Not (that much) beyond help

He nodded, paler than he had ever been in his life.

„Is there no other way?" he moaned again, hatred and terror in his voice. But he knew the answer. No, there was no other way.

He had asked for a chance, just one chance, because his final status was inacceptable. He got that chance. A frightening one – going back in time to save and adopt his own most feared enemy was reportedly not he sanest idea one could carry out, he would be out of his depth for an entire decade, not to mention that he wasn't cut out for the role. But it was his one and only chance, rejecting it would have meant losing everything.

How could he of all people seek HIM of all sad children, and ensure he feels happy and safe and LOVED? He didn't feel up for the task, obviously not.

He would get all the needed background information – a small reassurement. He would have money (not much, though) and the same job he had held in his youth. He wouldn't be that much out of his depth... Except he'd have to provide for his own most feared enemy.

Yet he was eager to leave this miserable afterlife behind, even if he wasn't ready for whatever would come. Honestly, he wouldn't be readier.

He arrived at the corner of Knockturn and Diagon, as if he had apparated there. A hag gave him a curious look, but the others all ignored him.

It was decades before his own birth, he realized as he reached for the promised 'background information'. Decades before his birth, and yet he looked exactly as he had died. No wonder everybody but a hag turned hastily away. He still had his wand – not the one that betrayed him in the last battle, but his own that had once bonded with him upon entering the wizards' world, just a few shops down from here.

He checked his pouch – there wasn't much in it, there had never been, but it would do for now. He checked his robes – worn and rather simple, just like it had always been for him. He cast a series of self-transfiguration spells to blend in easily, to look like the average wizard that he had, deep inside, always refused to be.

He turned around and disapparated to the home of his to-be (adopted) worst enemy.

A middle-aged woman answered the door, hostile and distanced.

"I'm looking for old Perce, I haven't seen him a while," he began after a polite greeting. "I'm in need of a great favour."

The woman slammed the door closed, just to make her point clear. Her answer could barely be heard over the bang.

"Azkaban?" he exclamated with well-practiced fake compassion. "Oh dear, what happened? We were having drinks together just a few months ago!"

None of his business? Of course not! But either he made it his, or the messy death, so he continued, "And what happened to the small ones?"

As if on a cue, a nine-year-old's head appeared in the closest window, looking curiously at him. "Why do you ask, sir?" he asked, that judgemental, piercing hauteur not yet present in his blue gaze. That sickening sense of superiority and distance from everyone not useful to his goals was yet to be ingrained in the boy.

"Well, my original intention was to ask Perce if he knew a place I could rent out for a few months," he lied fluently. He indeed had found his worst enemy, who wasn't even of Hogwarts age yet. Those blue eyes... It wasn't compassion he felt running through him, but it was maybe camaraderie. Many decades prior (or several decades later, depending on your point of view) he had been where this child is right now: surrounded by hostility, without an equal. "I have the money," he claimed, "only in my former place things turned a bit inacceptable. I was hoping Perce would help me out," he hastily added. Honesty felt odd, even if it was just a few moments. Being dead was, for real, inacceptable.

"How much money?" the woman's voice queried from behind the closed door.

"I was thinking, fifty galleons a month?" he offered. "Seventy if you can include breakfast. That's how I rented my room in Knockturn."

The door opened an inch.

"I'm not surprised Perceval was the only one you could turn to," she said after giving him a long look. He hoped she was referring to the condition of his worn robe.

"He was the one I'd turn to ever since we've been doing Transfiguration homework together in the NEWT class."

"You have a NEWT in Transfiguration?" the curious boy squeezed himself past his mother, bouncing with excitement. "Can you teach me? Mom won't even let me hold dad's wand..."

Teach him? Transfiguration, of all things?!

"Sure. You must be Albus, right? Perce told me a lot about your smarts and talent."

"Yes, I am! My brother is in the back garden with..." His mother ended the sentence with a warning kick in the ankle. Which really made no sense, he was about to rent a room with the family.

"Pleased to meet you, Albus. My name is Tom Marvolo Riddle."