beta by the amazing Vanillaghost whom I thank for all the help with all my heart:)
This time the house was not empty. Lily came to greet him as soon as he entered, motioning for him to follow her into the kitchen after a warm hug and even warmer kisses. Orange juice was presented and Harry busied himself by staring out the window, full glass in his hands and hating himself just a little. "How is Tonks holding up?" he asked.
"Why don't you invite your secret girlfriend over for dinner?"
Harry was lucky that his back had been to his mother. Truly lucky. There was no way he could have kept a straight face. He wanted to scream and smash things, and deathly sure his mother would still wait for his answer if he did.
"What do you mean?" Harry tried, finally facing Lily.
"Harry, I'm not stupid. We may be in the middle of a tragedy but I do notice you spending more and more time outside the house, not in the company of your friends, and returning home late in the night or not returning at all. Also, the what do you mean pretty much gives it away. So bring her to meet your father and I. We don't bite."
"Him," Harry let out, setting wood to the fire. "Him, not her."
Lily's glass ceased its journey halfway to her mouth before proceeding again. Harry was kind of intrigued yet not entirely surprised. He knew his mom.
"Fine, love. Bring him to meet us. I'm sure he's a nice boy and we'll get along."
Wouldn't that be straight out of a dark comedy? The Dark Lord at a table with his parents, tasting his mother's cooking, sipping wine, talking murder. Tom Riddle at a table with his parents. Should he dare pass the invitation along? Surely not. Yet the worst had already been done.
He smiled at Lily with an edge of bitterness. "I'll ask, but no promises."
Lily kissed his cheeks and ruffled his hair. "Good. Let me know when and what food to prepare. And, of course, the chance to warn your father. I want no murder at the family table."
The last part was meant as a joke and Harry pretended to be amused. He excused himself, faking tiredness, and went in search of Hedwig. The letter to Tom would not compose itself. As a matter of fact, why be nervous? Slim were the chances that Tom would consider the offer. Dark Lords were supposed to be busy with world domination and annihilating the people who stood in the way of it.
With the potentially disastrous invitation written and sent, Harry collapsed into his bed. Perhaps if he closed his eyes really tight and made not one but three wishes, today would prove to be a dream. But he blinked tears away when nothing took place. Stop acting like a child, he scolded himself, hot tears trailing down his cheeks. No point in crying. At the end of the day this was reality. There was no way of altering it. And Harry had made his choice. He lived and was not on that table in place of the dead boy or scattered around in that pile of corpses in Tom's basement. Tom had offered the chance and Harry had agreed to it. What was done was done. Now… Was he a murderer for keeping his mouth shut to the horrors? No, it did not work that way, it could not be this way. He was simply stained, involved. An accomplice.
The response to his letter arrived half an hour later. Hedwig was offered a treat as Harry plucked the white envelope from her beak.
Tomorrow evening. Your parents will find me charming.
Harry stared at the written response, not believing his own eyes. It was an acceptance letter, a confirmation written in Tom's own hand. The handwriting was painfully familiar yet the content hid a maddening confusion. Tom had agreed to meet his parents. And the last part… they would find him charming? Harry seriously doubted it. But what was done was done, he concluded with sourness yet again. Now what was to follow…
'Havoc' was a good word for it.
Harry would have cried his eyes out if not for his mother being in the house, ready to seek out his presence at a whim for who-knew-what. Besides, an announcement needed to be made.
Exhaling, Harry put his happy face on and went to let Lily know Tom was arriving tomorrow. She seemed pleased by such a prompt response and it was only well into the night when she returned to Tonks that Harry realised the problem was not the Dark Lord whom his parents did not know. The problem was that is was Tom who they did.
Now Harry did wail into his pillows and then into his own palms.
Like a show, preparations were made. The table was set and the food ready along with the little family around it before, of course, the honored guest was soon to arrive. At this point Harry was not even anxious. A strange calmness had washed over him. Let it be done, he thought. He trusted Tom enough to have this end without a fight. It served his best interests, after all.
Harry walked with his parents all the way to the front door as soon as the doorbell echoed through the house, a mantra of don't think about the basement replaying itself in his mind. And it worked, up until he had Tom right before his eyes.
James took a deep breath at the dreaded sight and Lily's shoulders dropped. Here went nothing.
"Riddle," his father sighed, keeping himself in check. "No offence, but whatever your business may be it can surely wait for one more day. We are expecting someone. This is a family matter."
Tom's smile was as arrogant as ever when his grey gaze settled on Harry. "Oh, I know. And I know it very well. Hello, Harry, glad we could see each other so soon. Now, I am most glad to finally meet my future parents-in-law." And with a trick worthy of a muggle magician, a pretty bouquet of white lilies was presented to his mother and the scandal commenced.
James proceeded to tell Tom to get the fuck out of his house (his words exactly) while Lily had not yet accepted the flowers and Tom looked only at Harry. You know what I want, his eyes seemed to say. You know, you know, you know.
"Mom, dad…" Harry began, striving for their silence and conquering it. "The many reasons for your disapproval are clear. The age difference, his political affiliation, your distaste for his persona, him… But please. I love him."
It appeared not even Tom had expected this bold confession. Meaning passed between their eyes, something mute yet loud. Harry had exceeded expectations. From the look of it, Tom was half impressed and half guarded. And oh, how his parents' voices raised anew.
"—don't believe this, Harry, has he forced you? Touched you without permission? Love, this is wrong, he's — "
"I love him," Harry repeated, praying they would just stop.
"And I him."
So much for I've never lied to you. This new one was yet another disappointment and it was only the beginning of the night.
"Harry," Lily pleaded, placing a gentle hand on his upper arm and seeking out his eyes and his understanding.
"Mom, please. Just this once. One dinner is all I ask. Please."
Harry knew he'd won. No verbal response was needed as Lily and James headed for the living room leaving the door wide open behind them. Come in and ruin it all, it said.
Gift still in hand, Tom studied Harry before presenting the bouquet to him. They were only flowers and yet it felt like a deadly reptile ready to bite his fingers off. But as logic dictated, Harry's fingers remained attached to his hand when his left palm closed around the bouquet. "A little help?" he asked, pointing to them.
With a subtle movement of Tom's wrist, the lilies flew out of Harry's hand to seek a vase and water. At least that's what Harry supposed. But staring after them became silly after a while, so he faced Tom and knew they were both thinking this same thought. They had ran out of excuses to stay behind.
The clattering of tableware was a persistent noise, growing in intensity with each moment they drew near. It came to Harry then that he would rather be back in that basement than at this dinner table.
They sat next to each other to what felt like a funeral service, just one without a dead body. Perhaps soon, his traitorous mind whispered and goosebumps broke out over his skin.
"I will be civil and well-meaning, for Harry's sake," Tom began when it appeared nobody else would. "Considering we're gathered at this table in spite of your obvious feelings leads me to the conclusion that Harry's wishes are of high value to you — which is as it should be. You are ideal parents and congratulations are in store for that. Mr Potter, I do not know your wife so I'll only address the most pressing matter at hand. The two of us have our differences but I want you to try as I will. And then, who knows? Perhaps we'll discover a few things in common. A hobby, a rare opinion, a common taste in books or clothing. Perhaps we'll even grow to like each other. Aren't most families this way?"
It was Lily who responded. "I can't speak for others but in this particular family we care about each other and we are happy whenever we're together. I hope you understand love is the reason for your presence here today, because Harry wants you to be and James and I want Harry to be happy. We don't like it but, for his sake, as you called it, we'll try."
"Can you stop talking about me as if I'm not here?"
Tom chuckled. "Not about you, darling, but for your sake."
James' face had begun to take on a green shade and he looked as if he was going to be sick at any moment. Was it the word darling? Was it who uttered it? And Tom… Tom was the picture of composure while his offer of a tentative truce went ignored, in not so many words. Or refused, depending on how you looked at it. Food became a wonderful distraction either way and Harry stole not-so-subtle glances at Tom, marvelling how those hands that so steadily cut through meat now had been inside Harry. How the had done other things to other beings, beings whose flesh rotted and smelled of death.
Harry almost dropped his knife in his lap and tried to chase the memory away. What was he doing? A murderer dining with his clueless parents. All because of Harry.
The next half hour was torture. Tom and Lily conversed while Harry and his father pointedly stared into their plates. Standard questions, straight out of a fucking cliche — how did you two meet? In the dark corners of a cursed shop. How long has this… relationship been going on? A few days. How serious are you? Harry dearly hoped this was nothing but passing entertainment for the Dark Lord.
Only Tom, as he would soon learn, thrived on crushing hopes and dreams.
"Future plans are in the future, yet I understand the concern for your only son's wellbeing. I am quite committed to Harry," Tom shamelessly lied. "So, in a few years, once he is of age, I wouldn't rule out marriage. That is, of course, if Harry wishes it." Those eyes stared at Harry, gleaming, seizing the opportunity. "What do you say, Harry? Marry me?"
Harry and his mother flinched at the sound of James' knife and fork meeting the plate, one after the other.
Two clanks, and suddenly all attention was on Harry. Waiting for his answer. Only that the trap was already set. What else he could say but —
"Yes, Tom, I will."
Many things occurred at once, yet thankfully no flying curses or violence. A choking sound escaped Lily while James was… awfully composed. It was all wrong. Harry wanted angry screams, wanted the quick temper of his father. Not this stranger and the disappointment in his eyes, the same eyes that previously lit up whenever Harry entered a room. Now it seemed he wanted Harry to leave the room. It hurt.
"Harry," James spoke, voice quivering. "You're my son and I love you dearly, more than you can ever imagine. But I will not have this, I will not have this. I can't force you two to part, it's not that simple and I see it. So you have a choice. Call whatever this is between the two of you off and be the boy I raised, or go out that door and never come back. Offer me the respect of making this choice."
So many choices today.
In spite of Lily's exclamations, Harry would have kissed his father's hands for bringing an end to this charade. For protecting himself and Lily without even knowing it. Tom's game had changed and the players had deserted the table.
Harry stood, pushing his chair back and keeping his expression neutral. "I love you too. A house elf will come tomorrow for my things."
Utter silence fell as Harry deserted his home. Maybe not really silence, as the pounding of his heart overshadowed any other noise. So silence it was. When Harry went down the last steps of the porch he realized Tom trailed behind him, steps as slow and steady as ever. It remained like this until the pair reached the line of trees a few meters away from the end of the wards.
"This hasn't gone the way you expected," Harry commented, gazing straight ahead into the darkness with only stars shining above. "Precious family ties are now cut off. Marriage or not, it's all over. Facile accessibility to my father's work is off the table. Yes, you fucked me over and there's that. But your Dark Lord agenda will have to change… at least where my parents are concerned."
"I suppose so. I did fuck you, after all."
There was some humor in that. The trick was not to think about it, not even when they Apparated to the familiar hallway of Tom's manor. Strangely enough, it was already lit and his cheek remained unaddressed.
"Follow me, I have a surprise. Then we'll talk for as long as you desire."
This surprise announced itself as unpleasant to Harry's ears. How could it not? Tom was in far too good a disposition for it to be taken as anything actually good. The merry mood contradicted all the happenings of the last hour. So Harry was guarded yet not too guarded; death wasn't an alternative… at least not in the way he'd imagined it.
Then a terrifying scream ceased its journey somewhere between the back of his throat and his mouth, but never abandoning the cavity. This too was out of terror.
The thing sitting on the sofa where Harry had ridden Tom's cock couldn't have belonged to this world. At least he had thought so… until now. Now Harry knew better. He stood in the doorway, petrified for quite some time until Tom moved past him and went near the thing to place a teacup between its wiry palm before laying a fatherly hand on its shoulder.
"Harry, meet our son," Tom announced, as if he was presenting a distant relative who had come to visit. "I was thinking of naming him Adrius. Thoughts?"
Any word he could use to describe his emotions would be wrong or not entirely right. The dead boy from the basement who wasn't quite so dead was curiously gazing at Harry, seeing with blue eyes. He was terrifying by simply existing, even more so than the Dark Lord standing behind him.
How could many of life's so-called precious lessons proved to be all wrong. True love? A fairytale. The monster who perished at the end of the story? Yet another lie. What's dead was dead and buried? Proof of the opposite stood before him, waiting. Was all this lying deliberate? A witty way of leaving children to find out for themselves about the true horrors of life? Or was it all simply a mistake? The pain of experience was the most valuable lesson, after all.
In any case, Harry's feet carried him near the two as they watched. With cold sweat running down his back and his heart in his throat, Harry spoke to the… child. "Nice to meet you, Adrius," he lied.
"Nice to meet you too, Harry," it muttered with a small smile, excited as its eternal age dictated. "Tom told me many things about you… many, many stories. Happy stories. Are you going to tell me stories too?"
Tom supervised this attempt at a conversation with an amused, indulgent expression. It was disturbing and wrong, this dead little boy on this couch speaking and smiling as if he were still alive… Did he know he wasn't? Or was he? How did you decide on whether he was alive or not?
The boy furrowed his brows as if abruptly remembering something while Harry still busied himself with staring and trying not to lose his mind. The not-dead boy named Adrius looked at Tom and then back at Harry, something clearly nagging at his thoughts. It was thinking.
"Are you two my parents?"
No, no, no, of course not. But… did it even matter at this point? In this strange tale Harry's life had turned into, all was possible. When even Dark Lords were his lover and young dead boys could be his son. What could he do anymore?
"Yes, Adrius. Tom and I are your parents."
The ivory teacup went smashing all across the floor, leaving the boy's fingers trembling. With liquid and sharp pieces laying at their feet, the Dark Lord sighed. Was he angry over this?
"Condolences for the wolf. Adrius, are you happy?
This could not be. Countless pieces scattered with a name hanging above. Was it… Remus? Dread downed Harry like in a slow motion movie, tears burning at the corners of his eyes. Horrible, terrible, horr—
"Are you happy?" Tom yet again repeated.
The question was not addressed to him but Harry felt it as close as if it were whispered against the shell of his ear, like a love confession. But no, the man only aimed at spurring a reaction, not really interested in the answer.
"Very much! Yes!"
What corpse that got to live again wouldn't be?
Harry was humiliated like never before. Playing the family charade, he and Tom escorted the dead boy into one of the spare rooms. Now with fresh sheets that no one would sleep on, and all the other necessities for a human being at his age. There was a wardrobe full of clothing in dark colours, a few dancing toys here and there, and quite a lot of books. The being called Adrius was left alone with one of the toy soldiers Tom had selected for him and the wishes of a pleasant night. Not goodnight because sleep had no power over the dead. Not even over the dead who were still alive.
In the privacy of Tom's room where he could desert the farce, Harry twisted on his heels and shifted to strike the Dark Lord across the face, a few hidden tears already slipping from his eyes.
But Tom's hands were around Harry's wrists in a crushing grip that would surely leave another set of bruises for who knew how long. Harry wasn't able to land the hit and even face to face with the annoyed yet determined expression on the other's face, Harry's weeping did not cease. The tears and ache did not stop. Tom, it appeared, had had enough of it.
"Harry, I'll only say this once more so listen very carefully. You have two choices. Either spend the rest of your days crying over spilled milk or you dry your eyes and be with me. It's as simple as that."
Harry, at last, was allowed to snatch his hands out of Tom's grip. "Spilled milk? You — you fucked me over in so many fucking ways… fuck you! You would have used me and my family, you've killed Remus, you've killed so many others and now this child you're forcing me to—" his breath hitched. "Go to hell, Tom!"
Tom coldly stared down at him. "I love you too, darling." He had the audacity to smirk as he moved for the door, leaving. "I'll be downstairs. Sleep well."
By the time the vase from the table flew out of Harry's hands, the door was already closed. It smashed and fractured. Just like the teacup, just like Remus. Harry kept sobbing, cursing Tom and still craving the other's comfort.
In the dead of night, with dried cheeks and swollen eyes, Harry found Tom at the dining table with the lights still on. He was observed in silence as he took the opposite chair and stole the Dark Lord's drink from before his very eyes. The wine was bitter, calming his sore throat.
"More than anything in the world I wish I could hate you," Harry confessed once the glass was emptied. "Hate you like you deserve."
"And that implies you don't," Tom smartly concluded in his 'teacher voice', the one he spoke in at all times.
Harry's laugh was anything but humorous. "Ten points to our Dark Lord. He guessed it right, he solved the riddle…"
Grey eyes narrowed. "I have a question," were the words that escaped Tom's lips. "You see… I knew you'd come to accept this. My monster child, me. But still I remain unable to grasp the 'why'. Why are you still emotionally attached? Why did you come downstairs so early? Drink from the same glass as me?"
"Another good question," Harry uttered, eyes burning as the words flooded in. "All I know is that despite you messing with me I just can't get it out of my head…"
"The simple truth that in this sick and twisted way we kind of work together. We've been happy for a few days, haven't we?"
And Harry loved him so much. He wanted it all back, the hugs and kisses, the laughs and dreams. But Harry couldn't say it and that much made it clear how important this love truly was. It evoked hot shame by being both his weakness and his desire. It was impossible to let these words pass his lips yet maybe he didn't need to. Tom knew, and Harry… he'll just wait and see as so many others did with their lives.
Tom poured him another glass of wine as the sound of a door opening echoed from above.
"Yes, we were happy and so we can be again. So smile, my Harry, you're not alone. You still have a family," the Dark Lord smirked, taking hold of both Harry's hands over the table, gentle and caring. "Me and Adrius, we are your family now. Perhaps you may think it as strange and impossible but it grows on you in time. Just like everything else."