Harry coughed harshly feeling smoke being forcefully expelled from his mouth; it was black and curled around his face burning his already dry eyes. Being the Master of Death didn't make your body immortal; it didn't make you particularly powerful or give you a great insight into how the world works. Being the Master of Death was a curse, plain and simple. That had been death's intention when he 'gifted' his trinkets to the brothers three. Because to be a master of something so far out of the realms of the physical did things to your very soul that you wish desperately to cleanse.
The first time Harry had been reincarnated he hadn't been sure what had happened, he had been confused and had been frantic. That had cost him since he spent most of that life in a loony bin questioning whether everything he had ever known been real. The time after that he had been able to get his bearings faster, it had helped he had woken as a baby as opposed to the teenager of the last time. It had taken him more then a few lifetimes to figure out what exactly had happened, and what was happening to him.
Being the Master of Death meant a lot of things but it didn't protect you from dying when your body gave out or was killed. No, being the Master just meant that you got recycled into a new freshly dead body with all your memories but none of the bodies. Harry had woken up in what was once a stillborn body a few times, had been girls a few times, boys a few times, and occasionally a grown person. His features changed, his gender changed, his nationality, the time changed, but one thing stayed the same. His eyes always remained his startling green color even if the body's original eye color had been different. Harry had a few theories on that but in the grand scheme of things his eye color mattered very little.
Waking up in a new body is always hard, and depending on how the person died it was sometimes very painful. The surge of power that came from his soul entering the body always manages to fix it to what it was before they passed but Harry still felt every moment of it. As he expelled more smoke Harry tried to force himself to move, to do something but his new body felt tight and unyielding. He heard a faint crackle of skin and knew that this body had most likely been burnt to death. It would take a long time for it to be useable, and Harry wheezed as he tried to ignore the pain.
He only got this regenerative healing session once, when he first enters a body; after that Harry knew he was on his own. He had died of starvation enough to know that it was not pleasant; in fact dying in itself was very unpleasant. When you're dead it's peaceful, but the process of getting there always is uncomfortable. Harry had been hanged, drowned, burned, beheaded, stabbed, and had wasted away from cancer more then once. Starvation was still one of the most unpleasant, but being raped to death as a little girl had been the worst. In fact, once he has awakened his body never lasts very long in the outside world.
Harry had a theory that somehow other people could sense that he wasn't meant to be there, that his life was an abomination that needed to be snuffed out. That he was the freak his relatives of long ago accused him of being. He had experienced enough mothers smothering him with pillows as they cried about him being born dead to know that what he was now a true freak of nature. People could not accept him, no matter his form; they felt uncomfortable or driven to doing horrible things to him.
There wasn't anything Harry could do about it though, only suffer through it and hope to find some happiness in his various lives. The sound of shedding skin crackled loudly in his ear as he got up to look over his new body, he was a girl this time, maybe nine or ten years old. She sighed, as she looked over her body having been both genders enough to just passively accept her new role as a female over a male. Harry coughed again watching as more smoke was expelled and the blackened skin of her body fell off to reveal pink new flesh.
She would need to find some clothes soon, then set out to find out what time, and nation she was currently occupying. She curled her knees up to her chest to rest her chin on them as her body continued to heal painfully. Harry mused that her pain tolerance had reached insane levels and absently tested her new body for magic. She was very relieved to find that she did have magic this time, which was a relief, as it would make things much easier on her. Harry remembered the first time she had been born in a body incapable of magic. It had been horrible feeling her magic and not being able to use it.
Harry had learned a lot about magic through her many lifetimes, and had made some pretty earth shattering discoveries. The most startling had to be that the pure bloods hadn't been entirely wrong in their beliefs and that had taken a long time to swallow. The fact of the matter was that some people were born with the capability of using magic, while others simply could not. This didn't mean that the ones that had a magic capable body always got magic, as Harry had discovered studying squibs. It just meant that their body could handle magic but sometimes they just didn't have any.
It was a mystery Harry had yet to solve but she was patient since she had all the time she would ever need. She giggled a bit eyes slightly widened, yes; Harry had all the time in the world to discover all of this world's secrets. Once her new body was all healed up
Harry would need to get some clothes and go about discovering her new place in the world. This part was always exhausting, finding out the time, where she was, and all while mostly avoiding other people.
Harry waited holding her breath and wished desperately that her body could handle more magic. She had already reached her limit today and Harry didn't fancy the idea of passing out in this dirty alley. The slow clacking of hard shoes on stone got closer, and her ability to hold her breath was quickly running out. It was December 1935, Harry wasn't entirely sure of the date but she did know it was getting close to Christmas.
The weather was freezing, snow was gray slush on the ground and she was starving. Harry had known it wasn't a good idea to come into London, but her magic could only do so much to keep her from freezing to death. She had needed warmer clothes, a small town wouldn't have been an option since her presence would be noticed and London had been her most viable option. It was just her rotten luck that she had been spotted by a bobby in the process of grabbing some food after she had gotten the clothes. He had given chase and her smaller half-starved body wasn't up to the task of outrunning him.
So she had done the Slytherin thing and hid while she had the chance, but this guy was persistent and she needed to breathe. Sucking in air was her undoing in the quite alley and Harry felt a sense of doom when a big rough hand grabbed her shoulders. Harry was only glad that she had the foresight to keep her red hair short, her clothes distinctly masculine and her original name. The police officer was more inclined to just drop her off at an orphanage then deal with the paperwork writing up reports on her thieving.
The fact that he had mistaken her for a boy helped because Harry shuddered to think about his treatment had the bobby known her to be a girl. He was already unnecessarily rough, impatient, and nasty as it was, Harry had lived as a girl enough times to know the dangers of being one. As a pretend boy she had protection, as a girl she was open to a whole new level of horrifying assaults as those willing to do those sorts of things to boys were fewer. Though, that threat was still there even as a boy just less likely.
However, Harry had fully planned on escaping before ever seeing the inside of the orphanage but that all changed when he had dragged her up to the gates of Wool's Orphanage. It seemed so distant now, after all her other horrible suffering filled lives, to think about her very first remembered one as Harry Potter. That life might have been full of strife, full of battles to the death and overbearing manipulators. Her first life might have been very far from perfect but it had been the happiest one there at the end.
The only thing dark had been her early years of Voldemort and the aftermath of their war. She had spent enough time forcing herself to remember that life as something to cling onto that Harry was sure that she would never forget it. Had she come across this orphanage sooner, come across the one that lied within its walls before her other more harsh lives her reaction might have been different. Harry would like to think she would have been angry, vengeful even and would have killed the child that would become Voldemort.
Harry would like to think that but when she thought of Tom Riddle now it was only fondly. Voldemort might have been a source of misery but Harry had suffered enough by the hands of supposedly normal people to get a better understanding on how one became so lost. Harry couldn't make herself think of a child as anything but a victim of a horrible situation that had only grown more lost over countless years of suffering.
Perhaps it was the faint saving people thing stirring up inside of her after all these years of deadened emotion or something. But the thought of reaching out to Tom Riddle, to someone connected to her only happy past (or future) life, was infinitely appealing. So she let the bobby take her in, let Mrs. Cole think she was a rough street rat boy that needed a place to stay and let it all go by without protest. Harry knew what she was doing was foolish, dangerous, and entirely deluded. She knew all that but she couldn't help herself anyway.
Mrs. Cole was a just as she vaguely recalled from Dumbledore's memories, just as severe and just as cold. Mrs. Cole immediately dragged her to the bathrooms and left her there, telling her to scrub thoroughly before leaving to get her the orphanage uniform. Harry was grateful since she didn't really want to explain why she needed to be left to her own devices in the bathroom. She didn't want anyone to know she was a girl yet and preferred it this way.
When Mrs. Cole came back she left her clothes on the floor with a towel and then said she would wait outside for precisely one minute before reentering. Harry was startled to see her come inside with a pair of sharp looking scissors and she couldn't help feeling nervous, as she got closer. Of course Harry knew her hair wasn't exactly pretty looking since she had cut it very roughly herself leaving her hair with uneven choppy mess that fell just short of her shoulders.
Mrs. Cole wasn't having that; she evened out the lines but had no patience to style it into something more fashionable. It came out somewhat girly looking as her hair came to her chin line with sweeping bangs but Harry figured her boy clothes and demeanor would cover for that. Mrs. Cole told her to find a room with the other boys, gave her a spare uniform, and informed Harry what was expected of her. She was to attend school with the other children at St. Mary's, they all attended church on Sunday (no exceptions), chores would be assigned to her each day and her free time was her own. As long as Harry caused no trouble for Mrs. Cole, there would be no beatings but punishments here were very harsh if she felt Harry deserved it.
Harry was starting to have second thoughts about this entire situation; being stuck in a building full of people that could potentially make her life even more hellish was not appealing. There was once a time when she wouldn't have hesitated, when she would have simply marched in there on some scheme to save the future from dealing with a Lord Voldemort. However, that time had long since past and Harry was long since over making defeating Voldemort her obsession in life.
Harry had once thought of time as solid, as always moving onward in one direction with a set path for all the players but she knew better now. Time was more like the wind, changeable and infinite. Time happened all at once and truthfully 'time' was a human concept. Humans made 'time' exist by giving a set of rules to natural occurrences. Harry knew better now than to think anything of what she thought she knew was true.
Mrs. Cole left her by the stairs to go back to her office and her glass of sherry. It was only after she had gone that Harry realized that the cold old woman hadn't even asked for her name. It seemed she hadn't been the only person who thought she would leave given her first chance. However, there was someone here Harry wanted to see…not to change…not to mould…not even to interact with…but just see. Tom Riddle knew nothing of Harry Potter, he was just a child left abandoned in this orphanage, but he was something Harry wanted very badly to see.
It would be like seeing something from her past…or her future. It was something that would prove to her that she had once been more than a half starved girl struggling to stay alive. Once she had been a boy named Harry Potter whose life had been full of purpose, once she had friends and family. Once upon a time her life had been more than an endless haze of suffering.
So with her arms full of her stolen clothing Harry walked down the stair of the orphanage heading towards the sound of children voices. In her pocket was a knife she had nicked, Harry put her hand on it to reassure herself as she got closer to the voices. The knife was her last line of defense, it was something she could use to protect herself or end her suffering. It had been a hard lesson to learn…having something with her always that could serve as a weapon.
The children were playing in a largely empty room and spilling out the door to the back yard. Boys and girls all jumbled together separated by age along with other things. Harry stood in the shadow of the doorway where no one would notice her so she could watch them and get her bearings. The older children didn't join in the with the younger children's chaotic play preferring to settle around the few scant board games and books.
There was one younger child sitting in the corner away from the older children and the younger energetic ones…a child Harry recognized even if he was younger than she had ever seen him. He had the same elegantly curled black hair, the same deeply dark blue eyes that were almost black and the same aristocratically handsome face. Tom Riddle was almost nine, if Harry remembered right, but he didn't behave like any eight nearly nine year old Harry had ever seen.
Tom Riddle just sat, book open in his lap, back to the wall in his shadowed corner and ignored all the activity around him. He didn't even look like he was annoyed with all the noise while he was reading…he looked blank. His face showed nothing, not even anger or disgust at the normal children around him. Harry wasn't sure what she had been expecting, Voldemort mad cackling maybe as he tortured a herd of children, but she was beginning to realize she knew nothing of Tom Riddle.
Oh, she knew some basic facts that probably Tom Riddle didn't even know about himself yet. Harry knew Tom's mother was Merope Gaunt, his father was Tom Riddle Sr., and that his parents' relationship had not been…anything in the loosest sense of the term. Merope had drugged Tom Sr. with a love potion…that certainly didn't make a relationship. Harry knew Tom's past, knew his future should everything happen as it had before, but she didn't know Tom Riddle.
Dumbledore had said Tom had been brilliant, a true genius, and so charming he could talk a poor man out of his last dime. However, Harry didn't know Tom Riddle…not truly…and she very much wanted to know him. He was the flame and she was the moth. Harry knew nothing good could come from interacting with the future murderer of her parents…but she was far from caring. She had been alone so long that anything from her last happy life was too much for her to resist…especially when it was put so temptingly before her.
So Harry threw caution to the wind and walked discreetly into the room. The children paid her no mind too caught up in play to notice her, and the ones that did dismissed her as soon as she walked past them. She was just another orphan in a sea of orphans…nothing that mattered. Harry made it to his corner, grabbed the last free book and sat down a few feet from him. She put her clothes in her lap, one hand was on her knife and the other opened the book.
She didn't have as easy of a time ignoring all the others in the room as carelessly as Tom did. Harry had suffered at the hands of mobs too often to ever feel comfortable in the presence of so many people. She was tense; eyes darted around the room looking for predators and brought out her knife hiding it in the folds of her clothes. The act of freeing her weapon allowed her to relax enough to actually look at the book in her hand because now her weapon was easier to use than if it had remained in her pocket.
The book was a collection a fairy tales, well worn and uninteresting. After the disaster of her life Harry found she had little patience for the imagined adventures of others. None of these tales talked about nights spent huddled in the cold with a stomach complaining loudly for food. They did not talk about the monster humans could become instead they wrote of evil obviously shown in flesh. Evil, Harry found, did not announce its presence so freely. No true evil hid behind kind smiles and gentle faces. True evil you never saw until it had you in its grasp and you were screaming for you end.
Disgusted Harry tossed the book from her and huddled into her pile of clothes to stroke the knife in her hands. Then she felt the weight of eyes upon her and Harry tensed searching for the owner. Deep blue eyes caught her own, eyes that reminded her of deep still water, and she almost flinched in surprise. Tom Riddle was staring at her like she was the most interesting thing in the world. It was only then that Harry realized she had been leaking wild magic as her body protested painfully.
She had used too much magic today and her body was letting her know. Harry wondered if Tom Riddle could sense it…her magic…because she had certainly not done anything else to call his attention. Tom Riddle stared at her intensely and Harry stared right back without blinking. She felt just the faintest brushes on her mind and instead of blacking it out Harry reached out with her own power. Mind magic was a tricky thing, it didn't use much magic though and thankfully she had enough in her for this.
When their thoughts touched it was the oddest sensation Harry had ever felt…like she was seeing the world for the first time. It was new and exciting and felt so good. There was no real communication between them yet, just a blank sense of being, and then Harry said hi the childish voice of her present body echoed across their fragile link. Tom Riddle looked startled, his gaze went to her mouth and then to her eyes once more as if to confirm she hadn't spoken the word. Tentatively a small boyish voice, slightly deeper than her own, whispered hi across her thoughts. Harry smiled.
He felt her the moment she came into the room, how could he not? She was a bright flame that filled up the previously frigidly cold room. Never had Tom felt anyone like him before, and it made him tense keeping his eyes firmly on the book in his lap. But he tracked her movements from the corner of his eye, watched her slink closer to him with anticipation…did she feel him too? She sat beside him and Tom noticed that she was dressed as a boy with some small curiosity.
Why was she dressed like a boy? As Tom studied her, he took in the hastily cut hair, the boy clothes that she was wearing along with the ones in her lap and the tense line of her jaw. If he had been a normal boy he would have mistaken her for a boy…but he was not normal he was special. Tom knew that she was a girl instinctively because that bright wild fire of power was distinctly feminine. Tom watched from the corner of his eye as she tensed her body as if she expected to be attacked any moment.
The book in her hand was forgotten as her eyes shifted looking for some invisible threat and she shifted something with her other hand. Whatever she had in her other hand allowed her relax enough to glance at the book in her hands. A story book he had read many times searching for some clue into the power he had…a story book that had proven as useless as the stories themselves. The girl thought so too and she tossed it from her carelessly. Something must have disturbed her because Tom felt her power roar to life to crackle around her threateningly.
Tom gave up the pretense of trying to read to watch her more openly. The girl had deep red hair like the dark red roses that bloomed in the church yard during summer. Her eyes were glowing green, a shade he had never seen before but found quite…enchanting. Her power crackled around her like a flame, whirling around her, dancing with her hair and Tom felt the warmth of it as if he was sitting by a fire that snapped in the fireplace.
Then her eyes looked up and caught his own. Green clashed with deep blue, his power had always felt like a deep well of water ready to rise to his call at a moment's notice. Fire and water. Tom wanted to know if she felt him as he felt her so he used his power to see inside her head like he had been practicing all year. At first there was nothing, like he was trying to grasp smoke, and then it happened. A soft touch, it wove itself into his power softly like the barest brush of fingertips against bare skin.
He responded to the touch with one of his own and soon their powers were dancing together…water dosing flame…fire boiling water…it was like nothing he had ever felt before. The sound of everything in the dull normal world fell away and it was just them…dancing together in their joined minds. It felt good…so good…like how Tom had imagined a hug would feel before he had given up on wanting such things for the weakness it was…. Yet this was something he wanted to do forever, it felt so good, and he didn't want it to ever end despite how weak that must make him.
Then it came like a soft chiming bell across his mind, a small hi, a feminine and childish voice. It sounded so clear…so close…so real…that Tom's eyes glanced at her mouth to make sure she had not spoken the word. No, the word had come from her mind…from that place were their powers danced together in a glorious link. He had never spoken with someone with just his mind before, never had used his power in such a way before and it sent a thrill through him. Hi, he said unsure if he could do it as easily as she had.
He needn't have worried, he was special, and he had done it as easily as he had all the rest. My name is Harry, her voiced chimed across his thoughts. Tom, he replied. Tom wondered then if it was always the fate of such gloriously unique creatures such as them to be cursed with such common names. However, there was no point in dwelling on such things…Harry was waiting. Why are you here, Tom asked imagining for a moment that she had come for him no matter how absurd the notion was.
Bobby caught me stealing, Harry replied to Tom's question. Stealing what? Tom asked curious to know what she had stolen. Food she answered simply. Why Tom asked. Because I was hungry, she replied. Tom squashed down on his irritation. Didn't they feed you at your last orphanage, he asked instead. This is the first orphanage I've been in; she said igniting his curiosity higher. Did your parents abandon you, Tom asked.
I don't know, she said. How do you not know, Tom asked. I woke up in a burnt down building a few months ago I don't remember anything from before that, she said simply. Tom felt her shrug and let the matter drop. Which room are you in, he asked instead eager to keep talking like this. Whatever room has space available with the boys, Mrs. Cole said to sort myself out, she told him. The thought of this girl around any of the other boy made him irrationally angry.
Tom didn't want to share her with them, with anyone; she was the first person he had ever met that was like him. He kept his dark anger at the thought of her talking to anyone else to himself instead he said I have my own room…if you want to stay with me. It was true he had been given his own room after the incident with the rabbit since the other children were too afraid to sleep near him. Not that he would tell Harry that, because he actually wanted her near him unlike those other normal boring children. Harry looked at him oddly, like she couldn't believe he had offered to share with her and he almost rescinded the offer on irritation alone.
Before he could she said, alright, through their strange link and Tom forgot all about being angry in his excitement. He wondered what she could do; did animals bend to her will, could she summon books to her through the air, could she talk to snakes too? What else can you do he asked eager to see just how similar they were. Depends on what I want to happen she answered, I flew once. Tom blinked at the admission, suddenly jealous, he had never flown before. As if she sensed his envy Harry smiled at him coyly, I can teach you if you want, she said.
Can you control animals? He asked not bothering to acknowledge her offer. Harry tilted her head at him, no I've never done that, shame it would have been dead useful, she said. Tom bit back the urge to give her a smug smirk, he could do things she couldn't do yet, and that meant they had a lot to offer each other. I'll teach you in exchange for teaching me to fly, Tom said simply. Ok, Harry said smiling at him freely.
Tom had a feeling she was about to say more when they were interrupted by Dennis Bishop and Amy Benson. The distraction of Dennis' voice as he began talking to Harry broke the fragile connection between them and Tom didn't like the feeling of it breaking. Now he felt cold and alone again the warmth of Harry's thoughts/power entwined with his own pulled from him. He sneered and glared at the boy threateningly. Harry didn't even acknowledge that Dennis was talking to her and her eyes never strayed from Tom's face making him feel very smug.
"Do you want to see my room?" Tom asked aloud for the first time. "Sure," Harry said softly as she followed him out of the room leaving Dennis and Amy gaping at their backs. Tom led her up the stairs to the third floor that was just below the attic. His room was at the very end of the hall away from all the other children… just as he liked it. Inside there was a bed, a bookcase with a few precious books from the library, a wardrobe with all his things and a desk. It was very bare, but it was his…well theirs now.
They would have to share the bed until another could be brought in but that was alright. Tom had shared beds before when he had been much younger, he hadn't liked it much but he had a feeling that Harry wouldn't be as bad to sleep next to as the other children had been. For one she was potty trained at least and so he wouldn't have to suffer that indignity again. "We can share the bed until they can bring in another one," Tom said simply. Harry just nodded in response with an odd small smile on her lips.