From Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, with editing:
Wormtail's robes were shining with blood now; he had wrapped the stump of his arm in them. "My Lord …" he choked, "my Lord … you promised … you did promise …"
"Hold out your arm," said Voldemort lazily.
"Oh, master … thank you, master …"
He extended the bleeding stump. Voldemort raised his wand and whirled it through the air. A streak of what looked like molten silver hung shining in the wand's wake.
"My Lord," Wormtail whispered. "Master … it is beautiful …"
Voldemort pointed his wand at Wormtail's turned back. There was a flash of red light, and Wormtail collapsed.
"And now, Harry Potter," Voldemort said, "to business. I need you to join me." And he stepped forward and removed the gag from Harry's mouth.
Harry would have spat, but the gag had dried his mouth out. "I'd sooner die. You killed my parents."
Voldemort nodded. "Yes. Of course I did. They were warriors, soldiers on the enemy side. I am truly, deeply sorry for their deaths and your loss, but in a war, one cannot help but take lives."
"Liar!" Harry shouted. "Mum wasn't a fighter! She ran when you attacked – Dad tried to hold you off-"
"Who told you that?" Voldemort asked. "My own memory of the night is fuzzy; it turns out dying is rather inimical to long-term memory formation."
"I remember. Whenever I get near Dementors, they – they …"
"Dementors," Voldemort said. "I see. Those foul creatures that dredge up one's worst memories. Tell me, Harry, if you were an evil demon trying to spread misery as far and wide as you could, would you restrict yourself to real memories? Would you distort existing ones to make them even worse? Or would you invent new memories altogether?"
"I …" Harry thought for a moment. "If someone really had awful memories – and I do! – I'd use those. Why would a Dementor plant false memories, even if they could, if they could just use someone's memory of when their parents died?"
"Because your parents, Harry, died with their wands in their hands. They were brave warriors, and I salute them both. The real events of that night would be, for you, sad, because your parents died, but they would inspire hope and pride, not fear and misery. I don't remember every detail, but I do remember some of it … fighting from room to room in your house against both … your father distracted me, while your mother set off traps. She brought half the house down on me, until I finally cornered your father … then she kept fighting … no, that wouldn't be anywhere near your unhappiest memory.
"A second possible reason is that you don't have that memory at all. Do you remember anything else from before the age of, say, five?"
Harry thought. "I think … I had a toy taken off me by my cousin … it was a tank?"
"Hardly very clear memories," Voldemort observed. "And yet you think that, years before even then, you could remember entire conversations? I should mention that I had a Silencing Jinx held over your house, so you literally couldn't have heard anything anyway."
"You're lying," Harry said again.
Voldemort tilted his head to one side like a bird. "Why do you think that? Do you suppose I wouldn't cut off communications when attacking a group, or incantations when I can cast silently? Just because I am a quote-unquote Dark Lord doesn't mean every word from my mouth is a lie. There's no use telling an obvious lie; you'll pick it up easily."
Harry shook his head. "It doesn't matter whether my parents died fighting or not," he said. "The point is that you murdered them."
"Like how you murdered Professor Quirrel?"
Harry stared. "That's nothing like the same! You had possessed him and were egging him on to kill me, in case you've forgotten!"
"I had, actually," Voldemort said, tapping his wand against his lips. "There's a reason it took me ten years to try that: I knew it was a bad idea. Sharing a body corrupts one's soul. I can barely remember half that year. I do apologise for trying to kill you then; I quite literally wasn't in my right mind."
"Oh, well that's alright then," Harry said sarcastically.
"But we agree it was fine to kill someone in self-defence? Would you also have felt justified in killing him if he had been threatening someone else you cared about? Say, Miss Granger?"
Harry felt cold. Wormtail had told Voldemort everything. He knew exactly whom to threaten. And he'd do it, too.
"Because that's the situation as it was with your parents," Voldemort went on. "They were members of a secret organisation dedicated to opposing me. In previous battles, they incapacitated, captured or killed many of my Death Eaters. If I hadn't attacked them, it would have been a reasonable conclusion that they would have continued to do so. I was protecting my friends and followers, when I attacked them, just as surely as you protected your friend Hermione Granger when you attacked that troll three and a half years ago, or that time with the basilisk."
"You can't possibly pretend those are the same at all," Harry said.
"Do you enjoy killing things, Harry Potter? I don't. But sometimes it's the only way to protect others. Again, I am truly sorry for the losses my actions have caused. The only reason, the only thing that could possibly have made me undertake those evil actions, was the knowledge that inaction would be even worse."
"What are you talking about?" Harry asked.
"I didn't wake up one morning and say to myself, 'I know! I'll spend the rest of my life destroying the world!' I began my campaign because this world is rotten to its core, and no-one else was willing to step forward to fight it."
"Muggle-borns," Harry said. "You hate them. You're wrong. They're just as good as purebloods. They're better! Hermione's the best witch of her generation!"
"Yes," Voldemort said simply. "She is, single-handedly, clear-cut proof that blood purism is wrong. This is obvious. No-one remotely intelligent could possibly mistake it. Your mother, too, also Muggle-born, was quite brilliant; I was distraught when she declined my invitation to my ranks. Of course, I myself am only a half-blood."
Harry stared. "What? But – but if you know blood purism is wrong, why-?"
"Power," Voldemort said. "Power and politics. I'm not surprised this hasn't occurred to you; it takes a long time to get into the hang of thinking of things this way. I needed money and supporters to achieve my ends; power, in short. I was a poor boy when I graduated Hogwarts; I had no money of my own, no family to support me, and as a half-blood orphan, no chance of marrying into wealth.
"So I lied. I told the blood purists, the Malfoys and the Lestranges and the Blacks, that I would be their saviour from their own invented bogeyman, Muggle-borns. And it worked. I found myself a ready-made army, with which to topple the Ministry and rebuild it, in the name of peace, justice and equality. I was winning the war. Until you."
"But hang on," Harry said. "If you only attacked my parents because they were your enemies, why did you then try to kill me?"
"That's a fine question," Voldemort said. "And I'm curious, what did Dumbledore tell you? I assume you've asked him at some point."
Harry tried to remember Dumbledore's words. He couldn't, not verbatim, just that Dumbledore had hedged and refused to answer.
"I see," Voldemort said anyway. "He said you weren't ready to hear it? The truth is that he wasn't ready to say it. I don't know what he planned to tell you – the truth would have been quite reasonable to tell a near-twelve-year-old, don't you think? – but it was clearly a lie. He needed the time to think one up and falsify evidence to prove it when you checked. Don't you think it odd I went, in person, alone? When I had armies of followers I could have sent? What sort of general goes into battle alone to fight anyone but the opposing general? The truth is that your parents were great warriors, and I refused to risk my people's lives.
"But since you ask, I didn't try to kill you. I didn't think you were there in the house at all. After I killed your father, your mother fell back into your nursery. I suppose she realised she had no hope of defeating me, and merely hoped to take you and flee. I followed her and threw a volley of curses. One hit and killed her; a split second later, another hit you. You were already protected by her sacrifice, so it rebounded, and the rest is history."
"That's …" Harry said, his mind awhirl. He still didn't believe Voldemort, but it was getting hard to point out specific holes in his story.
"Indeed. As a Slytherin, I am ambitious; I wish to unmake the world, and replace it with something better. A utopia. This brings us to Dumbledore, who was an enemy from the start, even before I graduated. He already had an unassailable reputation as Light Wizard; this left me with no option but to become a Dark Lord and take what allies that image offered."
"You had a choice," Harry said. "You chose to make war. You could have had peace …"
"I could have allowed peace," Voldemort corrected. "I would never have had it myself. Remember how I was a poor man? The Ministry is dead set on oppressing the lower classes. I would have been arrested on trumped-up charges sooner or later. In fact, that very nearly happened, on my nineteenth birthday.
"And this brings us to you. I wish that you join me. Together, we can change this world. We can bring hope and peace and justice. We can make Dumbledore and the Ministry pay for their crimes. We can usher in a new Golden Age."
"Or, I could refuse, because you're lying," Harry said.
"Yes, but then I'd kill you," Voldemort said. "I'm not about to let you go and tell everyone that I'm back. I don't like killing, but if the alternative is failure and the Ministry continues to accrue crimes against humanity, it's the lesser of two evils."
"You just don't get it, Voldemort," Harry said. "You can't intimidate me, because I really would die for my friends. That's what love means, and that's why you'll never win."
"I don't get that?" Voldemort asked. "Au contraire, Harry, I understand what self-sacrifice means as well as you do. It means that rather than risk your own friends and followers, you go on ahead, even when outnumbered."
"Then why are you even bothering?" Harry asked. "Even if you don't really believe in blood purism, your Death Eaters do, and if they had half a chance they'd torture and kill any of my Muggle-born friends. I'm not going to help you if you're going to be leading them!"
"Hmm. So, to be quite clear here, you believe that if you help me, this is liable to lead to a bad outcome for your Muggle-born friends – say, Miss Granger – and this is the deal-breaker?"
"So if I were to demonstrate to you the reverse – that helping me would in fact reduce the probability of a bad outcome for Hermione – you would then wish to join me?"
"When the facts change, I change my mind," Voldemort said, with the air of a quote. "What do you do, sir?"
"Well," Harry said, "if I believed you, which I wouldn't because you're a liar, then I'd be willing to work with you, as long as so doing helped protect her and didn't hurt anyone who didn't deserve it, but I wouldn't do anything for you aside from that."
"Of course not," Voldemort said, "and nor would I expect you to. Then I suppose it's high time I told you that if I were to cease to exist, if my campaign suddenly ended, Hermione Granger would die on her nineteenth birthday."
"You wax repetitive," Voldemort said. "I understand you've spent some time wandering around Diagon Alley; you have a fair idea of what sort of people become successful in Wizarding Britain. You've seen apothecaries, book stores, pubs … you know of a few teachers, politicians, civil servants, authors … what do they all have in common?"
Harry stared. "Where are you going with this?"
"They're all pureblood," Voldemort went on. "Wormtail has kept me apprised. Out of every shopkeeper he's seen in Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade, every single one has been either a pureblood or a half-blood with a respectable magical parent. Oh, with one exception: Florean Fortescue, the ice-cream man. Your teachers are all blooded, even the Muggle Studies teacher, and the Ministry doesn't a have one single Muggle-born ranking higher than janitor. Why do you suppose this is?"
"Why don't you tell me, since you're obviously going to anyway?"
"You're being very hostile and uncooperative," Voldemort said.
"You murdered my friend ten minutes ago, tied me to this headstone, and used my blood to resurrect yourself. This, after trying to kill me and my friends and family for years."
"That doesn't excuse poor manners," Voldemort said.
"Yes, it does."
Voldemort accepted this. "Well. There exist certain potions and rituals of great power but come at great cost. I suppose you've heard of the Triangle Rule of Potions? A potion's effect is bounded by those of its components? Or, more prosaically, you only get out what you put in. So what if someone wanted a potion for a power-enhancing ritual? By the Rule, this is only possible if one uses an ingredient with its own power. And it needs to be human-usable power. That is, these rituals require human sacrifice."
"You would know about this," Harry said.
"Yes, but I didn't invent the idea. Dumbledore did."
"… You almost had me going for a moment there," Harry said. "Saying there are no Muggle-born shopkeepers, that the Ministry keeps them down, that I could just about believe, if only because I could check it myself, but to say that Dumbledore used human sacrifice …"
"Remember the triangle rule?" Voldemort said. "Remember alchemy, the forerunner to the science of potioneering? Remember the Philosopher's Stone? It gave eternal life. How could it do that? How would it have life to give, unless it had a live ingredient?"
Harry gaped. "That's … no, there has to be some way around that. You can provide magic by stirring the right way. You could use animals. You could –"
"That might work, but it could only give an animal level of life. To have magic like wizards use, you need a witch or wizard. You're right, Harry Potter, I would know. I've done the maths on this. I'll show you my notes sometime, if you're interested."
"No. Dumbledore would never do that."
"Mm? Well, here's another tidbit. Since you've been training for this Task, you're probably the best duellist of your year. How many of your classmates do you think you could take at once? One, easily; two, maybe, if you were lucky and they didn't think to try to flank you; three, not a chance. Magic power has some natural variance, so some people are naturally stronger than others, and this can be improved by hard work or good luck; but it's very, very rare for anyone to be even twice as good as a contemporary, Squibs notwithstanding. Dumbledore, though, he I have seen take on half a dozen of my Death Eaters – hardened fighters, trained in group tactics, against a schoolmaster – and win. How could this be? No-one is that strong. No-one, that is, who hasn't cannibalised the magic of his own former students."
"No, I refuse to believe that," Harry said. "That's sick, twisted, and ridiculous. No."
"I know you don't want to believe. I certainly didn't when I first worked it out. But the thing is that if you don't, Hermione will die. Why would they offer tuition to someone who's not going to make anything of herself anyway? They're fattening her up to eat her, Harry. They're training her to be stronger, until she reaches her peak at age nineteen, when they'll use her in a ritual to make Dumbledore still stronger or extend his already unnaturally long lifespan, or maybe some other person at the crown of society. They've been doing this for years, centuries, and they'll keep on doing it unless I stop them."
Voldemort snapped his fingers, and the ropes binding Harry winked out of existence. He fell to his knees.
"When I turned nineteen, Aurors came to capture me," Voldemort said. "I would have been killed, slowly, horribly, just as Hermione will be. She has only one chance. Join me, and together we will make them pay, we will stop this barbaric practice, and we will do it in time to save her. Or you can refuse, and maybe I'll fail, and she'll die."
Harry fought for air. He felt like he was drowning again. "But your side isn't any better. Your Death Eaters would kill her for being a Muggle-born."
"Then how about a deal?" Voldemort asked. "You join me in my war against corruption. In return, I will forge documents proving that she is actually a pureblood."
"How on Earth would you do that? Her parents are obviously Muggles."
"Leave that to me," Voldemort said. "I will persuade my Death Eaters that she is not to be harmed."
"How do I know you're not lying?" Harry asked.
"Because you know I'm not a moron," Voldemort said sleekly. "You're going to tell her about all this sooner or later. She'll see the truth of my words and the nobility of my cause just as you have. If nothing else, she'll side with you out of loyalty. Meaning, she'll side with me. And only a moron would needlessly sacrifice someone like her. She sounds like a firebrand."
"What about Ron Weasley?" Harry asked. "Do you think he'll join you too?"
"That's harder to predict. He's loyal to you, but also to his family, and they're staunchly in Dumbledore's camp. It could go either way."
"You can't tell me the Weasleys support human sacrifice."
"That's true," Voldemort agreed. "Just as I manipulated purists to my cause, so Dumbledore has manipulated Light families to his. They do honestly believe that I'm Dark and evil. If you can think of a way to correct their misconception, I'd be much obliged to hear it."
"So let me get this straight," Harry said. "You want me to support you, in some way you haven't yet said, and in return, you'll do everything you can to protect Hermione from the Ministry and your own forces."
"Correct. And you know I won't renege, because I'd much rather have you and Miss Granger as allies than enemies."
"I won't help you kill anyone else," Harry said.
"I didn't imagine you would," Voldemort said. "And again, not a moron. If I told you to do something you'd find morally repugnant, you'd refuse and snap straight back over to Dumbledore's side. So I will never ask you to do anything I don't believe you feel comfortable with."
Harry bit his lip. Voldemort had been unusually reasonable for a Dark Lord, but he was still untrustworthy and could probably lie by omission or otherwise.
"Dumbledore told you I was a liar," Voldemort said, "and I know this sounds self-serving but you should forget that. He said it specifically so you would discard literally anything I said; so that no matter how much blood he has on his hands, you would never blame him for it."
"You're right," Harry said. "That does sound self-serving."
"True. Let me give you something for free then. Never look directly into his, my, or Snape's eyes. We're all mind-readers."
"You know his piercing blue gaze, or Snape's oppressive black eyes? Mind reading. The technical term is Legilimency. I've read your memories a few times today, and I've seen him reading you."
Harry found it oddly comforting to know that Voldemort was at least being up front about it.
"I'll give you more for free. There's an art to defending against Legilimency, known as Occlumency. I have, or will have soon, access to manuals on this art. I can teach you that. If you want, I can even teach you to return fire, although to be fair I should warn that we three are all Occlumens as well and will be able to defend ourselves."
"Ah, I have it," Harry said. "You promised to spare Hermione, but not any other Muggle-borns."
Voldemort shrugged. "That's because I didn't think you cared. I don't believe their subjugation is just or in any sense good for society. If I do win, and my Death Eaters take over Britain, they'll then want to kill them all. When that happens, I shall set up a Department of Muggle-born Cleansing. You may head it, if you wish. And you'll spend ten years, writing pure fiction about dwindling numbers, and then declare the Muggle-born menace eradicated for good."
"And when people see that Muggles keep having magical children?"
"What do you mean? You will have eradicated that over the past ten years. No, those must be long-lost Squibs. And Squibs' children have the same magical blood as anyone; their children are as precious as purebloods'."
"If nothing else, I'll be the invincible Lord Voldemort, Ruler of Britain. If I say the Muggle-borns are to be unharmed, who will argue?"
"Wouldn't your Death Eaters leave you?" Harry asked.
"By that point, it will be too late. I'll expose Dumbledore's crimes, and the Light will flock to me. With them and the loyalist Death Eaters, we shall still be unbeatable."
"So, you promise not to hurt, or allow harm to come to, any Muggle-borns or other innocents," Harry said, trying to word it carefully.
"I wish to destroy the corruption at the heart of our society," Voldemort said. "I do not wish to harm anyone at all, except insofar as such harm is necessary to achieving this goal. If you agree to cooperate, I explicitly promise not to harm Hermione Granger unless she deliberately interferes with my goals; likewise I shall promise not to harm anyone else you name unless they deliberately align themselves against me. Even then, I promise to do my utmost to incapacitate and capture without killing."
Harry frowned. It seemed airtight, but still … on the other hand, it wouldn't help matters if Voldemort killed him now.
"Alright," Harry said. "It's a deal." He offered his hand. Voldemort shook it; agony lanced into his scar. "Ow, son of a –!"
"Your scar hurts when I touch you, does it?" Voldemort asked. "That's odd. Maybe … oh, that is interesting. I had hoped something like this might happen. Can you hear this?"
"Hear what?" Harry asked.
"Me talking. I'm not moving my lips. This is telepathic. Go on, try it."
"Yes, I hear you. You have a scar from me, and I blood from you. Apparently this constitutes a two-way link. I shall have to consider the implications in detail. For now, though, do you feel pain when I do this?"
He touched his finger to Harry's hand. Harry felt alternating waves of hot and cold spread from his scar and the point of contact, but they gradually dulled to tingles.
"No," Harry said aloud, which he found more natural than the telepathic link. "Can you hear all my thoughts?"
"I imagine you can hear the same things I can. I can only hear those thoughts you deliberately raise to the surface of your mind with the intention of me hearing them. Intent matters. As for the pain, I'm maintaining an Occlumency veil; apparently this can block whatever it is that causes you pain. I shall, of course, do this whenever possible.
"Now we need to plan ahead. I must summon my Death Eaters to alert them to my revival and give orders. When they arrive, we shall tell them that you are now on our side and will betray Dumbledore for us."
"So, tell them the truth, except the bits they won't like," Harry said.
"It's a good general policy. I had planned for two possibilities; either you would join me or not. If you did, I had planned to send you back with the Triwizard Cup, and keep my return secret, allowing me time to rebuild my forces. If you did not, I planned to inject you with a lethal dose of Acromantula venom and send you back moments before you died, making it look like the one inside the maze killed you, accomplishing the same end."
"Thanks," Harry said.
"Be fair," Voldemort said, "I didn't know if you would insist on being my enemy. As you very nearly did. However, there is now a rather glaring problem." He indicated Cedric's body.
"I can't believe I forgot about him," Harry said. "Why did you make Wormtail kill him?"
"Because Wormtail is useless," Voldemort said. "He isn't anywhere near skilled enough to duel you and Cedric at the same time. He had to take one of you out of the fight, quickly and reliably, and unfortunately the Killing Curse is the only way."
"Oh, yeah? What about Stunners?"
"Those can be blocked. Any spell can be, except the Killing and Cruciatus Curses. And if he'd done the latter, you would have Stunned him. And then Hermione dies."
"Now I have a body on my hands, and worse, one which was obviously killed by that curse. Even if I tamper with the body, the cause of death will be obvious to any coroner. So this leaves us with a few undesirable options.
"One: we dispose of the body here. This would lead to a manhunt, and more investigation than I want."
"We're not leaving his body here," Harry said.
"I do not enjoy disrespecting the dead either," Voldemort agreed. "Two: you take him back and blame it on someone else. A stray curse Krum fired at a monster, perhaps."
"He'd go to Azkaban," Harry said. "No."
"Three: you take him back and blame it on me."
"Didn't you want to stay secret?" Harry asked.
"Yes, but plans must remain fluid. He must be found, and you will be asked who killed him. If you do not answer, there will be an investigation. You will tell the truth, but you will also feign hysterics and fatigue. Dumbledore will see the truth of the matter; this is unavoidable. The wizarding public, though, need not. You will tell the truth unconvincingly, as though doubting your own memory, and Minister Fudge will not believe you. If you are asked to repeat it, you will change minor details. After a few repeats, you will say you don't remember, that you were tired, that you don't know. People will doubt; you will let them."
"You want me to lie," Harry summarised.
"How many lies is Hermione's skin worth to you?" Voldemort asked.
"… What if Fudge believes that you're back?" Harry asked. "I mean, won't Dumbledore try to persuade him?"
"He will try," Voldemort said indifferently. "He will fail. Fudge is a small man, ruled by petty fears; he believes what he wants to be true. Even if he doesn't, Lucius Malfoy owns Fudge, and I own Malfoy. The Prophet won't print anything I don't want."
"Wait, you can control the Prophet?" Harry asked. "Can you do something about Rita Skeeter?"
"The journalist?" Voldemort asked. "Do something as in have her disappear in the night, or as in –?"
"I meant, as in revoke her journalist licence or – or whatever it is journalists have," Harry said lamely. "She keeps slandering me."
Voldemort shrugged. "I can have her fired within a few days if you want. But if you just don't want her writing about you or your friends, I'd much rather she keep her job; I can find use for popular journalists. I'll simply have her reassigned. Also, it's called libel when it's in print."
"That's good enough for me," Harry said.
"Then I must summon my Death Eaters."
"One last thing," Harry said. "What about Wormtail?"
"I shall modify his memory so that he doesn't remember being Stunned or waking up," Voldemort said.
"No," Harry said, "I mean that even if you have these noble goals, he doesn't. He still betrayed my parents. He just killed Cedric! He should go to Azkaban for that."
"True," Voldemort said. "I can't really stand betrayers, especially not if they betray anyone as noble as your parents. But he is useful, and justice is a lower priority than ensuring the downfall of the Ministry and preventing those rituals. How about this: after we succeed, I shall have him tried in a fair court. I don't know whether betraying your parents would be found illegal –"
"What," Harry said flatly.
"– but murdering twelve Muggles was, as is being an unregistered Animagus, murdering Cedric, perverting the course of justice … with your testimony, you'll be able to have him convicted."
"I don't like him walking around free," Harry said. "Sirius Black, who is my godfather, is on the run because of him."
"And Sirius is my enemy," Voldemort said, stroking his chin with his long, spidery fingers. "I could have his case reopened and have him acquitted. Wormtail shall be blamed for everything and pronounced dead; the story shall be that he tried to curse Sirius and his wand misfired, killing him and the Muggles. Sirius shall be free and Wormtail's Animagus form shall remain secret, at least from the general public."
"That's … good enough," Harry said. "For now."
"It's less than ideal for me and my cause, though," Voldemort said. "It will help Sirius, who will then be in a better position to hinder me."
"He's innocent," Harry argued. "You can't keep him on the run."
"I believe you mean I shouldn't," Voldemort corrected. "I can and I will, if the alternative is more risk of failure. Let's make a deal. I'll have him exonerated. In return, you will spend part of the summer with him."
"Sounds good," Harry said.
"I am … uncertain, due to legal wrangling, but I expect he was designated the heir to at least one Black property. If so, he is likely hiding there under Fidelius, beyond my reach. The Black properties were, last I checked, stockpiled with Dark artefacts. He will likely destroy most of them. Your mission will be to recover as many as you can."
"You want me, Harry Potter, to give you, Lord Voldemort, weapons."
"Yes. For the price of your godfather's freedom, and if he is caught, his soul."
Harry could never refuse that. "I'll do it."
Voldemort smiled. It was ghastly to watch.