Chapter 10: But that was when I ruled the world
A once-sturdy cabinet filled with crystal glassware and a particular brand of scotch found no where else in the world leaned pitifully, slowly sinking to the ground unable to support its own weight anymore. The glasses were no more than sharp shards mixed with shivers of mahogany wood shavings. The entire mess was rife with malodorous damp brown. The bottles of scotch were all shattered, as if hit by a bombarda curse (actually, that's exactly what had happened).
The Minister of Magic sat alone in his office. He had originally gone to his home to sleep but had fled to the Ministry of Magic instead, trying to outrun his thoughts or avoid them under piles of paperwork and droning reports. It hadn't worked. Instead, he was still alone with his thoughts and this feeling in his chest that he was unfamiliar with. It was crushing...painful. Maybe he needed to go to Saint Mungos. Perhaps it was a magical malady.
A red rose still sat upon his desk. Looking at it only made his chest hurt more as if a mountain troll were sitting on him. So stupid...so, so stupid.
The bloody knife was still in his hand, sticky with dried blood. He had reasoned it out. He had been protecting himself. But then, why did he feel like this? What was it? And why did it feel so...bad?
By morning, Riddle had moved the rose off his desk. It now sat in his study at his house in a glass case next to the (still bloody but dried) knife and near his finally complete parselmouth book series. By morning, Riddle was numb.
The day flew past yet Riddle seemed to be separate from it. Meetings came and went, but Riddle barely said a word. Not even Lucius giving him a sandwich for lunch with mayonnaise on it garnered more than a swift harshly-toned correction (which was usually a curse-level offense since Riddle hated mayo).
Riddle had never been more bored in his life and it had only been one day. By the end of the next day, Riddle had enough with the meetings and the paperwork. He came into work long enough on the 28th to temporally hand over the powers of Minister to Lucius until he had dealt with this injury.
Then, he quietly retreated to his house, hiding behind his wards, and planned to do some book-searching (and possibly soul-searching) to figure out how to fix the problem (because there was no doubt in his mind as to the cause of the problem).
"My dear friend, Severus," greeted a jovial voice, interrupting the Potion Master's delicate work. Luckily, Severus was able to divert the catastrophe that adding one extra drop of Murlap Oil to the potion would have cause...just barely.
"Mr. Potter," he responded tersely. "I do not recall giving you permission to use my first name. Or enter my shop."
The messy black-haired man just waved his hand, "But it is a shop and those are generally open to the public, are they not?"
"Not when the closed sign is in the window. It is the holiday season after all, Mr. Potter," Severus said.
"Must have missed that." His green eyes were sparkling.
"And the locked door, Mr. Potter? Did you miss that too?" Severus sneered.
"That's why I like you, Severus. You are always so cunning."
Severus swallowed a retort, probably about the continued use of his first name, and instead, turned back to salvaging his potion. Men like Harry Potter did not liked to be ignored and it was the greatest insult he could give.
And just like that, Harry turned the tables on Severus.
"Well, I suppose if you're not in the mood for conversation then I just won't deliver this letter to you. Lily deserves a man more... hospitable than that anyway," Harry mused. Severus could hear his teasing tone, but couldn't help but rise to the bait.
"Lily?" he asked, turning around and giving the man his full attention.
"Yes, Lily Evans. She's such a darling woman, isn't she. So beautiful and smart. She works in the Department of Mysteries, did you know?"
Severus did know, but shook his head in the negative. He had always listened for morsels of information about his childhood best friend - the one woman he would ever love.
"Yes, well, she's doing excellent work according to her peers. I just had lunch with her the other day and your name came up. One thing led to another and suddenly she is asking me to deliver a letter to you." At this point, the young man produced an envelope and even from his distance he could make out Lily's familiar script. Severus put out his hand to receive the letter, but Harry pretended not to see.
"Now, after spending all afternoon with her, I have to wonder why she has never gotten married. Maybe the right guy hasn't asked yet?"
"Potter, just give me the letter!" Severus ordered angrily, snatching at it.
Potter removed it from reach, shaking his finger. "Ah ah ah," he chided. "I need a favor."
"Fine!" Severus uncharacteristically gave in without much debate.
"But first I'll need an unbreakable vow and then you'll get your letter." Harry only felt a little bit weird setting up his mother (yet not his mother) with the Potion's Master.
When the deed was done and the letter had finally found it to the rightful owner, Harry said, "It's nice doing business with you, Severus." He started towards the door but paused when he noticed a particular cauldron's contents. "How much?" Harry asked.
"100 galleons," Severus barked out a completely unfair price, impatient to be alone so that he could get to his letter.
"Done!" agreed Potter with a smirk that let Severus know that the young man knew he was being ripped off. Potter quickly paid then collected his prize.
Severus' stomach knotted uncomfortably at the thought of all the mischief the man could probably get up to with that much polyjuice.
"Milord?" Severus called out uncertainly into the dark hallway. Nobody seemed to be about and the entire house was dark. Severus couldn't quite stop from jumping when a house-elf popped into the room beside him.
"Snapey is here!" she cried pitifully. Her face was blotchy and wet with tears. "Nessy not know what to do. Master is sick! Very sick!"
She started pulling him along the corridor by the bottom of his robe and he had to keep up or risk getting tangled in the long black thing.
"What's the matter with him?" Severus asked.
"Master is sick!' she cried again. Severus shook his head at the simplicity of house elves.
"What type of sickness, Nessy?" he asked more specifically.
Nessy suddenly stopped, almost making Snape fall over her and looked up with big blue eyes that looked the size of tennis balls in her tiny head. "His head is very sick!"
Then she continued dragging him down the hallway and Snape prepared himself for everything from vomiting to head tumors. However, when the house elf got to the Dark Lord's room and pushed open the door, the Dark Lord looked perfectly fine. The room was just as dark as the rest of the house except the fireplace was roaring. The dark lord was staring into the fire and didn't even acknowledge Severus's entrance.
Severus bowed at his master's feet.
"What are you bowing at?" the Dark Lord finally asked after several tense moments for Severus.
"My lord," Severus answered.
"Your lord?" Riddle laughed bitterly. There was something off about his speech. But then, Riddle took a long draw from a bottle (not a glass) of wine. "Your lord of what? What have I ever done? What have I ever conquered to be considered a lord of." He was plastered.
"You are a great and powerful man full of vision and intellect. You rule from the shadows," Severus said.
"I don't rule anything! One man tore it all down!"
"Stop bowing Severus. It insults me..."
Severus got to his knees, competently checking Riddle's stats. Riddle slapped away his wand and hands.
"I know what's wrong with me, Severus! Too much wine and clinical depression."
"My lord?" Severus inquired again.
"I killed him, Severus. I killed the only man that will challenge me. I've killed the only man who knows everything about me and still loved me. What does that make me?"
"Who, my lord?" Severus asked, still subtly casting charms to check the man's health.
Severus froze. "When?"
"Four days ago, right on Christmas. It was so stupid. Why did I do it?"
"..." Severus made a strangled sound.
"What's wrong, Severus? You look like you just got on the bad side of an unbreakable vow."
Severus shook his head. "Just take these," Severus said, pressing several potions vials into the man's hands. "I'll take this," Severus liberated the wine bottle. "I'm sure everything will look much better tomorrow, my lord. Sleep well tonight."
"What's the point of it all?" moaned Riddle, but took his potions. The house elf was able to get him into his pajamas and into bed. Just in case, Severus cleared out the man's supply of alcohol before he left.
Riddle was back to work the next day eager to keep busy and to look normal. Distraction was the key to getting better, he had decided.
"Good morning, Minister!" a way too cheerful voice called out right by his office door. It was his new secretary: he had fired the old one because she was, apparently, very easy to charm into giving away confidential information.
"Good morning..." Riddle had to pause to think of the woman's name, "...Cheryl." It was not quite up to his normal charming standard, but it was a work in progress. It's not like it mattered anyway: one of the main reasons he had hired this new redheaded secretary was because she was a lesbian and not interested in him at all. Though she did seem to be devouring him with her eyes right now so maybe his information had been wrong.
"It's Carol, actually," she corrected.
"Ah...my apologies," the Minister stated carefully a little taken aback. He had an almost eidetic memory and rarely forgot a name. He blamed recent events. "Carol then, could you get me a cup of coffee?" Without waiting for her to answer, he was in his office trying to catch up on meetings, paper work, and reports.
He was just finishing reading a request for a Ministry Winter Ball (of all the banal and moronic things) when Carol returned with his coffee. He accepted with a grunt and no gratitude towards the new secretary.
"Oh a ball!" she exclaimed obviously reading the form on his desk. "How wonderful! I love balls!"
Riddle's opinion of her dropped rapidly to 'Airhead.'
"What's so wonderful about them?" he nearly growled.
"It's such a wonderful time to meet people and dance and have fun!" Riddle felt his eyebrow twitch in annoyance because the woman only seemed to have one way of speaking: shrilly. He had a feeling he was going to have a new secretary soon. "...and I can get so distracted from anything else going on in my life!" The secretary finished. Riddle, who had tuned out over half of what she was saying, blinked slowly at that thought. Distracted.
"Who would plan it?" he asked. "You?" he asked half-jokingly.
"I'd be honored!" Riddle's eardrums were ringing. "I'll take care of everything Minister! Now, we just missed being able to do it on New Year's Day, but the week after, yes, next Saturday the 6th will work perfectly. And I'll have to get Narcissus Malfoy's opinion on this! Everyone knows she has the best taste for this sort of thing..." She continued to muse aloud even as she returned to her desk to write letters to get everything arranged.
Not seeing the harm, Minister Riddle signed his approval for the ball.
"He's going to torture me when he finds out!" Severus snarled at the man-who-Riddle-thought-he-murdered.
"You'll be fine. I'll distract him. Don't worry."
"You better be right Potter!" Severus threatened.
"How's Lily?" Potter teased.
"Mind your own business!" Severus growled before stalking away.
"Mrs. Malfoy!" The blonde pureblood turned from where she was sitting in the Leaky Cauldron to see a bubbly redhead bustling through the door to meet her. "Thank you for meeting with me. I've been trusted with a very special request from the Minister himself and I need your help." The minister's secretary took out her wand but it took her two attempts to get the privacy ward set correctly.
Narcissus' lip curled at the girl's incompetence.
"It's a very secret request, Mrs. Malfoy, so I'm going to need a vow of secrecy." The girl pushed a magical contract towards Narcissus to sign. The contract only promised not to speak of the request, so Narcissus signed it with nary a thought. The girl leaned closer, "The minister has decided to throw a ministry ball, Mrs. Malfoy, next week. I'm sure you've heard. But what no one knows is..." the girl leaned even closer and whispered, "It's really a secret wedding. The minister is getting married!" The girl let out an excited shriek.
Narcissus could only blink for a second. "Oh, well let's make sure it goes off without a hitch."
Riddle was actually impressed with the speed that his new secretary was getting everything arranged. Already she had a tailor in to measure him for new robes for the ball. To get any tailor on New Year's Day must've been a chore. Maybe Carol wasn't an airhead after all.
"Are you sure these are quite right?" the minister questioned the tailor. The robes fit him well and made him look good but they didn't look like ball robes. They were too formal, almost like he could get married in them.
"Yes sir," the tailor nodded, making some of the last changes. "These are the latest style." Riddle mentally shrugged and decided that the tailor knew robes best.
"Carol," the Minister called out later that day eyeing a package on his desk distrustfully. It was brightly wrapped with a big pink bow and a tag that read 'From Carol."
"Yes, Minister," came the prompt reply.
"What is this?" he asked testily.
She blinked innocently. "It's a present, sir. Happy Birthday!"
The minister frowned. "Is everything planned out for the ball on Saturday?" he asked, completely off-topic.
The redheaded secretary smiled airily. "Yes sir! Narcissus Malfoy is taking care of the last few things for me!"
"Good," the minister said. "Then, Carol..."
The minister banished her from the room and banished the present to the corner. It would be the day before the ball that the minister finally opened the present.
It would also be the day he met his secretary again (and for the first time apparently).
~o~O~I almost left you here, but I think you've waited long enough~O~o~
"Carol, what are you doing here?" he demanded, surprised to see her sitting at her desk again when he came in the morning of the 5th. He hadn't gotten around to hiring someone new.
The secretary seemed a bit taken aback by his ire. "It's Cheryl, actually, sir. And I know I asked off till the 8th, but I was already back from France for the holidays and thought you might need a bit of help getting everything ready for the ball tomorrow."
That made Riddle pause, narrow his eyes, and then use legilimency on the redheaded secretary. So it was Cheryl! At least he wasn't wrong about that. But if this was his secretary...then who had been impersonating her? Let me take a wild guess, Riddle subconscious sarcastically thought. However, he wasn't quite ready to get his hopes (or other parts?) up to really think that thought out further.
Which is why he opened the present, hoping for a clue. Instead, he found a book: The Tales of Beedle the Bard.
Riddle ignored his work for the day and returned home (leaving a very confused secretary to cancel any appointments with half-assed excuses).
He read through the book of fairy tales twice and then dove into his pensieve again to find the final clue. It was the photo album. Harry always looked the same. Exactly the same in every picture. Riddle caressed the spine of the book, finger skimming the picture of Death in the Tale of Three Brothers. The tale of the Master of Death. "You're immortal too," Riddle whispered the final answer to all of the hints that Harry had been laying out. Suddenly, he felt a tug at his naval. The book's a portkey! Riddle barely had the time to start panicking before the tugging of the portkey stopped and the sound of a single person clapping filled his ears.
"Just so you know, I consider us even now. I killed you in another dimension. You killed me in this one. Now we're over that and we're now not going to do it again, are we?" the man scolded.
"Potter!" Riddle hissed. He approached the man angrily, shoving him against the wall with his wand to his throat.
"You've solved the riddle, Tom. You know that won't work. Or at least it won't last. And please, call me Harry. You can't call your future-husband by his last name. Really, it's unorthodox!" Harry was calm in the face of Riddle's fury and that just made Riddle's blood run hotter. His wand jabbed deeper into the man's throat, who did nothing to try to protect himself. Riddle was just so...overcome with a deep sense of relief? The pain in his chest was dulling, the blood in his veins was pumping, and everything from the last week or so just dimmed away. Riddle had never felt more alive.
That's what Riddle blamed for throwing his wand way like a dramatic fool and kissing the man to within a breathe of death (well, metaphorically at least). He also blamed that feeling for letting Harry - Potter! - lead him by the hand to the bedroom, pulling clothes off as they went. Thinking could wait for a couple of minutes. Which quickly turned into a couple of hours and, before Riddle could really come to terms with everything, he was waking up to the smell of sex, coffee, and bacon.
Harry smiled at him from the stove when he came out of the room to fill the needs of his empty stomach. "Good morning," the man greeted calmly but contently.
"Ugh," Riddle grunted with a nod, not much of a morning person.
"So, Carol?" Riddle asked after a cup of coffee and half of his breakfast had been consumed. Harry nodded with a devious smile. "Polyjuice?"
"You got it in one. I enjoyed spending time with you."
"You were - are - a harpy."
"I love you too."
Riddle just grunted again, not knowing how to respond to the affirmation.
Harry quickly swept down to one knee. "Tom," he asked, a serious edge to his tone and eyes. "Will you marry me? I promise to be there for you, forever."
Time seemed to slow and Riddle's eyes locked with Harry's for the longest time. Finally, he managed another grunt (his third of the morning - it's a record) before swiftly taking his hand away from Harry who had grab it when he went down for his proposal. He quickly buried himself in the morning news, trying to ignore the smug that surrounded the other man.
Eventually, he had read everything in the paper however, and could no longer use it to hide. "So what happens now?"
"First, we spend the day together, then we'll go to the ball together tonight to introduce ourselves as a couple to the world, and then we'll get married."
"You've really thought everything out."
"You have no idea how long I've been waiting for you."
As with many things concerning Harry Potter, it wasn't until much later that evening that Riddle figured out that he had missed something. It was about the time that Riddle and Harry had shown up at the ministry for the ball (in matching suits except Riddle's was black and Harry's was white), that Riddle started to grow suspicious.
In fact, everything had been quite wonderful all day up until they got to the doors of the ball, awaiting their announcement to enter the room as a couple. It was then that the music suddenly switched to a song Riddle recognized as the Wedding March.
His eyes narrowed dangerously. "Harry?" he hissed as the doors started opening. Harry smiled back at him from his elbow.
"Finally!" Harry praised at the use of his first name.
Riddle sneered, "When you said earlier that we would get married..."
Harry rolled his eyes. "We're you not listening? I said we would go to the ball and then we would get married."
"Yes, you said that but I thought they were to be separate events." Riddle had to whisper this in Harry's ear now as they were walking down the aisle of crowd of people towards an arch in the front of the room. To everyone else, the whispering in the ear seemed sweet, as if Minister Riddle was trying to calm his nervous fiancé. "I thought marriage would be in a couple years, maybe a couple months at least."
"Nope!" Harry smiled winningly.
"Is this a legal marriage? How did you get my signature for a license? How did you even know I would agree this morning?"
"Stop asking so many questions, you! I'm trying to enjoy the best day of my life!" Harry reprimanded.
Riddle was out of time to ask questions anyway because they had reached archway where an officiant stood cheerfully. However, no one could quite match the cheer that radiated from the man the Minister of Magic was escorting down the aisle (and marrying he supposed.) Riddle just gave a resigned sigh. What's the worst that could happen?
Minister Riddle (who was still dazed at being tricked into a wedding but not as angry as he had every right to be) was currently twirling his new husband around on the dance floor. Harry was happily nattering away.
"Now, we're going to have to work on this blood purity campaign you've got going. It's stupid... "
Riddle just mentally rolled his eyes and starting scheming on ways he could continue the legislation behind Harry's back.
~o~O~ Sadly, the end ~O~o~