed the tragic life of Saint Tom before he'd finally had enough and left the library. Merlin, he was so sick of it.

Using the Map, he located Riddle and caught up with him on his way to the dungeons.

"A word," he growled, grabbing Riddle's arm and forcing him to stop. It was sickening how other Slytherins stiffened and stopped as well, looking at Riddle for instructions, like loyal dogs. Poor Rosier. He didn't stand a chance. Riddle already had them all wrapped around his finger; they just didn't know it yet.

"I beg your pardon," Riddle said, narrowing his eyes dangerously.

"I said I want a word," Harry gritted out and practically dragged him to the nearest empty classroom and slammed the door shut.

Riddle glanced down at Harry's hand around his bicep. He raised an eyebrow. "Handsy much, darling?"

Harry's face heated up. "Don't call me that."

Riddle smiled. "As you wish, Harry."

Harry shoved him against the wall and pinned him there with his arms on either side of his head. "Don't play this game with me, Riddle," he hissed into the other boy's face, heart pounding with adrenaline. "You might've fooled everyone else with your pretty face, sweet words, and tragic past, but not me. I know you. So stop fucking playing. I'm sick of it."

Riddle leaned to his ear. "Wouldn't dream of it."

Harry shivered and jerked back a little.

He stared at Riddle, breathing hard. Merlin, how he wanted to land a good punch on that face. "How did you do it?" he said with frustration.

Riddle lifted an eyebrow again. "Pardon?"

"How did you do it?" Harry gestured to Riddle's sixteen-year-old body. "It should be fucking impossible. You should be dead! I saw you die."

"How would I know?" Riddle said, giving him such a charming, innocent smile that Harry almost forgot that it was just a mask. Almost. "I'm just a teenager, remember? Surely you don't hold me responsible for the crimes I didn't commit?"

Harry narrowed his eyes. "I'm not so sure about it, Riddle. I find it hard to believe that Voldemort would see any advantage in being a sixteen-year-old without all his previous knowledge and memories. He was crazy, but he wasn't an idiot."

Riddle leaned in. "I'm flattered, darling," he said, his breath brushing Harry's cheek. "But I'd have to disappoint you. Now, if you're quite done manhandling me and generally wasting my time, I have a class to attend."

Harry, only now realizing that he still had Riddle pressed against the wall, stepped back quickly.

Riddle smoothed down his robes and looked back at him. The sweet, charming mask was gone. Now, Riddle's eyes held so much malice and cruelty that Harry nearly flinched. "And if you dare to publicly manhandle me again, you will wish I Crucio'd you." And he left.

Harry punched the wall in frustration.

The window behind him shattered with a loud, startling noise.