"I have to wonder if this is your idea of a joke," the young green eyed wizard said by way of greeting, as he pushed into the booth to sit across from the handsome dark eyed man wearing a hooded cloak. The younger wizard, only eleven years of age, was holding a folded piece of parchment in his hand, and after waving it at the man in indignation he threw it to the table. "Do you know what would've happened if someone had seen that signature you so brilliantly decided to write on it?"
"I suppose they would've jumped to conclusions," the man answered calmly and looked up from the boy and to the bar's owner, who was throwing glances his way. "Rosmerta, be a dear and bring my young friend something to drink. A Butterbeer, perhaps."
"Screw that," the younger wizard snarled as the woman quickly replied and then headed away to fill the request. "Get me a Firewhiskey."
"Now, now, Mr. Potter. Kids of your age shouldn't be drinking," the man answered with an ever growing smirk.
"Shut up, idiot. What if someone hears you?" the boy hissed, and glanced around. After seeing that no one had been listening, he turned to the man. "You're enjoying this, aren't you?"
"Why, yes. Yes I am," the man agreed, lifting his tea cup and taking a sip. "How is school life working out for you, my dear boy?" he then asked, and his smirk turned into outright grin when the boy glared daggers at him. "I guess it isn't?"
"Wipe that stupid expression off your face. It doesn't fit at all," the boy snapped, and then glanced up as Rosmerta came, bearing a pint on her tray.
"Thank you, love," the man across from the boy said happily, ignoring the boy's growl as he handed a few coins over for the pint. "Never mind my… nephew. He is in a slightly foul mood today. I'm sure it will pass once he’s had the chance to taste your marvellous Butterbeer." He winked and slapped the woman's behind outrageously to send her away. Normally this would've gotten a curse and a boot to the behind from famous Rosmerta of the Three Broomsticks, but somehow he only managed to make the woman blush and titter and hurry away with hips swinging.
"You. You are doing this on purpose," the boy groaned in desperation. "You are doing this to torture me."
"Mm-hmm," the man agreed, looking after the retreating woman. "I am an exceedingly good-looking man, you know. It's only right I use that to my advantage." He pursed his lips thoughtfully. "Hmm… I might actually ask her out after tonight. Could be interesting."
"Dear Merlin, save me," the boy sighed, looking like he wanted to slam his head against the table. "Did you have an actual reason for this meeting, or did you insist on this tryst just to make my life a little bit more miserable than it already is?"
"Well, I suppose it's little bit of both," the man answered. "Mostly I just came here to gloat, though."
"Gloat?" the boy asked faintly, looking at the man. What did he have to gloat about; his life had to be at least twice as miserable as his own was, all things considered. The boy frowned and then sat up a bit straighter, taking in the man's face more closely. "Bloody hell. That's not an illusion? Not a glamour?" he asked, and reached over the table to touch the man's face, to tug on his cheeks. "Holy crap. This is your real face!"
"Uhhuh," the man grinned smugly, looking entirely too satisfied for someone who was having his cheeks pulled. Almost absently, the man pulled out his wand and cast a silent muffliato around them before the boy got too loud and people actually started paying attention to them.
"Wait," the boy muttered, frowning. "I don't believe you. Polyjuice potion?"
"Is that your way of saying you want to spend an hour with me?" the man asked. "I wouldn't mind. We can sit here and talk about your no doubt lovely experiences in school while we wait for the supposed potion's effect to wear off…"
"Shut up," the boy answered, tugging the man's eyelids up to see the dark irises of man's eyes completely. "A-HA!" He said in triumph. "There should be a dot of black in the lower left side of the left iris! You're not accurate, this is some sort of illusion, this -" he stopped abruptly, and the iris he was examining immediately shifted, and a dot of black appeared where it hadn't been before. "How did you…. You're possessing a Metamorphmagus!"
The man rolled his eyes, pulling the boy's hands off him. "Not quite," he answered and picked up his tea cup again. He smiled faintly at the boy's frown. "Pisses you off, doesn't it?"
"How did you manage it?" the boy demanded to know. "It took years, years… how did you, in a mere four months…?"
"I will tell you, but first I want to know…." the man trailed away, his smile widening slightly. "How is school?"
"How do you think it is?" the boy snarled, leaning back and almost throwing himself against the backrest of the booth. "The students are idiots, the teachers are idiots, the ghosts are idiots, and I hate the portraits…. Dumbledore is hovering about, going on with that deranged grandfather act of his; McGonagall insists on keeping me after classes to have heartfelt discussions about Transfiguration; Snape is following me around the school, I swear…"
"Now, now," the man said admonishingly, clearly enjoying the situation.
"Do you know just how hard it is to down play magical talents?" the boy demanded to know, pointing an accusing finger at the man. "Oh, it's all fine and dandy when you think about it, just do the simplest spells and don't stand out, fake a fail a few times to keep up the pretence, but lo and behold, it doesn't work like that! Once your magic knows how to do something, it does it right every single time - and what's worse, my magic works reflexively now! I nearly killed Draco Malfoy because he threw a leg-locker curse at me! Do you know how long it took to explain exactly how I learned a seventh year combat spell? Four hours - with three different teachers, AND Snape was trying to get into my mind the whole time!"
"Sounds tough," the man said, sounding absolutely pleased with the situation.
"PLUS there’s Granger. Hermione Bloody Granger," the boy groaned, throwing his arms up as if to ask the ceiling to fall on him. "I let things slip around her maybe one or four times, and now she won't leave me alone. ‘What did I do, where did I learn that, what books did I read, why didn't I tell her before, can I show her…’ She keeps following me around now, even more than Snape does, and every time I go to the library she’s hovering behind my shoulder, trying to see what I read." The boy growled and held up his hand, holding his forefinger and thumb a hair's breadth apart from each other. "I'm this close to orchestrating a little accident for her and making her stay in the hospital wing for the rest of the semester."
The man cleared his throat, raising his eyebrow at him until the boy rolled his eyes. "I won't," the boy snapped. "Not with Dumbledore and Snape watching me like pair of overgrown vultures," he muttered.
"I see," the man said, looking pleased again. "And tell me, what of Ronald Weasley?" A grin broke out to his face as the words brought a deep, heartfelt groan out of the boy.
"I swear, I will one day sink him into a wall and leave him there," the boy answered. "I thought he'd be fine, sort of like comic relief or a trained monkey or something, but no. ‘Can I borrow your broom, what do you think of the Cannons, Malfoy is a prat, Snape is a greasy git, I hate my brothers, I hate being poor, blaa blaa blaa...’" the boy made a yapping motion with his hand. "And in the end he doesn't even say a damn thing. Oh, and let's not forget... ‘studying is for geeks and slimy Slytherins, why do we have to go to the library, can you help with my school work, I hate potions, I hate transfiguration, help me write my essays, come on let's go outside, who'd want to read?’ And I can't even throw a silencing charm at him because then he'll run to a teacher and what fun would that be! The only time he’s tolerable is when he's playing chess and then he keeps grinding his teeth and biting his nails and creaking the chair…" the boy made a wringing motion with his hands.
The man chuckled. "Seems you're having fun."
The boy moaned in frustration. "And I can't even seek out any more intelligent conversation!" he muttered. "Because if I try to talk to anyone, they all stare at me, and ask me about You-Know-Who and ask to see the scar…. Once, I tried to get into a study group. Guess what we talked about for four sessions straight? My supposed ability to survive a killing curse," the boy rolled his eyes. "If I talk to Ravenclaws, they’ll either look down their nose at me or they'll be condescending because I'm the Boy Who Lived and obviously getting good scores because of favouritism. I tried to talk with some Slytherins once, ended up having to heal and Obliviate them all afterwards - they're all alive, don't ask…" the boy waved the matter aside with his hand.
The man chuckled. "How long have you wanted to get all this out?" he asked amusedly. "You're spilling your issues to me like a broken dam."
"Yes, well, I have very many issues with this situation," the boy growled. "I thought it would be beneficial to stay in Hogwarts. Make contacts, create allegiances, things like that. Not quite," he snorted and leaned back on his bench. "Fucking waste of time. And I can't even get out because for as long as I'm a ward of Hogwarts, Dumbledore can track me wherever I go - and to break the ward-bond I'd have to do it in the Great Hall, and he'd find me before I'd get the ritual done. And that would be a lovely mess right there."
The man laughed at that. "Poor little boy. So many problems," he said, mockingly sympathetic.
"Go to hell," the boy said, and finally reached for his cooling Butterbeer. "How did you do it?" he asked almost sullenly, looking up at the man. "The body, how did you make it?"
"Care to venture a guess?" the man offered teasingly and smiled when the boy glared at him over the pint. "There is one creature in the magical world better at self-transformation than any metamorphmagus," the man finally said, studying his fingernails in completely fake nonchalance. "I happened to run into one, and decided to see what would happen. To my surprise, we were a perfect match…" he trailed away, shining his middle finger's nail against the label of his dark robes. "Must be because of how much people fear me."
The boy stared at him in disbelief. "You're a… boggart?" he asked slowly. "A fucking boggart?
The man sent a victorious smile at him. "Imagine if you will, the most feared and fearsome man in all of creation, and a thing that thrives on fear," he said making a waving motion with his hand. "Of course I had to leave poor Quirrell to make it work - he's probably still rotting in that Grimmauld Place cupboard - but work it did. Now I am a boggart that, instead of relying on what people fear, can choose to become whatever I wish." The man's smile broke into a shit eating grin. "Plus I got a nice little boost to my Legilimency talents. Boggarts are the strongest telepaths there are, apparently. Who knew."
"A fucking boggart," the boy groaned and gave into the urge. His forehead made a loud thumb as it hit the table's surface. "A boggart. That's it. That is fucking it! I give up! You win! I hate my life, I hate you, and I hate your fucking boggart." He looked up. "Kill me now and put me out of my misery."
"Aww, but then I'd have no one to gloat to," the man whined. "What fun would there be in life then?"
"Wait, if you're a Boggart, then…" the boy quickly reached out his wand, and pointed it at the man, yelling, "Riddikulus!"
"It would be pretty ridiculous if I hadn't figured out a defence against that, don't you think?" the man asked amusedly. "Also, I can prowl through an amusement park on my way to the nearest stand-up comedy show, and not even get a twitch. So you can forgo laughing - I wouldn't want you to hurt yourself trying."
"Yes, I doubted I'd get out of this that easily," the boy sighed sadly and dropped the holly wand to the table. "So, now what? You have the perfect body apparently. What now?"
"Well, I was thinking of tumbling around in the hay with the lovely Rosmerta, and see how I feel after that," the man answered, throwing a thoughtful look after the bartender. He glanced at the boy from the corner of his eye and smiled. "Oh, come now Harry. Can't I get a better reaction than that?"
"Go fuck yourself," the boy pronounced slowly and carefully.
"I hate to say it, but I think school might be teaching you bad manners. ‘Go fuck yourself?’ Really? Tsk tsk…." The man shook his head, and smirked at the look on the boy's face. "Well, I guess I ought to thank you for this," the man said after a moment, looking at his hand as he stretched his fingers. "If you hadn't gotten the brilliant idea of going back to your youth to relive your life and fight your wars anew…."
"Well, I wouldn't have if I had known this would happen," the boy muttered looking at his own small hand with complete disgust. "Or that you'd come along with me. The idea was to find way to never have to see you again in my life. And here you are. Fucking brilliant."
The man laughed. "Yeah, Hogwarts is totally teaching you bad manners," he said, leaning back. "Maybe I should try and push for an adoption and see if I could force some better etiquette on you."
The boy froze and looked at him seriously. "You wouldn't," he said, but his voice was a little uncertain.
"Oh, but I would. It would be hilarious, don't you think?" the man asked. "It would actually be pretty easy, when you think about it. Not that many could connect me with Voldemort after all. I'm just Tom Riddle, a former Headboy of Hogwarts, who went and vanished a few years after school, only appearing to try and become a teacher at Hogwarts and then vanishing again." He grinned widely as he thought about it. "The only people who know are former teachers and some Death Eaters, right? If I could just be sneaky enough, I'd get it done before Dumbledore could get a word in edgewise."
The boy groaned, imagining it. Dumbledore would never stop campaigning to get it undone. There would be politics, and Wizengamot sessions, and no doubt half a million bashing articles in the Daily Prophet. He'd probably even mobilise his Order of Bright Plumage and start his own private little witch hunt. After a moment of thought, the boy snorted. "Actually, it could be amusing," he admitted, before imagining Lucius Malfoy's face when he heard. He couldn't help but smirk at that.
"Aww, now you went and ruined it for me," the man sighed. "It's no fun if you agree with me."
"Should I scream rape to make it more entertaining for you?" the boy asked sarcastically.
"Hmm… maybe after the adoption papers are signed. In some suitably public area, maybe with some random passing photographer just managing to snatch a picture of your horrified, tear stained face as I sweep you away," the man mused, grinning widely. "Now that would make the front page of the Daily Prophet. Just imagine, Boy Who Lived Swept Away Against His Will! Witnesses Hear Him Screaming for Uncle!" the man trailed away and hummed thoughtfully. "I'd never make a good reporter."
"You think?" the boy asked sarcastically, even whilst eying the man with a somewhat concerned look upon his face. "You're not actually thinking of adopting me, are you?"
The man just smiled at him. "How are things going in Hogwarts otherwise? Did they find a good replacement for Quirrell?"
The boy rolled his eyes. "Ministry sent some half trained Auror who just tells us to read the book and do some self-study," he answered. "It's pretty much the same for all the years, I think."
"And the stone?" the man asked.
"I think Dumbledore moved it when Quirrell went missing," the boy shrugged his shoulders. "Not that I particularly care. The stone is fake in any case."
"It is?" the man asked, frowning.
The boy waved his hand. "I met the Flamels later on, sometime after they supposedly died of old age," he said with rather annoyed look about his face. "There's a couple of old codgers you don't want to underestimate."
"They cursed you, didn't they?" the man asked, amused.
"I'm not sure, exactly," the boy said, frowning at the memory. "It was rather strange. I woke up in a muggle coma ward four weeks before I went to meet them. After I managed to regrow my legs, I figured it was probably best to leave them alone."
The man chuckled. "Well, six hundred years is a long time to learn some tricks," he mused. "Who knows how many people have tried to steal the stone from them over the years. And Dumbledore hides the thing - or what he thinks is the thing - in a school full of children, behind half-assed protections…."
"I think the whole thing was a sham, a trap," the boy said thoughtfully, not really believing that they were having a decent discussion now. "He took what he thought was the real thing, and then made a copy of it. So it's a copy of a copy that he hid behind his half assed protections... try and draw out whoever’s after it. And we fell for it, both of us."
The man snorted. "Yes, we did. Dumbledore is many things, but he knows his deception, alright," he muttered. He lifted his tea cup in a toast. "May the bastard never kick the bucket, for what would life be without him making it interesting?" he said, and drained what was left in the cup. "Well then, I think this has been about enough gloating for one day. Time for little boys like you to return to their schools like the good students they are."
"I hate you. I really, really hate you," the boy growled, but he knew he needed to head back. He couldn't fool the ward-bond for long with the duplicate magical signature he’d left behind. He stood up and checked to see that he had his invisibility cloak still securely in his pocket. "You weren't serious about adopting me, right?" he asked once more, just to be sure.
"What do you think?" the man asked, smirking.
"Damn it," the boy muttered. "I hate you, Potter, and I swear I'm going to smother you in your sleep if you give me half a chance," he promised heatedly.
"Sure you will, Tom. Sure you will," the man who had once, before war and time travel, been the Boy Who Lived, smiled almost kindly. The expression looked wholly wrong on Tom Riddle's handsome face. "Now be a good little boy, and go back to school. You wouldn't want to miss your bedtime. What would your teachers say?"
"Fuck you very much," muttered the boy who had once, before defeat and some very bad decisions, been a Dark Lord, before turning on his heel and heading out. So much for time travel fixing all your problems, he thought, and ignored how the man he had one been laughed after him.