In which Tom Riddle meets Tom Riddle in the dead of night to gossip about Tom Riddle, a desperate Eru Lee tries to follow someone else's advice with dubious results, and the Weasleys have breakfast.
He'd left the bedroom he shared with Ronald Weasley as soon as he was certain the boy wouldn't notice. Normally, he'd perhaps have lingered, simply read through Lee's report inside while Ron slept. Unfortunately, it appeared Ron snored, and when Tom said snored he meant that the boy let loose a chainsaw in his throat whose very sound gave Tom a headache.
The report really was as damningly detailed as he suspected. Detailed enough to more than support some of Lee's claims and make him decidedly uncomfortable. What would it have taken for a sixteen-year-old Tom Riddle to give something like this to anyone? What could possibly be worth all this effort? What would require this amount of work that he couldn't get for himself through significantly easier means?
Lee was a very odd girl, foreign, and at times unnaturally perceptive. She might see through Tom Riddle's false charms, might even see through his lies, but for a listening ear who even pretended to understand her grievances, that might not matter. Lee's true friends were few and far between; Tom Riddle could have easily taken advantage of that.
And yet, it seemed he hadn't. Lee referenced Ginny as a kind of first contact, but did so with bemused apprehension. As if she found Tom Riddle distantly funny but also was vaguely aware that he could make life difficult for her. Not exactly best friend material right there.
Try as Tom might, he couldn't think of a single thing that would inspire this kind of earnest effort from him.
Which was probably a very bad sign.
In the end though, as expected, he only had a chance to make it about a quarter of the way through before the other Tom Riddle came to find him.
He'd waited longer than Tom had expected. When Tom was younger he'd always been a little more reckless, perhaps a little too driven by his curiosity, and had rarely had the patience to wait for anything. No, it'd been both the Chamber of Secrets and then the murder of his family that had taught him that particular lesson.
So, instead of merely midnight or even one in the morning, it was almost three before Ginny Weasley came to find him.
She slid effortlessly into the seat across from him, looking more than at home in the body of an adolescent girl, with Tom Riddle's expressions just as comfortable on her foreign features. He'd grown into the body of Ginny Weasley, become used to her, in a way Tom never suspected he would have been capable of. Ginny's hair was loose, a curtain of sleek, dark red tucked behind an ear to keep it out of her pale face and dark eyes. She looked across at him with a wry, bitter smile.
"So," Ginny started, in the voice of an ordinary girl who had once lived an ordinary life.
His other self, disguised so very well, added nothing to that. Just left it hanging out there, as if Tom was supposed to finish that thought for him. Tom just raised his eyebrows in the universal signal to get on with it.
It was funny, but he'd never imagined meeting his horcrux before.
Oh, he'd written in it at first, here and there, but it'd been so… uncomfortable. The Tom in the diary had been too eager, too clingy, too desperate for knowledge of the outside world. It'd lost track of time, would always ask what Tom Riddle had done now, if it had all gone according to plan and if Voldemort was king yet.
Eventually, Tom had put it away and refused to think about it.
Yet here it was anyway, in the flesh even, wildly surpassing Tom's every expectation of what a horcrux should and shouldn't do.
"So," Ginny finally continued, "When did he make you?"
That finally got Tom talking. "Pardon?"
"The original," Ginny said with a wave of her hand. "I certainly know when I was made, but from what I remember, he quickly backed away from the idea of making any others. So, what brings you here?"
For a moment he said nothing, simply looked at his other half, trying to discern if this was merely an attempt to get under his skin.
Finally, he decided to take a note from Eru Lee and just be disarmingly blunt. "There is no other horcrux, I never intended to make one and I never did. I am what remains of him after 1981."
Ginny's eyebrows rose slowly up her forehead, and then she laughed, a small girlish thing. "Are you serious?"
"Have you ever run into this other—"
Ginny waved him off. "Please, don't tell me you can't feel him out there, lurking somewhere unseen possessing some poor unfortunate soul. I don't have to see him personally to know he's out there."
She then crossed her arms, tilted her head, and peered closer at him. "You're in denial, aren't you? You want that badly to be a real boy."
She then offered him a sly, amused smile. "Well, hate to break it to you, old chum, but you're one of us now. The dregs of Tom Marvolo Riddle, cast off and left god knows where, in notebooks and—Where have you been anyway?"
He was not going to answer that.
No matter how pointedly Ginny was looking at him or how smug her smirk was.
"Oh, come on, I was in a diary for fifty years," Ginny said, "Yours can't be worse than that."
Whether being stuck unwittingly in Eleanor Potter's head was worse or better was not something he wanted another Tom Riddle deciding for him.
"Well, you must have been somewhere Ellie Potter could find you," Ginny said, likely wondering where and when Eru Lee would have managed to stumble across a second horcrux that even the other Tom hadn't been able to find.
That didn't mean Tom would spoonfeed the diary the answers.
So instead he said, "If you're so clever, you can figure it out for yourself."
The other scowled for a moment, but only for a moment, then the expression disappeared and that obnoxious knowing look returned.
"So," Ginny said, "I must know, what exactly does she have on you?"
"Our dear Ellie Potter, Lee, she must have something on you to get you to play along as Konoha assassin schoolboy. Unless, of course…"
Ginny trailed off damningly, looking perhaps even more displeased than before, as she mentally finished the sentence that neither of them wanted spoken out loud. Unless, of course, Tom was doing this out of his own free will, the kindness of his heart so to speak, because he wanted something from Ellie Potter.
And it was clear, even just looking at Ginny Weasley's face, that his other half wanted something very specific from Ellie Potter.
And that for once in her life, Lee was not entirely off the mark.
He felt himself shudder, unable to contain it and practically spat out his excuse, "She pointed out that my diary had broken loose and was playing schoolgirl and that another Voldemort was supposedly running about attempting to return from the dead. Promising her a few favors in return was not too large a price."
Once again, Ginny Weasley looked both unimpressed and unconvinced.
"And what will you do now that you've seen for yourself that I'm running about?" Ginny asked, leaning back in the chair. "It'd be a bit hypocritical to try to shove me back into the diary."
"That depends on what you want," Tom pointed out.
The girl laughed once again, entirely too cheerful. "What I want? Oh, to make sure it doesn't overlap with what you want? Can't have us getting in each other's way, is that it?"
"I won't pretend it doesn't unnerve me to see my younger self so easily taking up the role of Gryffindor schoolgirl," he said instead.
"What, Ginny?" the other said, looking down at his borrowed red hair. "Well, talking about taking over Voldemort's operation is all well and good if I'd had any idea who to even talk to. Figured I might as well start from scratch and see what Dumbledore's up to. Besides, you sort of get used to Ginny after a while, she grows on you."
He wanted to stare, to say something, to point out that Tom Riddle had just confessed to having deliberately passed up the opportunity to become Voldemort to hide as a common dirt-poor schoolgirl and then proceed to pant at a very underage Ellie Potter.
Somehow, he couldn't. Perhaps it was the time of night, that mythical hour when strange things happened and reality bled into something else. Perhaps it was that they were both disguised as something so unlike themselves Dumbledore hadn't even blinked at either of them. Perhaps it was just that Tom had no idea what the hell to say to any of this.
Regardless, the conversation died a horrible, pitiful death right there on the table between them.
Tom cleared his throat pointedly and forced himself to say, "Well, rest assured, I have no plans for Lee."
"Good," Ginny said, nodding slowly, "Because I have many plans for Ellie Potter."
Did he have to say it out loud like that? Did he know how it sounded and just didn't care, or had he really lost all touch with reality?
"Plans," Tom said slowly.
"Of course." And now Ginny looked a little offended, eyes narrowing in suspicion. "Why wouldn't I have plans?"
He felt his mouth fall open, his eyes grow a little wide, and found himself asking, "Plans for Lee Eru, a Konoha shinobi that even the shinobi don't quite understand?"
"Again," the girl said slowly, as if it were Tom who was the idiot, "Why would I not have plans for her?"
Now, Tom couldn't say he'd ever received the full force of Eru Lee before. He'd thought he had, having been dragged out of her head and into imprisonment in a foreign country simply because he had too much magic.
Certainly, he'd thought her English lessons were something to behold, but this was his first time with her on a mission and seeing her in the field.
He was willing to admit he'd had a relatively low dosage of Eru Lee.
And even he knew that you didn't simply have plans for Lee.
It wasn't that she wasn't predictable, that you couldn't guess what she might do next, but more that in spite of all that it somehow wouldn't work anyway. For Lee, there was always some easy way out just beyond your reach.
That, or sometimes she just surprised you, and offered the ticket to your freedom without you having to say a word.
He could have said any of this, he could have simply wished the other half good luck, he could have perhaps said something about Lee being a little too young and since when did any incarnation of Tom Riddle care about girls, especially that girl.
He must have some idea what Lee was really like; Lee made no pretenses about anything, certainly hadn't in the few hours Tom had been here to watch. Was a young Tom Riddle really attracted to that disaster on legs? If she'd been in Hogwarts when he had, summoned out of the ether, was this really what he'd be reduced to?
He didn't want to know, at all, and found himself grimacing.
"Let's get back to the topic at hand," he said.
"The topic?" asked Ginny, Tequila, the young Tom Riddle, whatever you wanted to call him.
"Our plans," he hissed, "And making sure we stay out of each other's way."
"Well, I was here first," Ginny said slowly, "So I'd say it's more of your problem to stay out of my way."
"I would love nothing more," he said, feeling a thin smile stretch across his lips, "But unfortunately, I owe Lee a small favor."
Tom tried very hard not to grimace again at the expression on Ginny Weasley's face. "The sooner it's done, however, the sooner I can leave both Hogwarts and you to your devices."
"Yes, and become Voldemort yourself," Ginny said, rolling her eyes. "And I'm just supposed to stand by and cheer you on? Is that it? Don't you think the world's a little too small for the three of us?"
"Three?" he asked.
"You, me, and the—"
"Right," he cut the other off, unwilling to hear anything about the other one.
He had never planned a second horcrux, but something had happened that Halloween night, and perhaps whatever had happened…
"If you're so eager to become Voldemort," he asked instead, "Why are you still in school?"
"I don't know any of your contacts," Ginny said with a long-suffering sigh. "And even then, I was much too young, and I—I suppose I'd rather do it myself."
And make himself a nuisance along the way, Tom was sure. Himself at sixteen, yes, he wouldn't have liked it much if an older version of himself came onto the scene and expected him to fall in line. The younger version needed something to do, something of his own to be proud of that wasn't simply busywork, or else he'd make it his life's goal to get in Tom's way. That, or he needed something distracting.
"Perhaps," Tom said slowly, "You'd be willing to bargain."
"Bargain away Voldemort?" Ginny scoffed but he held up a hand.
"I propose a truce, at least until this third is taken care of. In exchange you can help me fulfil a few favors and in turn I can help you."
"Help you with what?" Ginny asked with narrow-eyed suspicion.
"As you probably have been told, Lee believes she might have an assassin problem," Tom said with a smile. "You help me find whoever that might be, as well as support me in the coming war, and in exchange I will actively help you seduce Lee."
Ginny looked intrigued, though not sold. "What does actively help mean?"
"It means Lee is now your date to the Yule Ball, I will be more than willing to tell you any dirt I happen to have on Minato Namikaze, and I will… help you where I can in wooing her."
For a moment, he thought Ginny might not agree, that his younger self might stand and walk away from the table. However, it was only a moment, because it appeared Tom truly had picked the right bait.
"Deal," the girl said shortly, taking Tom's hand in her own.
Now, of course, the trick would be to make sure that Lee didn't throw too much of a fit at being thrown under a bus.
The first time Lee woke up, it was five in the morning, and Tequila was leering over her bed. With a scream of terror Lee hurled the possessed girl across the room and into the wall, which of course gave Tequila a concussion, and then vaulted out the window.
A half hour later, Lee returned to the house, and was able to sleep three more hours until summoned for a breakfast of pancakes, pancakes, and even more pancakes. Most of which Lee didn't even get a chance at thanks to having to fight with the Weasley horde of teenage boys.
Ginny, aside from rubbing at her head, cheerfully smiled as if nothing had happened.
Well, maybe not nothing. Her eyes were a little bloodshot and it looked as if she hadn't gotten much sleep, so for all Lee knew the girl had been staring at Lee all night long and simply hadn't gotten close enough to trigger the wards until five.
Damningly though, Ren was also looking a little sleep deprived, and while Lee had expected him to try to make his way through that report, she felt it was also a little too much of a coincidence. Which, she supposed, was sort of the point.
Aside from maybe catching Lee's killer, Ren was here to make sure Tequila didn't get too creepy, while Tequila was here to make sure Ren didn't manage to get too dangerous. Not that Lee cared, she supposed; it wasn't really her problem so long as she got what Konoha wanted and got herself out of this mess as fast as she could.
If Ren happened to take over the country, then god bless him.
Point being, she suspected the reason she woke up at five instead of three was because Ren had successfully kept Tequila busy trying to figure out who was King English Shinobi. So, Lee was hardly going to get in the way of that.
Even if she didn't like the way that neither was looking at the other, as if whatever beef they'd had with each other, whatever uncertainties had been there, were settled.
That, she hadn't counted on.
But not really something she could do anything about right now. She'd worry about that later.
For now, well, what was on her plate for now? She was staying with the Weasleys in an attempt to make friends with somebody in this goddamn country. Even if the people were being practically shoved down her throat by Dumbledore, who most certainly had an agenda.
She was staying with them even though they clearly weren't her biggest fans because they thought she was a huge racist. She'd improved this opinion to brainwashed child soldier racist the day before thanks to being able to calmly explain her beliefs.
That… Probably wasn't good in the long run.
Ideally, someone besides her could handle this. Except, she wasn't sure how that would go either. Other people like Minato, the nidaime, or the shodaime were better with people than she was, but for some reason Ellie Potter was inherently more important and trustworthy than them despite being just as foreign.
She got the feeling these people wanted to connect directly with her.
She didn't want to lie about her beliefs, especially since they weren't really beliefs, just aspects about the world that were undeniably true. Water is wet and civilians just have less chakra. Unfortunately, she was remembering the good English Shinobi's advice from the day before.
Lie, lie and pretend these people had won her over, and that she'd changed her mind.
Every operative who came to this country after she did could simply lie through their teeth. After all, what did it matter to them if the English had no idea how chakra worked? It wouldn't even come up much in conversation and even if it did Konoha had lied about much more for good relations with other nations.
It just felt so… pointless.
Pointless, aggravating, and a waste of everyone's time.
Except she was a jonin now, not even a chunin, and it was her job to live through painful decisions that nobody liked.
Taking one last bite of pancake, Lee just bit the bullet and went for it. "I have an announcement to make."
All heads turned towards her, blinking in confusion, as Lee had just interrupted some heated conversation about sky rugby and the Cuddly Cannons. She cleared her throat, portraying an air of confidence from someone who definitely knew what they were doing.
"I thought it over last night," Lee said with gravitas, "Long into the night, over many fitful, soul searching hours."
She ignored the way the dear English Shinobi was looking at her as if he was watching her ram her head into a wall. She also ignored Weasel Tequila's growing smile, as if waiting for the punchline to some great joke.
"And I have decided," Lee continued, "That you're all right and I'm wrong. Chakra—magic, that is, isn't genetic at all, Hermione Granger is the greatest witch of her age in every way shape and form, and Draco Malfoy is clearly a ferret for thinking otherwise."
No one said anything. Ron gaped at her with an open mouth. Weasley Molly forgot she was pouring herself tea and the cup overflowed, tea running onto the stained tablecloth.
"I am a very changed person," Lee insisted. "My entire world has turned upside down. I am a new man today, one with new views, new ideals, ideals which conveniently match up with all of yours."
In their silence she helped herself to the last pancake, placing it delicately on her plate. "Just so you all know."
There was another moment of extremely awkward silence.
Then, finally, Ron asked, "So, um, what brought this on?"
"Soul searching," Lee said in between bites of pancake, as if the answer were obvious.
"Right," Ron said slowly, his words tinted with just the slightest amount of disbelief, but he didn't press further.
Which Lee supposed was good enough for her. She smiled over at Weasley Molly, cleaning up the spilled tea with a flick of her hand. "The breakfast is delicious, by the way."
"Oh," Molly said after a moment, and then remembered to preen under the praise. "Oh, yes, thank you my dear."
"You were saying something about cannons?" Lee prompted, making a motion with her hand. Ron glanced awkwardly at his older brothers.
"Well," he started, "Just that I think they have a real shot next year—"
"Which is garbage and Ronnikins knows it," interjected one of the twins.
"Of course," the other added, "He just can't give up on them."
"They've got to win sometime!" Ron shot back, and it seemed the rest of breakfast was back on as if Lee had never interrupted it.
The important thing being that Lee had successfully eaten her words and now was a valued member of society. Even if Tequila was still staring at her, looking entirely too amused, while Ren was still looking at her like she was an idiot when he'd been the one to tell her to do it.
Honestly, what did he want her to do?
She'd have liked to see him do it any better.
"Ellie, sorry, I know this is a bit out of the blue, but have you given any thought to the summer?"
Lee looked up to see the softer spoken Weasley Arthur staring at her with an inquisitive, if somewhat worried, look.
"The summer?" Lee asked dully.
"You're free to stay with us of course," he said carefully, glancing at his wife.
She gave a far more enthusiastic nod, "Of course, she's welcome to stay here with us."
Lee just continued staring.
"Over the summer," she said slowly, tasting the words, not quite understanding what they meant.
"Well, you have to stay somewhere over the summer, right?" Ron pointed out.
"Why would I be staying over the summer?" Lee said, and then realized what they must be getting at. "Oh, no, my orders are to return home as soon as the tournament is finished. I'm leaving in the spring."
As soon as that thread of chakra binding her here snapped in half.
They just kept looking at her, as if none of them were quite sure what to say.
Lee added, "Well, there was that half-baked plan that Black fellow brought up, you know, hiring me back for some mission here to attend school or something. That's not going to happen though, not with—not with things in Konoha the way they currently are."
Maybe, in a time of peace, Lee would be allowed to go on that kind of mission. Right now, though, and for the immediate future, the third war loomed over all of their heads. Once she returned, Lee would be placed into ANBU under Danzo's authority and then—
Well, who could say?
By the looks on their faces, that wasn't what they meant either.
Finally, Tequila broke the silence, and while she grimaced Lee couldn't help but note the sharp gleam in her dark eyes. "Um, Lee, the thing is—After you left, the ministry opened a trial for your custody."
"What the hell does that mean?" Lee asked.
Mr. Weasley picked up where his daughter left off, "It means that as… your previous housing arrangement didn't work out, the ministry has decided to open up your case again. They're hoping it's concluded by the summer, but the way things are going it may extend into the fall."
"Again," Lee said slowly, "What the hell does that mean?"
"Us, the Malfoys, the Diggorys, and I think some bloke named Slughorn are all trying to adopt you," one of the twins explained flippantly. "It's bloody mental."
"George!" Molly chastised, whacking him across the back of the head. She then offered Lee a sweet smile. "Of course, we hope you'll be able to stay with us, and we do have Albus Dumbledore's backing, but—"
"The Malfoys are loaded," the other twin piped in, earning a swift whack on the back of his head too.
"I have a home," Lee said slowly, glancing at all their faces. "I'm a ward of Konohagakure."
"Well—" Ron said, pausing damningly, "That doesn't really count, does it? And besides, you said it yourself, you're a ward of the state. So, anybody should be able to adopt you, right?"
"That's not really how it works," Lee said, though she supposed, in theory, it could be. It rarely happened; clan orphans usually were taken care of by the clan from birth. Civilian born orphans, even if they became shinobi, were rarely adopted into a clan or even a smaller shinobi family.
Adoption existed, of course, but it wasn't something she or Minato had ever really considered a possibility.
Konoha had many orphans, after all, those that could adopt usually had to look after the ones from their own extended family.
Lee waved this off. "It doesn't matter anyway. Thanks to passing my jonin exams I am officially a legal adult. Even if I wasn't, there's some archaic rules about apprenticeship that come in somewhere to all of this."
Lee wasn't necessarily a Hatake, per se, but she was sure there was probably some rule in there somewhere that she wasn't allowed to just be adopted into some other clan after having learned directly from another clan head.
Except they still kept staring.
Lee said with a small smile, "I'm not getting adopted."
They exchanged worried looks with one another.
"Even if, hypothetically, I were to be adopted," Lee said, "I wouldn't stay."
"You wouldn't stay?" Mr. Weasley said slowly, as if he couldn't even understand the words.
"I wouldn't stay," Lee insisted.
"But what about—" Mrs. Weasley's hands fluttered around her head like anxious bees. "What about your education? What about—"
"I will not stay," Lee said. "No matter what the ministry decides. If they were so concerned, then they could have picked me up ten years ago."
"Nobody knew where you lived," Ginny pointed out.
"Well, then, they could have tried a little harder," Lee shot back.
No one had anything to say to that. In fact, it seemed as if everyone was completely out of words and the cheerful air breakfast had started with was officially ruined.
She stood from the table. "Well, that was fun. Thank you for the meal, it was great."
With a final nod to Weasley Molly, Lee stood, grabbed the wizard newspaper from the table, and walked out of the room as if she had places to be and people to see.
Unsurprisingly, on the very front page was news on Potter Ellie's upcoming adoption battle royale, as well as a small introductory blurb on the evil, foreign tyranny of Konohagakure for having dared kidnap the girl-who-lived and turned her into a violent child soldier.
It seemed that claiming genetics were a lie wasn't going to be as effective as she thought.
Author's Note: Well, Lee, you tried and failed. Next up, a very embarrassing middle school dance.
Thanks to GlassGirlCeci for the excellent job betaing the chapter. Thanks to readers and reviewers, reviews are much appreciated.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or Naruto