Sometimes, Harry couldn't help but irrationally think that maybe if their first time had been different, with more candles and god-forsaken rose petals, then maybe things wouldn't have gone as wrong as they had.
Maybe he would have been enough for Tom, enough to prove that he didn't have to strip his identity and become someone completely different just to be worth something. Maybe, if Harry had known what was coming, he would have cherished the moments, taken more care with his words and actions and not reeled furious when the truth of his former lover's plans came out. Maybe he would have been better at showing that being Tom Riddle meant something and was worth it. Maybe it was his fault that Tom had turned into Voldemort, and maybe it was something that had always lurked in the man, but he felt guilty either way.
Homosexuality hadn't exactly been...encouraged at Hogwarts, and so that night he'd ended up going to Slughorn's Christmas Party with Charlotte Barton in a contrived but well meaning night of awkwardly brushing hands and blushes seared scarlet in the soft lighting.
It hadn't actually been that bad or anything. He'd known she had a small crush on him, but they were good enough friends and the conversation was decent. He'd had a pleasant time, outside of the expected moments of discomfort that came hand in hand with such things, and the ever so polite kiss left on her cheek at the end of the night.
Tom had been seething all evening, and Harry sort of knew he would, but hadn't expected anything to come of it because even if the boy had always had a possessive streak, he must know that reputation was everything and mattered even more in their house then others, when bloodlines and heirs were so paramount.
He'd dropped her off back at the Hufflepuff common room, and returned to Slytherin. He couldn't remember, now, what he'd been thinking about but he'd barely entered the dungeons when Tom was on him, slamming him back hard into one of the abandoned potions classrooms. Lips had crashed down on his own a second later.
He'd ended up splayed and pinned against one of the desks, his shirt trapping his hands above his head as Tom sucked and nibbled at his throat, teasing every inch of him half to insanity, a near manic gleam in his eyes, very obviously relishing every moan and gasp he could wring out; hands gripped tight on his hips, nails raking burning claims against his skin.
There's been nothing romantic, sweet or tender about it. Just a clumsy, raw sort of want, quickly over, leaving them both in the ringing silence and harsh, panting breaths, boneless with lingering pleasure.
Tom had spent a lot of time refining his methods in the year after that, as they learned the best way to exquisitely torture each other with deceptively tender lips, grazing fingers and heat trapped flush between them, practising smiles that taunted and reassured at the same time.
It wasn't entirely without affection, of course it wasn't, but most people wouldn't believe it to see the charming but aloof facade Riddle affected, and the way they only softened when no one else was around to easily witness it, and thoughts of ruin and undoing shifted to lazy sunlight on pillows and fingers tracing over and healing marks made in war.
He supposed Tom had even warned him one night, of what could and would come, breath hot against his throat, hips grinding against his own until he couldn't even think straight, every line of tension in his body radiating need. He'd smirked up at the boy, a gleam in his eyes, asking him teasingly what he wanted, fingers raking through the other's hair, down his back to a bruising grip at his waist.
You. Tom had said. I want you. I want everything you can give me, and then everything else too after that until there's no part that I can't call mine.
Sometimes, during the dark nights in hiding, as his body ached from bloody battles of a very different kind, and he knew people comforted each other and some had even offered such things to him with soft lips he didn't know how to communicate with anymore, he wondered if that was still true.
Yeah, Harry didn't see how he hadn't seen that they were destined to end up on opposing sides of the battlefield all along. He supposed happiness had a nasty habit of blindsiding people.
He didn't feel blindsided now, sitting in a stiff suit at a truce dinner, with Voldemort wearing an oh so familiar smirk on his face as he made easy small talk to various ambassadors.
He could admit Tom had always been more interested in politics now, and maybe it was normal for a Slytherin to build up networks early, but Harry had never quite expected it to lead into this despite Tom's old habit to go into a rant about all the things he would change in the world.
Harry had listened, dutifully, argued his own points, but in the self-indulgence of youth had enjoyed watching the enthusiastic gleam in Tom's eyes and the flowing gestures of his talented hands more than any real consideration of the other's future plans when everyone was making them and he'd assumed he'd be putting up with a politician not a tyrant.
The bastard was straight across the table from him, and even as Voldemort discussed a point on the upcoming international duelling tournament the other caressed the tip of his obscenely expensive dragonhide boots along Harry's calf.
It drove him absolutely mad. Especially when he knew the git was deliberately angling to frustrate him and make him childishly lash out, like he would have done at Hogwarts, interrupting the proceedings with a sweet smile and a barbed comment.
But he'd long since discovered the quickest way to piss Tom Riddle off, if not Voldemort, was to ignore him and frankly as much as he would love to lunge across the vol-au-vents and the small plates of caviar and various other things to wring the man's neck, he also knew that would do nothing to help him right now. He had to be the professional politician, cold and composed, not everything else.
He was rewarded with the way Voldemort's eyes flickered to him - not that he was paying attention - as he engaged Marja Lundgren, the Swedish ambassador, in a light conversation about the upcoming Fossegrimen Festival in November.
He tried not to just lunge at the food, eating politely around replies, despite being absolutely ravenous. He hardly had Hogwarts banquets when he was a fugitive, after all, though they made do. They weren't...starving exactly, but it was hardly plentiful either. This was more food than he'd seen in quite some time.
If he was in a position to do so, he would have brought it home to share with his fellow rebels, but that would do nothing to help him from a political standpoint.
He still paused as Dufort, their French host, leaned over to place another platter of soft looking rolls in front of him with a smile, to replace an empty one. Harry blinked.
"Please," the man waved a hand. "Eat up. It seems England starves its citizens."
Obviously, Harry had suspected the Frenchman would be on his side, considering France would be the first on Voldemort's hit list should he aspire to extend his empire, and Harry resisted the urge to grin.
"Thank you, sir," he said, playing up a little to his youth he would admit, whilst maintaining the image of knowing exactly what he was doing. The people here already knew he wasn't without power. He'd been invited in the first place, after all.
And if they did think he was just some stupid child, despite Tom being the same age as him, then it would mean they'd slip up around him, because he was pretty sure everyone had their own ulterior motives on a global scale and weren't just here for the sake of resolving the scraps of another English Civil War, whatever it's impact on a worldwide scale.
If they helped him, they would damn well be wanting something in return.
Voldemort didn't quite shoot him a foul look, but there was ice in the other's eyes. He was glad they had the table between them.
"Oh, I feed my citizens," the tyrant replied lightly, with a pleasant smile. "Poverty in the UK has reached an all time low under my regime with resources shared more equally around a lesser population. Mr Potter is merely not currently a citizen, he has not registered under the new acts and spends most of his time plotting acts of terrorism. If he broke the law less, I'm sure he'd come home to dinner just fine."
Harry ignored the twist in his stomach, and the flash of something else in the other's eyes for barely a second - wished he could ignore the call back to Voldemort's suggestion that he just come home before too.
This was exactly the same. If he stopped fighting, he had no doubt he could lead a very comfortable life under Voldemort's heavy hand, watched and doted on and smothered in some parody of what they used to have where his own autonomy and agency was limited in the parameters of what Voldemort wanted too.
There would be no freedom to it. It would be punishing in that suffocating way which he couldn't lash out against because as a 'traitor' it was 'far better than he deserved' and he should instil a sense of gratitude instead.
"Maybe you should come up with better laws that don't discriminate based on something as archaic and ridiculous as blood purity then," Harry replied, sweetly, his own eyes hardening too. "Bit strange, really, considering you're a halfblood yourself."
There was a stiff silence, that bordered on the want to nervous laughter to break it on the behalf of some people.
After a moment, Lundgren leaned forwards to try and ease the tension, and Voldemort's expression carefully softened away from the terrifying ferocity in his eyes and curving the edges of his magic.
Maybe that made the difference here, in the way the others were reacting - whilst none of them were weak wizards and witches, many were here due to intelligence rather than raw magical power, and then some were here as representative of those more powerful than themselves. A mix.
But Tom had always been powerful. More so than even normal standards.
Harry was nonetheless relieved when the next course was served, and, eventually, he could escape to his room.
He didn't think he'd ever enjoy politics.
Of course, he'd expected Harry to be here, he just hadn't expected the man to be any sort of threat to him on a political scale.
The Harry Potter he knew had always loathed politics and despite his status as a bastard Potter son, had always shied away from such things. He'd always refused to engage in even Slytherin politics, and he supposed it had been a mark of how...special Harry was that he had gotten away with it. Friends with all the houses alike, and not penalized for the lack of effort he put in.
He was more genuine than that. Of course, that wasn't to say Harry was incapable of manipulation, he certainly wasn't, and Harry knew the systems as well as he himself did...but this was different. Harry was an expert with Slytherin politics when he actually bothered, but he'd never cared to engage in them and build up in the same way. He'd never bothered with world politics, and...he'd somehow assumed he would be the same now. Knowing theory, but getting easily worked up and passionate and real over the cold masks dictated.
But he barely recognized the boy's previous politics now. Harry was much more...honed and sharp around the edges where he used to be, the goofing off and playfulness stripped away for something incredibly dangerous.
It should have made him furious. It did - the man seemed to insist on ruining everything Tom worked for - but what infuriated him even more was that he liked it.
Not the ruining everything he worked for, but there was something incredibly...arousing to see Harry coming into his own and in control, playing in Tom's fields. It was the same surge of heat he got on those occasions when Harry used to wear his shirt.
Want and violence had always been the best-worst combination when he came to the two of them.
He'd barged into the room Harry was staying in with ridiculous ease, smirking when he could hear the shower going.
And then sometimes the other was pleasantly routine.
It had always been something more than politics between them.
Harry knew the real politics would start tomorrow, at least in the official sense of meetings, rather than todays quiet circling and picking and studying for any vulnerabilities exposed for exploitation.
That was what he didn't like about politics. The cruel sliminess of it all. It was supposed to be about the good of the country, and if it was only that Harry may have been on board a long time ago, never one for idly sitting aside when he could do something about a situation.
Not when it really counted, at least.
Maybe he'd spent too much time around Tom Riddle as a teenager, but the bastard had effectively stomped out all possibility of apathy in everyone around him, and sucked it into his own black hole of uncaring.
Still, the hot spray of the amazing shower - and he mentioned that he missed reliable hot water not heated by his own magic? - was like heaven against his muscles, and did a great job relaxing him.
The wine served with dinner left a pleasant feeling too, though he wasn't intoxicated. He wasn't so stupid as to drop his guard like that. He wrapped one of the soft white towels around his waist, emerging from the steaming bathroom only to swear very loudly and nearly jump out of his skin. His wand was immediately in the palm of his hand.
Voldemort merely took another lazy drag of his cigarette - and Harry found it rather ironic that the champion of blood purity was addicted to such a muggle product.
"I know it's been a while," Tom-Voldemort drawled, "but I'm pretty sure my presence on your bed is not so unusual an occurrence to warrant such a dramatic reaction." The other's gaze raked across his torso, head tilting, a vague, remote sort of appreciation flaring in those unnatural eyes for a second.
Harry huffed and crossed his arms defensively.
All he got for that was another smirk, as the bastard exhaled smoke in his general direction. Though Harry did notice the git had at least had the courtesy to crack the window open.
"You're room is better than mine. I think Monsieur Dufort likes you. And not in the way you want anyone but me to like you either," the Dark Lord murmured, eyes cooling a little. "Feel free to get dressed by the way. Trust me, I don't mind. Nothing I haven't seen before."
"And there was me thinking this was a matter of professionalism and not just your petty jealousy. Interesting that you're still so possessive. What's the matter, frustrated that nobody wants to sleep with you now that you look so inhuman?"
The other's lips thinned at the comment, and Harry gave a sharp, rather nasty grin in response, turning his back to change without much bother to if the other was there or not.
He was hardly the shy teenager he'd once been, who was going to start blushing and stammering awkwardly. He heard a sharp intake of breath, and the grin broadened. However, when he glanced back over his shoulder, his expression was perfectly composed, eyebrows raised.
"Don't call me Tom." The response was immediate, and the other snapped up, eyes suddenly dark, murderous, and alien to any teasing he might once have known. Harry didn't blink, despite how his stomach still lurched at the change.
"Well, if I didn't take to 'my lord' didn't cut it when we were in bed," he sneered mockingly, "it's not going to appeal to me much now. I like Tom. I don't like Voldemort." He suspected they both knew he was talking about far more than names, and the other stood up, discarding the cigarette.
Harry wondered if he'd irritated the bastard into leaving before he broke the truce and shattered. Maybe he loved the vicious way he could prod at all of those buttons the man kept locked up under his armour. Maybe he loved that even if Voldemort could hide them from the rest of the world, Harry had raked his claws across all of them a long time ago already.
"What you seem to fail to realize is that Tom Riddle and Voldemort are in actual fact the same-"
"Yes, I know all about your smug little anagram," Harry said lazily, yawning, despite the sudden raw ache in his chest. "Is there a particular reason in my room or are you just trying to temporarily pretend that you still have friends?"
The man took several steps closer to him, looming over his smaller physique, and Harry resisted the wary urge to take a step back.
"What do you hope to gain from this desperate clutching for allies, Harry?" Voldemort asked, voice too soft to really mean anything good. Oddly, Tom was prone to saying his nicest things in as cold and uncaring a way possible, and his cruelest with that honeyed sweetness in a twisted reverse of what one would reasonably expect. "Say you come here, get France onside with your little rebellion, maybe some other countries too...what good will it do you?"
Harry felt his expression freeze in place. Those bloody eyes remained fixed on him, and his own nearly flinched shut as pale fingers stroked down the side of his cheek, the first skin contact in...what had it been? Three of four years? He felt like every muscle in his body had locked on the spot, as Tom continued, in that same almost gentle tone.
"All you bring is more death onto the world, more suffering, and I know you don't want that. I don't want that either. It's a waste of my time and magical blood. I know the last world war is as fresh in your memory as it is mine, do you really want to drag us into another one?"
"You'd do it anyway," Harry said, voice mercifully not cracking, but raspier than before. "You said it yourself, you're not going to stop until you have everything, and even then I doubt it would be enough for you. You don't know what to do with peace."
"Do you?" the other countered. "We've never known a day of peace in our lives, either of us. But with your help...we could do it. Together. If you stopped this infantile crusade of yours."
Harry snapped himself out it and reared back, his heart hammering.
"Stop it!" he hissed.
"You know it's true, and you know you're no better than me, turning your friends into soldiers and watching them die for your hopeless cause."
He could hear his heartbeat in his head.
"Maybe I'll settle for seeing you dead," Harry spat, eyes wild, composure splintering.
"If that were true, you wouldn't have spent the last four years avoiding seeing me so carefully," Voldemort dismissed. "You're still too in love with the pathetic teenager I used to be. Predictable, love. Don't ever think I can't see through your tells."
Sometimes, awfully, he forgot that it was all so horribly mutual. He could smash his fingers across all of the other's triggers all he wanted, but Tom had always been capable of doing the exact same damage back in a perpetual stalemate.
He swallowed, a ringing in his ears. The hand on which had hovered over his cheek tightened on his jaw, pulling it up, and those lips ghosted across his own. Harry's own hand shot up, grabbing Tom's-Voldemort's wrist and squeezing tightly, warningly, mouth dry.
He didn't think he could look away, even if he wanted to.
"Think about it," the other murmured. "These meetings could be a lot more beneficial if we were on the same side. I'm sure you can remember the pros for the immunity deal I offered last time we met will remain open until the end of the summer. If you don't take it, I will actively have you hunted down in your little set of caves, and see everyone you care about killed in front of you no matter how much you plead."
He received a smile that was far too saccharine, and then the other was sweeping out.
"It was lovely to see you again, Harry. Feel free to come by for dinner whilst you're here."
The door slammed shut behind him.
A/N: As always, feedback is much loved and appreciated. It's been a rough week. Hope you're still enjoying the story!