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Historical hypotheticals

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Harry scowls as he stomps his way across muggle London, grumbling under his breath, completely unconcerned by the looks the people around him keep throwing his way.

Why is it always him? Why does this sort of thing always happen to him?

Well, okay, he might have purposely stepped right in front of those spells flying at Ron’s back, who had been protecting the three muggle kids they had just rescued from the group of dark wizards and who had been just about to trigger the portkey that would take them to safety. So, of course, Harry had stepped right in the path of the spells to shield them all, as he has done so many times before.

And he had, knows he did shield them.

But how was Harry supposed to know that his tethered shields and the concussive, outwards wave of magic he had sent at their opponents would clash with the spells of the dark wizards they’d been hunting at the exact same moment as Ron had triggered the portkey. How was he supposed to know that the magic from those three sources – the spells and his own magic and the portkey – would then somehow interact, mesh, twist into something entirely different.

There had been an explosion, several magical forces clashing, destabilizing each other, twisting and evolving, pushing and pulling and making way where there was none. Because – with Harry’s magic saturating the entire area around them, the portkey, the explosion as a catalyst, all the while his magic was still tethered within the shields in that specific spot – somehow ended with him being dragged into the transportation magic of the portkey, despite Harry not even having been touching it.

There had been a blinding light, a sensation of being spread out too thinly – rather different from the usual portkey sensation of being squeezed through a tube – and then he’d crashed to the floor, in the exact same spot as he’d started out in, his magic still tethered in the same spot.

Just with him having been dragged about a century into the past.

Because, screw fate. Or magic. Or destiny. Or whoever else seems to so enjoy messing with Harry’s life.

You’d think he’d have already used up his quota of what-the-fuck events in his life time. Alas, apparently not.

You know, since he’s currently in 1925.

1925!

As in, almost a century into the past from his own time. Because, of course, he is.

Well, it had taken Harry a while to realize he had time traveled at all, had found himself standing utterly baffled in the Ministry entrance hall, having apparated there intending to check on Ron and the kids, only to realize that everything was just a little off. Starting with the style of people’s clothing and going all the way to the fact that not a single person was staring at him. Harry hasn’t gotten to enjoy any sort of anonymity ever since he stepped into the magical, fantastical, so-very-screwed-up world of Wizarding Britain as an eleven-year-old.

Once he had realized that something was off, it had admittedly taken him a while to come to terms with the fact that he isn’t in his own time anymore, and even longer to admit to himself that he doesn’t have a way to get back either.

And, Merlin, he hopes that Ron and the kids at least made it out alright, that it was only Harry who got taken for a ride through time.

The point is, Harry has somehow found himself in the year 1925, with nothing but the things he had been carrying on his person during the mission, meaning his own clothes, his Unspeakable cloak, and his wand. Well, and his emergency stash, of course.

You know, since he always carries at least some reserves of funds and items and the likes on his person at all times, stashed away in a bottomless pouch that he never really removes from his person. It’s for emergencies or in case he suddenly needs to go on the run again or anything along those lines. Because life has taught him that you just never know what might be waiting for you just around the corner. He is not ashamed to admit that the war certainly left its mark on him same as it has on every single person Harry knows and, magic, is he ever so grateful for that paranoia right now, because it means he at least has some of his things from the future with him.

But aside from that, the only person he knows in this time is Dumbledore. 

And maybe Harry should approach Albus, should try to work out a sort of game plan with his old headmaster for what to do with his knowledge of the future.  

Thing is just… It’s been a decade since he saw Dumbledore last, a decade for Harry to grow up and to gain perspective. And while he can admit that without Albus pulling strings in the background the light side would likely have lost the war. But with the way things played out in the end, Harry is also rather aware of the fact that his mentor certainly wasn’t without failings, not even close.

Like the fact that it was always his version of the greater good Albus worked towards, without accepting any input on the matter from anyone else, more often than not giving those around him little choice in how they were forced to move as pieces on Albus’ chessboard, and never caring that his version of the greater good might not entirely align with everyone else’s version of it.

Sure, Harry knows Albus would never abuse knowledge of the future to personally profit in any way, but he also doesn’t quite trust his old headmaster not to poke at things in an attempt to better the future, always always with the best of intentions but Harry can attest to the fact that Albus’ good intentions don’t necessarily work out all that well for those dragged into his schemes.

So, Harry decided against approaching his old headmaster, at least for now.

Well, he might still have risked Albus’ interference, if he’d had the slightest hope that he might be able to help Harry get back home.

However, Harry himself has been around the block once or twice these days, so he knows that there is no such thing as directed time travel by several decades in either direction. Sending him somewhere into the future, sure, that would actually be rather easily done. But sending him to a specified point in time? Very much less so. Another bout of time travel is just as likely to send him just a decade into the future as it is to fling him way past his own time a couple of centuries into the future. There is no way of knowing. And it’s thus not a risk Harry is willing to take.

Especially considering that he was brought here by some sort of magical freak accident, the circumstances that sent him here quite plainly impossible to reproduce. And thus, also impossible to reverse.

As much as he would like for things to be different, Harry knows he is quite simply stuck here.

And after some ranting and raving against the unfairness of it all, he has somewhat come to terms with this newest insanity in his life. If there is one thing Harry excels at, it’s surviving and making the best of any given situation fate decides to drop him into. This is no different.

He is still not particularly enthusiastic about it all, but he’s also made it through much worse, has had much more devastating curveballs thrown his way.

It’s not even the first time he’s time traveled – because his life is just that insane – but he also thinks that jumping a few hours backwards to fix something specific within the past twenty-four hours and then skeedaddling right back to his own time, certainly isn’t the same as landing almost a century in the past, long before he himself was born and without a way back or even being entirely sure how he got here in the first place.

And with this at least, he for once actually gets a say in what he wants to make of it.

Which had actually been a rather easy choice to make. You know, since given the chance to change things there is no way in hell Harry is just going to let everything play out as it did last time.

Yeah, no, Harry scoffs to himself. If the powers-that-be wanted to preserve the timeline, they should have picked someone else to screw over by sending them a century into the past.

So.

He’s been in the past for about a week now, and after coming to terms with that very fact, he had quickly settled on a path of how he was going to handle this.

Namely, to change everything.

Which brings him here, the middle of muggle London as Harry stomps his way through the city, a very specific goal in mind. Wool’s orphanage.

He is twenty-four, already has the defeat of four dark lords from various corners of the globe under his belt, including the one who had tried to kill him ever since he was a baby, plus a couple he’d run into or been sent after in the years following the defeat of Voldemort, and he is currently on his way to adopt said dark lord… Future dark lord? Potential dark lord? Mini-dark lord? Whatever.

Because he’s back in 1925 and Tom is still a small child and after some raging and ranting and wallowing and begging fate to let him go back to his friends and to please find someone else to screw over from now on, he’d finally come to terms with the fact that fate couldn’t care less about his demands and that he is stuck without a way out.

He doesn’t know whether there is some higher purpose of him being sent back here, honestly has no clue.

But he’ll be damned if he’ll simply stand aside and let things happen exactly as they did last time, ministry laws on time travel demanding he do exactly that be damned. ‘History’ includes decades of wars and countless lives lost, terror and senseless killings and bigotry so deeply ingrained on both sides that Harry thinks the scars ripped into British wizarding society might not ever be entirely healed. ‘History’ includes the deaths of Harry’s own parents and Sirius and so many of the people Harry cared about, so many lives lost, generations of wizards who had the black-and-white view of the world so deeply ingrained they couldn’t even see compromise between their sides any longer, an entire generation of children who grew up to be soldiers, dying for a cause, for a war, for a conflict none of them had any part in creating.

Yeah, ‘history’ can go right ahead and screw itself.

Sure, he’ll try to keep his interference generally localized, if only because he doesn’t fancy erasing himself from existence, so he fully intends to skip the country as soon as he can. But even if that ends up being the result, if his interference means that there won’t ever be a Harry Potter born in this timeline, he still isn’t going to sit on his arse and watch history repeat itself. No way. It simply isn’t in him.

And, yes, he is fully aware of those grave warnings about messing with time, how you’re supposed to ‘preserve the timeline’. But he has always thought that adage to be utterly ludicrous.

The first time he time traveled, he spent less than an hour in the past and did his best to heed that exact warning and he still ended up saving his own life, ridiculously enough.

Unless he kills himself right here and now, his presence in the past is going to change the course of history anyway, inevitably so.

Sure, he could take off to some different corner of the world, preserve Britain’s history as he knows it, but then he’d still inevitably mess with the history of some other part of the world just by being there, even if he wouldn’t know what exactly he might have changed due to lacking any frame of reference. But either way, his presence in the past will change things.

So, he might as well go for broke and see where that takes him.

Hence, his decision to adopt Tom.

Tom who was never really given a chance, who is still a child and already without family that wants him, won’t ever find anyone at all who’ll truly want him by their side. So, Harry is going to change that, take him in and give him the family the desperate-for-recognition orphan from Albus’ memories who Harry had empathized with so strongly so clearly longed for.

Albus might have tried to absolve himself of any guilt for Tom growing up to be a dark lord after a lifetime of mistreatment by anyone who held any sort of power in his life, might have tried to prove to himself that it wasn’t on him, that Tom had always been beyond help and that the immediate and uncompromising mistrust from the person who should have been his savior, the one who came to the orphanage to take him away to the magical world, didn’t utterly change things for Tom.

To this day, Harry can’t help but wonder how significantly different things would have been for him if it hadn’t been Hagrid – jovial, happy, friendly Hagrid, who talked about his parents and the wonders of the magical world – who got him from the Dursleys but instead someone who instantly taught him to be wary of those in the magical world who were more powerful than you. That one moment defined so much of his life and Harry can’t even imagine how differently he’d have approached the magical world as a whole if Hagrid hadn’t hexed the Dursleys in retaliation for their mistreatment of Harry and instead lectured Harry about having to be nicer to his relatives in turn. In hindsight he thinks it might truly have changed everything for him.

So.

He is going to give Tom what he had always deserved but never gotten. A chance. And if history will condemn Harry for doing just that in the future then, Merlin be damned, so be it.

Because not doing anything, letting history turn out exactly as it did last time around without even trying to make things better, simply isn’t in him.

Harry has never been one to sit around and do nothing.

And, time travel or no, he sure as hell isn't about to start doing so now.

Chapter Text

The matron at the orphanage kind of just… lets Harry take Tom.

She is so obviously ecstatic at the thought of getting rid of this particular child under her care and not even trying to hide her delight at the news that he is here to take Tom, Harry is honestly tempted to hex her. Just on principle.

Tom who is five and already a pariah at his orphanage after a few bouts of accidental magic apparently convinced the caretakers that he must be possessed by a demon or some other sort of evil. Because people really are that stupid.

The brief glimpses that Harry gleans from the matron’s surface thoughts - glimpses of several exorcisms performed on little Tom by the local priest and nuns from the nearby convent - instantly have him in a towering, righteous fury, his magic filling the room around him, oppressive and coiling with his anger.

Children being punished for their magic - something they have no control over, purely accidental, unintentional, instinctual - is one of those things Harry has absolutely no tolerance for. Like, none. It doesn’t matter to him whether it scares the muggles who witness the bouts of accidental magic or not, honestly couldn’t care less. Children are children, and thus always deserve to be protected. No matter how ‘freaky’ their powers may appear to the ordinary muggle, Harry never has nor will he ever accept any sort of excuses for someone mistreating a child.

Going by the woman’s wide eyes as she stares at him, she can definitely read some of his fury on him despite certainly not being able to feel his magic, but whatever she can read on his face has her immediately scuttling out of the room to get Tom as Harry requested.

She is back a mere minute later, leading a tiny, five year old Tom into the room. Tom who is scowling and looking down his nose at everyone around him, but with that desperate sort of underlying want as he watches the people around him interact, mouth curling down whenever he sees the other children laughing or one of the caretakers patting their heads. And seeing that very expression – the helpless sort of longing that Harry used to be far too familiar with, the sort of yearning he himself felt throughout most of his childhood, wishing for a family, just a place to belong, somewhere to be welcome and wanted – makes something in Harry’s chest twinge with an empathetic ache.

It also only serves to firm his resolve regarding what he is about to do, affirms his conviction that he is doing the right thing, that – future dark lord or not – Tom, like any other child, deserves a home, deserves to have somewhere where he is actually wanted.

Tom whose eyes immediately find Harry upon entering the office, suspicious frown in place, assessing him. It’s a little disturbing to see that sort of instant wariness in a child so young. Then again, after what he gleaned from the matron’s mind, saw how some of the other instances of Tom being called to her office progressed, Harry can’t even fault him for the immediate distrust.

No, he can’t fault him for it at all.

If anything, seeing Tom so clearly wavering between wariness of being tricked, of being led to yet another painful attempted exorcism or anything of the sort, but still desperately hoping that this time the matron’s claim of someone being here for him might be something good like it is for the other children, makes utter protectiveness curl in Harry’s chest. Children this young shouldn’t even know how to truly distrust anyone yet, much less their caretakers.

So, when the matron moves to enter the office behind Tom, apparently planning to once more settle behind her desk, probably intending to oversee their meeting, Harry just pins her with a dark stare – doesn’t even tune it up all the way, just the mere beginnings of the scowl he perfected over years of hunting powerful dark wizards around the globe – and it has her wide-eyed and scuttling right back out of the room again, closing the door behind herself as she goes. Good riddance.

It leaves just Tom and Harry in the office.

It takes Harry a moment, just a few seconds of standing in front of who could – will? might? – one day turn out to be the most terrifying dark lord Europe has ever seen, just a few moments to realign his thoughts, get his bearings, and remind himself that, future misdeeds or no, this Tom is nothing of the sort, entirely innocent by virtue of still being a child.

And Harry refuses to damn Tom for a future that might never happen, will not view him solely through the lens of someone who ‘knows’ what’s coming. He will not make the same mistake Dumbledore made of treating Tom like a pariah right from the start just because of some minor – or admittedly rather major transgressions – while defending himself against his bullies. He won’t make Tom feel like he has to forever prove his innocence - or at the very least disprove his guilt - no matter who might actually be at fault, won’t make him feel like he has to constantly prove his worth to those around him, only for him to still always always come up wanting. Yeah, the mere thought of that is hitting far too close to home.

The slight pause from Harry hesitating just briefly is barely there, barely noticeable, but he can already see Tom tensing nonetheless, bracing himself, waiting for whatever may come. Because at all of five years old, Tom has already learned to always expect the worst from strangers, especially those who give him too much attention.

Tom Riddle was never given a chance by this world, neither the muggle one nor the wizarding one. And no matter what this decision may mean for the future, Harry is utterly determined to change that.

So, he shakes himself from his reverie and then crosses the room in two calm strides, before simply crouching down right in front of the child, actively, purposely lowers himself so Tom can at the very least meet his gaze head-on.

Tom follows his every movement with his eyes, appraising and assessing and so clearly still not expecting anything good to come of being called to the matron’s office. It’s something Harry remembers all too well from his own childhood, remembers a time where any sort of attention had been a bad thing, where the Dursleys taking note of him had at best meant more chores but more often than not meant some sort of punishment and days of being locked in his cupboard.

Harry understands all too well exactly what Tom might be feeling right now, and he honestly hopes that this additional understanding of Tom’s situation might also give him an advantage in overcoming the various future obstacles that will inevitably come with adopting a child like him.

He hopes.

“Hello, Tom,” he finally greets calmly.

“Hello,” Tom returns, voice pompous and just this side of polite but his expression perfectly cherubic even while his eyes remain carefully assessing as he continues to watch Harry, waiting.

“My name is Harry,” he supplies, and then decides to go for complete straightforwardness, “I came here looking for you.”

Tom’s expression stays mostly neutral but his eyes narrow the slightest bit, apparently not particularly reassured by that claim. “You were looking for me?” he asks slowly. “Why?”

By Merlin, he is so tiny. There is nothing about this child that reminds Harry of the dark lord who terrorized him all throughout his childhood. This is just a child. A young child who has been dealt a really shitty hand by life.

“Because we are related,” Harry asserts calmly while meeting Tom’s eyes. “Rather distantly so, but related nonetheless.”

Which, okay, their blood relation via the Peverells may be a couple of centuries in the past but, then again, with the state of intermarrying between the more well-to-do wizarding families in Britain, Harry is just going to assume that there is in fact some sort of relation between them somewhere in more recent history. Not to even mention that with how often they’ve killed each other and with the prophecy and with Harry carting a part of Tom’s soul around with him for almost two decades and with his blood being used for Voldemort’s rebirthing ritual … ‘related’ almost doesn’t seem enough to cover how inseparably linked their lives have been since before Harry was even born.

Harry sees the utter, instant, helpless hope that shimmers through Tom’s eyes at that claim, as much as the child clearly tries to suppress it.

“Related,” Tom more states than asks. Then, again, a little more uncertain, hopeful, so very wary, “We are related?”

His expression remains impressively neutral but his eyes are already darting across Harry’s face, between his individual features, most likely trying to pick out any physical similarities between the two of them, briefly catching on his eyes, his nose, his chin, his hair. Looking for a resemblance. Any resemblance.

And, yeah, Harry definitely remembers this as well, remembers staring at the Dursleys as a child, so desperately trying to find any sort of physical resemblance between himself and them, like physical proof of their relation might make up for the fact that they clearly didn’t want him in their home, just some proof that he had a right to be there, that he actually belonged there.

 “Yes,” Harry nods in confirmation, pushes aside the ache in his chest at seeing something he remembers so well from his own less-than-stellar childhood in another child. “It’s a rather prominent family line, actually.” He pauses, considers his options, reminds himself that Tom at this age likely knows that he can do things others can’t, even if he has no clue just what that ‘something is’, and then thinks screw it before he leans down and murmurs, “Truly prominent,” even as he twirls his fingers in a bit of wandless magic, conjuring a Slytherin-green scarf to settle itself around Tom’s shoulders that Harry then reaches out to tuck around the boy’s neck. Because it’s drafty in the orphanage and seeing Tom in threadbare clothing like this honestly makes Harry want to gnash his teeth.

Tom Riddle or Voldemort in the future had been many things, but never once in their encounters had Harry’s destined nemesis been weak or in need of protection, if only by virtue of having rid himself of any sort of dependence on others early on. Even in that weird homunculus state or while inhabiting the back of Quirrel’s head, Voldemort certainly had been calling the shots, if only by way of his servants being too afraid to refuse him. So, seeing Tom like this, so helplessly subject to other people’s whims without any way of defending himself, is strangely… discomfiting.

Tom is staring wide-eyed at the casual bit of magic, the hope in his eyes brightening. “You can-?” he asks, instantly something so very eager, almost desperate about him, as he twitches the smallest step closer to Harry. “Just like-?”

Harry lets his lips quirk up into a smile, can’t help it. “Indeed, I can,” he confirms. “Just like you.”

Tom is still watching him, but one of his hands is reaching up to feel the fabric of the scarf now settled around his neck. “I can do a lot of things,” Tom whispers furtively, eagerly, earnestly, his eyes never leaving Harry.

And Harry just feels his smile widen. “I know.”

Dear Merlin, he is adorable. Which, well, that’s certainly a thought Harry didn’t expect to ever have about Tom Riddle. At any point.

Then again, even back when Harry himself had still been barely more than a child and the Headmaster had shown him his memories of first meeting eleven-year-old Tom, even then Harry didn’t quite understand why Albus had so instantly written Tom off as a lost case. Even knowing who Tom grew up to be later in life, Harry still doesn’t get how Albus could meet Tom, a child who is obviously so far ahead of the curve, and feel anything but utter amazement at how incredibly gifted at magic Tom is.

Sure, at eleven Tom hadn’t been nearly as innocent as he is right now, had already learned to use his magic and – more specifically – learned to use it against others, but Tom had also still been a child. And that should at least have afforded him the benefit of the doubt.

Harry never understood why the Headmaster never afforded Tom anything of the sort. Then again, that’s exactly why Harry is now here, at the orphanage, to do exactly that, isn’t it.

So, he lets his face turn serious again, even as he makes sure to keep his expression gentle and open as he then announces, “I came here looking for you, because I would like to adopt you.” Before adding, “If you want me to.”

Because knowing he can give Tom a better life than awaits him here or not, he is not going to force a child into his home if Tom doesn’t actually want it. He has never been a fan of Dumbledore’s brand of high-handed manipulation to get his way, whether it was turned on Harry or anyone else, and he sure as hell isn’t going to start falling into those same patterns now. Harry is and will always remain a big supporter of letting people make their own life-altering choices, undeterred by whether it might turn out to be to their own benefit or detriment.

“Adopt me?” The wariness and helpless hope warring with each other in Tom’s tone as much as he clearly tries to keep his voice neutral, almost make Harry want to reach out to hug this child in front of him.

Which might be a little much at this point in time, so in the end he settles on reaching out to let one of his hands rest on Tom’s shoulder.

“It is up to you whether you want to come with me,” he nods. “But there aren’t many of our bloodline left these days and I would truly like for us to be family.”

Tom is watching him, hope having overtaken the wariness in his eyes, even if the latter isn’t entirely gone yet, mixing with that shrewdness only those who have already seen some of the more… distasteful things humanity has to offer to those who can’t take care of themselves ever have, the look of someone who has trusted and had that trust utterly broken in turn. It’s a look Harry knows far too well from looking into the mirror.

But in the end, Tom gives a decisive nod, eyes bright on Harry, hope and the helpless longing for family apparently winning out. “I do.” And then, like he can’t quite stop himself, repeats it, “I want to come with you.”

Harry still hears the uncertainty warring with the desperately suppressed hope, the wish to finally have somewhere to belong. But that’s alright. Harry is happy to give Tom all the time he needs to start truly trusting him.

Tom sticks close to him after that, clearly torn between his general wariness of people in general but also wanting to make sure that Harry doesn’t change his mind about taking Tom with him.

Harry just acts like everything is normal, like there is nothing off about Tom sticking to his side like stuck there with a metaphorical sticking charm, while he completes the paperwork for the adoption with the matron, who doesn’t so much as dare look at Tom in Harry’s presence. Good call on her part.

Once the paperwork is settled, he follows Tom to his room to help him gather what meager belongings he has, which barely amounts to anything at all. But he takes care not to let any sort of reaction – negative or otherwise – show on his face when Tom leads him to the room he sleeps in, despite being perfectly aware of that one, brief glance Tom throws up at him as they reach his bed, knows that as much as Tom is trying to appear unconcerned with how little he has, he rather likely isn’t.

But Harry remembers not having anything by way of possessions perfectly well, remembers only ever getting cast-offs, the things that no one else wanted anymore, remembers treasuring the few broken toys he’d managed to weasel away from Dudley’s endless piles of discarded but never shared toys.

Today is certainly turning out to be a day of not-entirely-welcome but still-perfectly-remembered childhood memories for Harry. Seeing those same things in Tom, only firms Harry’s resolve, convinces him even further that he is doing the right thing, that he is doing what should have been done for Tom the first time around.

And as they finally leave the orphanage, Harry doesn’t reach out to take Tom’s hand, figures that particular gesture won’t necessarily be welcome at this point. But as they walk through the community room towards the entrance, children gathered around the room, staring at them, Harry reaches out to lay a hand on Tom’s shoulder, a clear sign of protection and belonging and kinship.

He doesn’t begrudge Tom the way he struts out of the orphanage beside him, the way he is so obviously, gleefully smug at having every orphan’s dream - not only of being adopted at all, but even more so of suddenly discovered family appearing to take them away to a better life - become a reality for him.

Harry can’t fault him for it. To the contrary.

He remembers having that exact same dream himself all throughout his childhood, hoping, dreaming, wishing desperately for someone to just show up at the Dursleys, for someone to take him away. Someone who’d actually want him.

Harry can’t help the warmth that spreads through him at the thought that he will be able to provide exactly that to Tom, a child who has always been so very similar to him, who always deserved this exact chance, deserved for his dream of suddenly discovered family to come true, to have a place to belong, somewhere to call home.

And maybe, in giving Tom just that, Harry might even have a chance at finding the family he himself has always longed for in return.

Chapter Text

Later that night, with Tom already asleep in his own bed in their room at the Leaky Cauldron, Harry sits at the window, watching the hustling and bustling outside, and can’t help but think how strange all of this is.

Not so much the traveling-to-the-past bit, Harry already more or less came to terms with that and is kind of just waiting for the other shoe to drop at this point, fully expecting there to be something else about this entire mess to turn up just to bite him in the ass.

There is always something else.

Like finding out about the wonderful magical world at eleven, only for Harry to then acquire a lurking Dark Lord stalker out for his blood for the next couple of years. Like finding out he actually had family after all, a godfather his parents personally picked to look out for him if they weren’t around, only for said godfather to turn out to be the most sought-after criminal in their country. Like finally finding out that there really was a way to defeat Voldemort, a way to win, only for Harry to realize that he himself would have to die first.

So, no, it’s very much not the time travel itself that is giving him pause, but rather the thought of what might be next.

Although, he is kind of hoping that him deciding to adopt Tom already qualifies, that there won’t be anything else, no additional, insurmountable obstacles for him to overcome. Even if he isn’t too optimistic about that actually being the case. There is always something else about his various what-the-hell-even-is-my-life adventures, something he didn’t see coming.

In contrast, his decision to adopt Tom seems almost… obvious? self-evident? to him. In a sort of but-what-else-was-I-supposed-to-do way.

With their lives as intertwined as they’ve always been, it just seems strangely fitting for the first thing Harry would do upon finding himself thrown into the past to be take in the child version of the dark lord who terrorized him all throughout his teenage years, who was directly or indirectly responsible for most of the things that went so very wrong in Harry’s life.

It’s just… Voldemort – as in the dark lord version of the child currently asleep in one of the beds in their room – was what steered Harry’s entire life down the path he found himself wandering down. His childhood as a lonely, unwanted orphan after Voldemort killed his parents, his teenage years of undeserved and unwanted fame for supposedly ‘vanquishing’ said Dark Lord as a baby, and even in his defeat at Harry’s hands, even in the years afterwards, Tom remained a determining factor in his life due to the fame his victory over Voldemort gained him once more.

Harry’s life has never not been about his connection to Voldemort.

He thinks seeking out Tom in the past was always going to be first on his list if given half a chance. It seems only fitting that he’d take him in, intertwining Tom’s life with his just as Harry’s has always been interlinked with Tom’s.

And, earlier, watching Tom’s wide-eyed wonder at his first glimpse of the magical world as they stepped into Diagon Alley, pure, speechless wonder at all the magical, fascinating, fantastically impossible things awaiting him there, had something warm swell in Harry’s chest, something that is utterly untouched by any thoughts of who Tom might still grow up to be.

Everything about today reminded Harry of himself, of his own past, of being eleven and never once having felt wanted by anyone, always being too different to fit in, either reviled or idolized for that very fact, never ordinary enough to be simply loved for himself. And, by Merlin, he remembers finding out that he wasn’t meant to fit in with his family, that he truly was different, remembers the helpless, breathless hope that in this world, this magical, fantastical world, things would be different. That he’d finally be normal and wanted and fit in.

Which, well, that hadn’t worked out quite as he’d hoped, had it now.

Sure, he’d found the place where he belonged in the world, but even then not once in his life has Harry ever fit in anywhere. Always too different, too special, forever set apart from his peers. And, after the childhood he’d lived, he hadn’t even been particularly surprised at that fact, as much as he might have wished for things to be different.

So, throughout the day Harry remained perfectly aware of the way Tom continued to watch him, silently assessing, appraising, clearly still bracing himself for that catch, that hidden drawback, that deception which must surely be part of Harry handing Tom the family he always wanted.

Harry honestly can’t even pretend to be offended at the boy’s obvious wariness.

Despite being so young, life has already taught Tom very effectively that things which seem too good to be true, usually are. Harry might be utterly determined to prove him wrong, to give Tom that certainty, that incredible, wonderful assurance of having somewhere where you are always wanted, always welcome, always loved. But they’re just not there yet.

It’s one of those things children from nice families don’t even realize they have, something they take for granted, can’t even imagine not having. The safety net of having a home where you are always welcome, always wanted.

It’s something Harry never quite managed to find for himself, even at the Weasleys’ still being grateful for being welcomed every time he visited, still seeing it as something of note. Not like Ron or Ginny or any of their siblings who’d simply stumble into their parents’ home and never once question whether they would actually be welcome.

The point is, for now, he can’t fault Tom for his wariness, for remaining somewhat suspicious, the way he watches Harry cautiously whenever Tom thinks he isn’t looking, smiles innocently whenever he sees Harry glance his way. Trying to make the best possible impression, so he’ll be allowed to stay, to keep this, to keep what he’s dreamed of having ever since he understood what being an orphan meant. All the while also telling himself that it’s not going to last anyway and not to be too hopeful.

However, it’s that very hope that he can see in Tom’s eyes, that helpless, breathless hope whenever the child forgets to remind himself to remain suspicious of being handed everything he wants in life, which has Harry absolutely certain he is doing the right thing.

Tom right now is just a child and there is simply no telling what Harry’s interference with time and history-as-it-once-could-have-been might do to the future. Sure, he is fully aware that his meddling might ultimately end up making everything so much worse than it originally turned out to be. But it might also make things better.

Because no matter who Tom might grow up to be in the future, no matter the potential he might have for being the most terrifying dark lord Britain has ever seen, it quite plainly has nothing to do with this Tom.

Harry quite simply refuses to believe that anyone is born evil, utterly refuses the mere concept, same as he doesn’t believe that anyone is born ‘good’ either.

If only because ‘being destined for evil’ would absolve those who do harm to others from responsibility of their own actions, since ‘they were just born that way’. Just as ‘being born good’ would negate any personal sacrifices made for the sake of others because it would just be ‘in their nature’.

Harry refuses to believe that.

It’s choices that make people who they are. Choices made by yourself and even choices made for you by others.

So, Harry himself made a choice. He chose to give the lonely orphan who was never really given a chance – who never knew family, who never had anyone in his corner, who grew up without a support system until he got strong enough to no longer need anything of the sort and then lived for the sole purpose of punishing those who did – a family.

Real family.

The sort of family even Harry himself has never had and almost gave up on hoping he’d ever get after he and Ginny broke up for the second time. His and Ginny’s post-war attempt at a relationship never really took off before they’d realized they just didn’t work together anymore.

It hadn’t been Ginny’s fault, not at all. Just like it hadn’t been Harry’s fault either.

In those months of living in a tent, living solely for the defeat of Voldemort, hunting dark wizards and entrenching himself in magic so dark it makes his very soul curl away in disgust at the mere memory, before he had finally walked willingly to his death, like a not-so-metaphorical sacrificial lamb walking to his own slaughter…

It had changed him, the loss of belief in those he thought he could trust, the realization that even that which seems pure evil isn’t born from nothing, that there is always a reason, a history, somewhere where it all started. The realization that betrayal is far more likely to come from those you trust most than it is to come from your enemies, no matter how evil you might think them to be.

That even those, who are on the same side as you, might not necessarily be on your side as such.

Sure, Harry ultimately made it through the war, survived. But those last few months, everything he came across, went through, the many loyalties broken, those he trusted most not nearly as much on his side as he had been on theirs, all the while having his supposed enemies be the ones to save his life when it truly came down to it. All of it. It turned him darker, harsher, and far less inclined towards teenage romance.

And for all that Ginny had been utterly willing to make do, to somehow work through it with him, to stay at his side as he found himself again, to try and help him see the world as just as bright a place as he had before, he also couldn’t bear the thought of making her do anything of the sort, of dragging her even slightly into the darkness that had been choking him back then. He had much preferred to keep her the bright, shining, beautiful girl of his memory, untouched by the darkness that he himself had not managed to entirely escape.

To his surprise, out of all of his friends Ron had actually been the one who understood without Harry even needing to explain.

Ron who had finally gotten past the jealousy of his childhood and understood more than anyone else that, while others – Ron himself included – might have tried to help Harry in his quest to defeat Voldemort, might have tried to shoulder some of the weight of his prophesized destiny with him, the ultimate burden had been solely on Harry no matter how much they supported him through it all.

Ron had understood the toll it took on Harry better anyone else had, even more so than Hermione.

Harry thinks, in the end, despite their friendship truly not having been the smoothest, despite having had their ups and downs, despite their friendship even having broken a few times along the way, Ron still gets him in a way no one else ever did. Mostly because for all his jealousy and teaspoon-like lack of empathy, Ron has always taken Harry exactly as he is, never once tried to change him, to the point of almost astonishing obliviousness. Like not noticing Harry’s cast-off clothes or the scars or how skinny Harry used to be after each summer with the Dursleys. Others may call Ron oblivious and, sure, that’s not too far off the mark, but to Harry it had been worth more than he could possibly say that Ron took all of that, everything about him, and simply accepted it as Harry being Harry and not once questioning any of it.

For his eleven-year-old self who had stumbled into a society where every single witch and wizard he came across thought they knew Harry, thought they had a right to him, to his time, where everyone knew more about his history than he himself did, while he himself knew nothing about their world, having that sort of uncompromising acceptance Ron offered him right from the start had been everything.

But the point is, Harry had broken it off with Ginny soon after the war and he hasn’t met anyone since he might have been interested in who wasn’t excluded on the same basis as her.

Turns out, people in his age group generally don’t share his experiences of saving the world – or at the very least, their country – a couple of times while still in their teens, are nowhere near his level of actively developed empathy for allies and enemies alike mixing with absolute disillusionment where general human nature is concerned. Hell, most people never reach that point throughout their lives at all, no matter how old.

And until he does find someone who gets it, who he doesn’t have to explain it to, Harry decided he’d much rather stay on his own.

Which, well, while not what he had envisioned for his own future – whenever he dared think about his future at all – had still been perfectly alright with him. He’s okay being on his own as long as he has his friends surrounding him, able to take part in their lives without having to worry whether the girl he was dating might be after his fame, or whether the guy he was with might be a gold digger.

So, instead of dealing with that, he made himself a family out of his friends’ families, grinned brightly, joyfully, genuinely happy every time one of friends had another kid, became godfather to about half their brood, and made his peace with making his family out of the pieces of others’.

He’d been perfectly happy with that.

Even if, despite his acceptance, that wish of the lonely orphan growing up in a house he knew he wasn’t wanted, the wish of having a family of his own, a real home to call his own, never truly went away. Admittedly, he also never expected to finally start that family he has always wanted by way of adopting his destined nemesis either, now did he.

On the other hand, in the list of truly crazy things he has done in his life, this whole time-travel-and-adopting-a-mini-dark-lord shtick doesn’t even make the top ten.

Well, not yet, at least.

Then again, he’s only been in the past for about a week now and already utterly unraveled the timeline and history-as-it-should-have-happened within the first couple of days. Who knows what sort of mess he’ll be able to create if given another week. Or a month.

Or.

A whole lifetime.

Harry shrugs to himself, relaxing back in his seat by the window, a slight grin curling at the edges of his lips.

Considering the way things went in his own future – the decades of war, entire generations of witches and wizards having been decimated to a mere fraction of what they usually are by the end of it, the magical worlds of several countries having been utterly torn apart – history turned out less-than-wonderfully last time around anyway.

So, why not mess with things a little? The timeline could certainly use some shaking up.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Harry takes Tom with him to visit Gringotts.

Tom sits beside him, watching everything happening around them, wonder at everything he is seeing intermixing with the sharp focus of watching how Harry is treated by the goblins, how things are handled.

So what, if taking Tom here, showing him just how much power the goblins hold in their world despite what the average wizard – and especially the government itself – would like to claim, is a rather neat way of introducing little Tom to the idea that magical creatures are never to be looked down upon.

Harry already came here a few days ago – right after his arrival in this time – to get himself set up with a new identity, though one that decisively doesn’t have a direct connection to the Potter family. If only because he just doesn’t want to deal with the inevitable questions that would come with the sudden appearance of a new Potter family member out of seemingly nowhere. Yeah, no.

Well, in all honesty, he might have decided to simply ignore that particular problem of getting himself an official identity within Britain at all. If it hadn’t been for the fact that he needs an identity in order to officially adopt Tom and not wanting to raise any red flags. Harry very much wants to avoid having some busybody poking at things later on.

Thankfully, everyone who has ever worked in or dealt with the Ministry knows that getting ‘official’ papers – especially for anything that might not actually be entirely official at all – is best done by way of asking the goblins. They have a way of keeping things perfectly legal while also circumventing any regulations the Ministry might have in place that is rather admirable. And gave Harry quite a number of headaches while he himself still worked on the Ministry side of the law.

Thus, to Gringotts he went.

Once there, Harry had at first considered just taking some random name, something muggle and not at all associated with any wizarding families anywhere in the world. A name that meant nothing in the greater scheme of history, if only to let him disappear into the background a little easier. Never mind that that sort of thing has been a bit of a childhood dream of his ever since he turned eleven and realized that his name was so very famous it would prevent him from ever living a normal life at any point in the future.

There had even been a few moments after his skip through time where Harry had honestly considered taking the name Riddle, Tom’s name. Because it would make claiming a familial relation to Tom so much easier. At least initially.

However, well, who knows how the future is going to develop this time around and in case anyone decides to poke their nose into his business, supposedly coming from a muggle family isn’t going to be much of a deterrent in keeping anyone away.

So in the end, he decided to go the simple route of taking the name Peverell, claiming a direct line of inheritance to one of the truly ancient family names in wizarding Britain. The best part about that claim? It’s not even a lie as such due to the Potter family’s – and thereby Harry’s – having actually descended from Ignotus. Though, instead of revealing that same connection – if only due to the inevitable questions that would follow – Harry decided to simply claim being the descendant of Antioch, the eldest brother, instead.

First of all, with him having mastered the Deathly Hallows in the future it seems fitting for him to carry the name of the three brothers as well. Not to even mention that, in his own future, he had been Lord Peverell anyway, if only due to Antioch never having had children, and Harry, the heir of Ignotus, having bested the last remaining heir of Cadmus in Voldemort. He’d been the only remaining heir of the line and had thus had full claim to the title.

Thankfully, even several decades in the past from his own time and despite Cadmus’ heir still being very much around, the family magics still seemed to agree with Harry’s assessment of having more of a claim to the title of Lord Peverell than anyone else in this time. As evidenced by the fact that the goblins’ ancestry ritual not only proceeded to confirm his claim of being a Peverell at all but then also promptly spat out the Peverell lordship ring for Harry to wear.

Which is convenient, not only because it gives him access to the family vaults and properties, but also because it gives him a definite blood relation to Tom even on paper, as distant as said relation may be. Not to even mention that it provides a neat explanation in case anyone ever notices just how many of the typical ‘Potter’ traits Harry carries, will let him claim all of it as Peverell family traits instead.

Having the name of one of Britain’s oldest and most well known families will also be a rather excellent deterrent against anyone trying to poke their nose into Harry’s business. Which is the main thing he cares about.

Upon claiming the Peverell vaults – because, yes, plural – the goblin who had been assigned to him until then got rather unceremoniously shuffled out of the room Harry was in, and suddenly a far more pompous looking goblin was asking him whether he had any other requests. Apparently, the sheer number of accounts he was able to potentially claim due to their connection to the Peverell line, meant he got upgraded in customer status.

Then again, the fact that money talks – especially amongst goblins – really was no surprise.

Said customer status, also makes things even easier in getting things arranged for Tom now. Harry is handed a full set of magical paperwork making Tom his ward within mere hours of stepping into Gringotts once more.

More than that. After brief deliberation, Harry had decided to simply claim the title of Tom’s godfather instead of just sticking with some vague, several-centuries-in-the-past familial relation. Because in the eyes of wizards, a godparent’s claim is worth more than any other claim anyone could possibly make, barely below that of a child’s own parents. And with Merope dead and Tom’s father a muggle, it indisputably makes Harry next in line for caring for Tom.

Which is all Harry really cares about. The money is nice, the properties are nice, the assurance that people will think twice about butting into his business is definitely nice. But mostly, he just wants to make irrefutably certain that no one will be able to take Tom away from him.

Harry glances down at the papers, before handing them over to Tom whose eyes have been fixed on the stack of official papers ever since the goblin on the other side of the desk produced them, the child’s eyes focused sharply – hungrily, hopefully, desperately – on Harry signing paper after paper, making Tom officially his.

Because family goes both ways. And once Harry decided to adopt Tom, it was never a question that he would go to the ends of the earth to protect his newly found family from anything this world might decide to throw at them.

 


 

Once everything official is sorted, the next question is what they should do with themselves, or more specifically, whether whether Harry should get a job and, if he does, which kind and where.

In the future, his life in general hadn’t really turned out as he expected it to, the few times he dared to imagine a life after Voldemort at all.

Sure, Harry had a brief career as an Auror right after Hogwarts – as he and everyone else most certainly expected of him – but he only lasted for about a year in that before he quit again, everyone’s obsession with his name and status seeing to that.

Honestly, in that one year he’d spent more time being dragged around ministry functions, various officials parading him around like some sort of show-pony, than he had spent on actual Auror duties, which had been exactly what he always wanted to avoid whenever he envisioned his future.

Not to even mention that the cases he did get send on were usually some rich, powerful families pompously demanding the ministry send their very best to help them with whatever they needed, which of course meant the Savior himself. Which isn’t even mentioning the couple of instances where Harry had even been sent on an ‘assignment’ – supposedly being called to check out some suspicious activity somewhere or get rid of some dark artifact – only to find that it had been a deliberate false alarm of someone trying to get him to their home to talk him into tea or dinner or date, trying to seduce him or to set him up with some daughter or niece or cousin or something along those lines.

He’d complained to the Head Auror, asked not to be sent on any cases where people specifically requested him because those were the worst. Robards had nodded but the man had also been the social-ladder climbing sort, so Harry’s request changed absolutely nothing as the man used his position to send Harry wherever he pleased and cheerfully collected political favors.

Thus, Harry had quit the Aurors within the first year of joining the DMLE. By then, even Ron had more than understood Harry’s frustration, considering that he – as Harry’s Auror partner – tended to be dragged along on those less-than-thrilling ‘assignments’ as well.

Instead, Harry decided to join the Department of Mysteries, where his identity as the Savior became far more irrelevant, at least comparatively so, if only because DoM employees in general and Unspeakables in particular were anonymous and thus even those who were fairly certain Harry worked there weren’t able to request him for anything.

It had been a relief and in the end it had worked out perfectly, Harry having been much happier with the Unspeakables than he ever was as an Auror. Hunting ‘normal’ dark wizards had seemed rather bland compared to hunting Voldemort, but something that remained unchanged from his childhood was his determination to help people.

Though, to everyone’s surprise – including his own – he had somehow ended up with a focus on curse-breaking, with a particular leaning towards magical artifacts, even if not the traditional sort, his focus far more specifically geared towards certain branches of curse-breaking than the standard profession generally allows.

Sure, he’s not really a traditional curse-breaker, is absolute pants at several standard skills curse-breakers are supposed to have. Instead, he specializes in dark artifacts, determining their origin, their use, and breaking down whatever inherent magic the objects carry.

He never received formal training as a curse-breaker, just picked up things here and there, but even when he’d been studying to become an Auror, curse-breaking had always been a sort of hobby of his. Ever since he met Bill Weasley as a kid and decided that Ron’s oldest brother – with the long hair and the earring and the fantastical job of traveling the world – was the coolest person to ever live.

The extensive research into artifacts – dark or otherwise – together with Ron and Hermione while they had been looking for the horcruxes, plus his Auror training, not to even mention being called in to help sort through Voldemort’s collection of toe-curlingly abhorrent knick-knacks stashed away in various places around Britain, hunting dark wizards around the globe and more often than not then getting to deal with whatever dark artifacts they might have left behind as well, only adding to his predilection in this regard.

Add to that his knack for nitpicking at certain spells and doing everything differently than it’s supposed to be or has been done for centuries - more often than not quite unintentionally so, simply because the reasoning of ‘but that’s how we’ve always done it’ never made much sense to him - breaking records left and right or doing things not necessarily ‘the right way’ but in the way that worked. His ability to pick up on dark magic to a certain point – can sense whether something is generally less-than-entirely-on-the-light-side or the blood-soaked sort of horrifically dark that goes beyond just dark and leans well into the realm of black magic – certainly helps with that. More often than not, he is even able to simply overpower whatever spells might have been cast on the artifacts, can overload them, his own magic having a sort of knack for that sort of thing.

A fact that his superiors at the DoM quickly realized and even liked to make use of, but they also kept everything about Harry’s under wraps, happy to let him obsess over curse-breaking – as is his tendency with everything he takes an interest in – and cheerfully threw him at every mission that involved any of the more powerful dark magics.

Point is, with Ron working his way up the hierarchy of the DMLE, Hermione with her sights firmly set on the Minister’s chair, and Harry quietly but surely sticking his fingers into as many Department of Mysteries pies as he could get his hands on, they had been set to one day run the entirety of Britain’s Ministry of Magic between the three of them. Well, before Harry got himself flung into the past, of course.

But with Harry as the curse-breaker version of an Unspeakable, his job let him keep up his training and even let him join Ron on various missions from time to time, as he had been doing right before he got flung back in time.

So, his life was good. Had been good. Whatever.

Well, his higher-ups also had an unfortunate tendency of lending him out to other governments around the world to help them take care of their various dark lord problems. But after Voldemort, every other so-called ‘dark lord’ he’s come across since seemed rather negligible in comparison. Though, sometimes he certainly wishes Trelawney would have been a little more specific in the phrasing of that prophecy instead of just claiming something about vanquishing ‘the dark lord’, like that isn’t a title happily bandied about by anyone with a particular leaning towards the darker magics and delusions of grandeur.

Being the destined defeater of the dark lord had already been far less grandiose than the general population seemed to assume. Never mind that Harry is up to dark lord number five these days. It’s really rather lost its shine.

Back to his original point. He needs to make up his mind what to do with himself and his newly adopted son, and what kind of life he wants to build for the two of them.

Thing is just, over the coming weeks, the longer they stay in London, the more certain Harry grows that he doesn’t actually want to stay here. Or even in Britain for that matter.

For one, he has already messed around enough with his country’s timeline by deciding to adopt Tom, so maybe he should remove his presence from Britain, at least for a few years to let things even out again a little.

Then there is also the fact that Harry has never been actually free before, never been free to go wherever he wanted, free of his name, his reputation, the many fans and enemies and hangers-ons, never mind that, in his own future, he wouldn’t have been able to bear leaving his friends behind by moving to another country anyway.

But, here, in this time, no one knows him. No one aside from Tom.

Tom who, when realizing that ‘magic’ isn’t just some skill they can use but actually includes an entire society to learn about is utterly delighted and decides Harry needs to teach him everything he knows. Right now. So much so that he kind of forgets to be suspicious of Harry any longer for days at a time.

Tom who instantly adores the magical world in its entirety, wants to learn everything, has already perfected the I’m-trying-not-to-let-my-lip-wobble-with-how-desperately-I-want-that-particular-book-but-I’m-just-not-strong-enough-please-be-nice-to-me pout that gets him everything he wants from the other people milling about Diagon.

Tom has such an instinctual ability to read people, knows exactly which adults to openly pout at in order to get his way, which adults to put on his ‘brave face’ for but still making sure to have that slightest wobble to his lip that makes even the hardest hearts melt, or which adults to actually try and reason into agreeing with him.

Harry is immune to the first – has spent far too much time with his friends’ kids trying to wheedle something out of him – and can generally deal with the second. But he’s an absolute sucker for the third. Mainly, because listening to tiny Tom trying to come up with reasonable arguments as to why he should really be getting just another twenty minutes of reading time before bed time is so damn adorable Harry just can’t help concede to his ‘schemes’ from time to time.

Tom who also deserves seeing a bit more of the magical world he so clearly adores being a part of than just Diagon Alley.

So, after a few weeks of deliberation, Harry decides they should travel.

And, well, if seeing just how different muggles and wizardfolk are in various corners of the world might also help Tom get a broader, more nuanced understanding of people in general when he grows up, then that’s just an entirely coincidental, happy side effect. So, there.

Right now, Tom is tiny and harmless and so damn innocent that it’s not at all hard for Harry to make the distinction between this Tom and the Tom who became Voldemort in the future, still too young to even know how to effectively manipulate people beyond his own adorableness, much less forcing them.

Oh, it’s not that Tom doesn’t try, but it’s on the same level as all small children do, trying to get out of chores or out of cleaning his room or throwing a truly magnificent fit over being told to brush his teeth. Testing Harry, testing boundaries, poking at him for no other reason than because he can’t help it, desperate to figure out how much Harry is willing to indulge him, how far his patience goes. Whether – if pushed too far – Harry might not decide to leave him behind after all.

Harry knows exactly what Tom is doing, why his temper tantrums are only increasing in dramatics over the first few weeks after Harry claimed him as family, knows that Tom can’t help but need to confirm to himself that Harry is going to stay no matter how badly Tom behaves, no matter how much he screws up, that Harry will let him stay no matter what. Harry himself had played that exact game with every single person who came into his life and claimed to care about him, testing whether his less-than-amicable side, his truly-not-insignificant temper, his moods, his reticence would drive them away before he’d ever even considered letting himself get fully attached.

Well, with the definite exception of Ron and Hermione. Those two had had his trust fully and immutably right from the start.

But adults? They had been a different matter altogether.

So, he gets what Tom is doing. Doesn’t mean he particularly enjoys Tom’s many tantrums, but he can deal.

Point is, Harry decides they should travel and Tom is fully on board the second Harry tells him that Tom can pick the countries they should visit. Tom spends three days pouring over the children’s atlas of the magical world Harry got him, with all its shifted borders when compared to the muggle world, asks questions – so many damn questions, quite a few of which Harry can’t actually answer until he himself reads up on it – and then falls silent once more as he seriously contemplates the options, all serious contemplation on his small face.

Harry can’t help but think it’s utterly adorable.

 


 

So, they travel. Tom picks the countries, Harry the cities they’ll actually stop by, and then they are off to their next destination.

Weeks pass quickly as they stop first in Peru, then Madagascar, then Russia, then Australia, Harry collecting artifacts along the way, helping a couple of people whenever he stumbles across someone with a problem that might benefit from his help, Tom a quiet but ever-observant shadow at his side.

Harry quickly realizes that he quite enjoys this way of living, even if the memories of his friends in the future still haunt him from time to time.

But then Tom will sidle up to him while holding one of the books he managed to wheedle Harry into buying for him and as ridiculously smart as Tom might be for a kid his age, ancient magical tomes still are a little beyond his reading capability. So, Tom curls into his side while Harry reads him ancient tomes instead of bedtime stories.

It’s a rather scary thought that Harry keeps learning new things from the books he reads his now-six-year-old son. Then again, he already knew that Tom Riddle was gifted, a veritable genius. He is still taken aback by the honest pride he feels every time he sees Tom grasp a concept that should be far beyond his years or perform magic that he really truly shouldn’t be able to cast yet.

The point is that somewhere between adopting Tom and traveling from country to country, they become family. Real family. The sort of family even Harry himself has never had and almost gave up on hoping he’d ever get.

Tom who is a kid, looks utterly cherubic, and it may take a couple of months but once he realizes that Harry is going to stick around, that he doesn’t even so much as contemplate sending Tom back no matter how many tantrums he throws to see whether Harry will stick around, attaches himself to his new guardian with a sort of possessive ferocity that makes something in Harry’s chest clench tight.

Because he remembers this as well. Remembers being alone. Remembers being the one who was different and vilified for it without any idea just what he was being punished for and so very desperate to just get a single kind word from someone. Anyone. Remembers a time when he had still thought that if he did things just right, if he did everything the Dursleys demanded of him perfectly, then maybe they’d love him, too. A little. One day.

So, he more than gets it.

Harry swore to himself right from the get-go that he’d truly try to make the two of them into real family. It works better than he honestly expected, considering their personal – even if as of yet still in the future – history.

Then again, Tom Riddle and Voldemort have never been entirely the same entity in his head anyway, always a distinction between the boy he met in the diary and the dark lord hunting him.

Tom Riddle who decided to take out the pain of his own childhood on the entire world, set to rip the wizarding world apart just so he could come out on top. Until he took things to far and turned literally insane, lost himself to the point that only his alter ego Voldemort existed.

And neither of those incarnations has anything to do with his Tom, this tiny, adorable, so painfully helpless version of Tom.

So, maybe he should have seen his own devotion to Tom coming.

Harry will just have to deal with the potential fallout of himself getting so attached that he might just find himself on Tom’s side of any conflict in the future, no matter what path his son might choose later on.

He might have been an icon of the light since before he could walk, and that always more or less aligned with everything else his life. But personally? Everything he does is about loyalty and those he loves. Last time around, everyone he cared about also just happened to be on the Light side.

However, this time around? He has no loyalty to anyone in this time except for Tom. Yeah, maybe he didn’t think this whole adopting-a-potential-future-dark-lord entirely through…

So, maybe he got this all wrong. Maybe it’s not Harry who is going to cancel out history by reforming Tom, by winning him over to the light side. But rather, it might just turn out that it’s going to be Tom who gets in a final win by fully pulling Harry onto his side, worming past every last one of his defenses.

Or maybe…

Maybe Harry won’t be the savior of the light in this timeline and maybe, in turn, Tom won’t become the scion of darkness. Maybe they’ll be neither.

Maybe they’ll find a way to just be them, a family.