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The thing was, the Black party’s seats, while definitely one of the best ones, weren’t actually in the top box. That was reserved for the Bulgarian dignitaries, Crouch, Minister Fudge and his guests (which happened to be the Malfoy’s), and the lucky Weasleys, who got such good tickets after Mr. Weasley did a favor for Ludo Bagman.

Really, Harry and Tom were only there before the game to let their friends show off a little bit. They were still young, after all, and top box seats such as theirs would make them the envy of their classmates.

And it wasn’t even Harry that got them invited to sit at the top box in the end.

“Vell, vat a pleasant surprise to see you here, Marvolo!” The Bulgarian Minister of Magic greeted when the two of them entered. “Here to cheer for Viktor Krum, I presume? My children tell me the two of you are very good friends.”

By him, the Cornelius Fudge spluttered indignantly, “You’ve been able to speak English this entire time?! And you let me make a fool of myself miming all day?”

“Vell, it vos very funny.”

Tom, to his credit, didn’t blink an eye. Harry wondered how the hell he got acquainted with the Bulgarian Minister in the first place, well enough for the man to call him by his first name. “Partly, Minister Oblansk. Harry and his family were gracious enough to invite me as well,” Tom said, as he placed a hand on Harry’s back. Harry inwardly rolled his eyes but pleasantly smiled back at the excited foreign Minister.

“Harry Potter!” Minister Oblansk enthusiastically shook Harry’s hand. “Quite an honor! I had not known the two of you ver acquainted!”

“Not many people do,” Harry said.

“It’s nice to finally meet you as well, Mr. Potter.” Fudge intervened, not to be outdone, and also offered a hand. From behind him, Draco made a gagging face out of his parents’ sights as Harry politely shook it too. Neville slightly slapped the Slytherin on the shoulder as a reprimand.

Lucius, curiously, was intently looking at Tom with a complicated expression.

“Good to see you again, Harry,” Lucius drawled, “And who is your friend?”

“Marvolo Gaunt,” Tom grinned sharply, holding out a hand for Lucius to shake. “A pleasure, Lord Malfoy.”

Immediately, Lucius very tellingly turned a bit pale. ‘Abraxas Malfoy, you naughty man,’ Harry thought gleefully, ‘telling your son Lord Voldemort’s secrets.’

“There hasn’t been a Gaunt in decades,” Lucius carefully said as he shook hands with the teenager and dropped it quick enough that it was almost rude.

“My father ,” Tom idly commented, “didn’t carry the name. It was a bit of a surprise. More so than I was.”

“Marvolo is Durmstrang’s best,” Oblansk hummed, casting a twinkling eye over Tom’s hand still on Harry’s back, “My daughter is quite enamored vid you, Marvolo, but I see I have to prepare her vor disappointment. Still, you and Mr. Potter are velcome to sit by me. We have much to catch up since ve last talked!”

“You know the Bulgarian Minister ?” Draco later hissed as the adults mingled more.

Before Tom could reply, Fred and George cut in and echoed, “More importantly, you’re friends with Viktor Krum ?!”

The game itself went as Harry remembered. Seeing his friends getting enamoured by the Veela was hilarious .

He saw the Weasley twins cheering when Ireland won despite Krum catching the snitch, and he supposed he should warn them about Bagman cheating them out on the bet. Minister Oblansk was visibly disappointed at the loss, but agreed that it was a good match regardless.

After everyone tired out of the celebrations and headed to their respective tents, Harry and Tom laid down on their beds but didn’t sleep. They waited. And when the initial screaming started, they looked at each other and nodded.

“Harry, Marvolo,” Sirius turned to them as they approached the entrance of their tent, he and Remus tense at the commotion outside. “Make sure you have your wands on you, just in case. Find your friends if you can, but more importantly stay out of the crossfire. I’m trusting you to keep Harry safe, Marvolo.”

Tom nodded solemnly, helping Harry with his jacket. “We’ll be fine. Go.”

Sirius and Remus disappeared into the panicked crowd, presumably to help with the situation. “Come on, we don’t have much time,” Harry urged Tom and led the way to the forest.

They carefully avoided and kept out of sight from their friends, casting Disillusionment spells on themselves and dodging between people when one of them became particularly close.

“Here’s to hoping nothing changes this time,” Tom muttered as they hid and waited by the trees. In the distance, Harry could see the muggles being tossed in the air like dolls.

“Your followers are distasteful,” Harry grumbled.

“Why do you think I tortured them so much?” Tom dryly said. “Many of them were rather annoying.”

Whatever reply Harry had was cut off when a voice yelled - “ Mosmorde !” - and was followed by the distinct mark of the Death Eaters bright in the sky.

It only took another few seconds before the crunching of grass had Tom raising his own wand and incanting, “ Stupefy .” They heard a dull thump and quickly approached the barely visible indent on the ground.

“Hello, Barty,” Tom greeted his old follower as he lifted the invisibility cloak off Barty Crouch Jr.’s unconscious body. “Now let’s get you somewhere else.”

Tom called the house elf he’d apparently gotten over the summer, “Make sure he doesn’t escape, Hunny. If he wakes up before either of us returns, feed him and give him some fresh clothes. But do not let him know who we are for now.”

Hunny, a serious and professional looking house elf nodded, “As Master Marvolo wishes.” A snap of her fingers, and she and Barty were gone without anyone knowing they were even there.

“Well that was easy,” Harry commented as they distanced themselves away from the forest. As they were still Disillusioned, they could afford to not show any care about the Dark Mark in the sky. Though… “Can I say I’m glad it wasn’t some other dark mark?”

“The thought has crossed my mind,” Tom said slowly, looking up at his creation. The conjured snake slithered out of the skull, its sickly green color eerie against the night sky. “But considering our track record so far, I’d say that it’s but a small comfort.”

“I thought so,” Harry grimly nodded.

 

Hermione later told them that it was Dean Thomas, who had come to the game with Seamus, that owned the wand used for the Dark Mark. The fact that he was a muggleborn and that the wand was found in Crouch’s elf Winky’s possession absolved him from suspicion and further questioning, thankfully.

“Dad told us that it was the You-Know-Who’s mark,” Ron added uneasily despite the fact that the mark had disappeared when daylight came, “and it hasn’t been cast in thirteen years.”

Draco was unusually silent but Neville stayed by his side, a supporting hand on the Malfoy’s shoulder.

“Well enough of this depressing thinking,” Harry proclaimed after a moment. “Come on, everyone’s invited to my house for ice cream.”

 

Tom and Harry snuck out in the middle of the night, the day after they returned from the World Cup. It had been a while since Harry had been in their cottage and he’d missed it. It had been his and Tom’s home for almost a decade, after all. Too bad they were here for business more than anything else.

And because they’re actually civilized beings most days, they confronted Barty while having tea.

“You’re Harry Potter,” Barty rasped, staring at Harry with a twitchy expression. While the man wasn’t completely insane, he still had spent time in Azkaban and that was enough for Harry to be on his guard. But he and Tom had discussed what to do with him prior to the Cup, and if there were two things they agreed on, it was that Barty could still be useful and that he was absolutely loyal to Lord Voldemort.

So Harry grinned, “I’m not the one you have to worry about, Barty Crouch Jr.”

Immediately Barty’s eyes snapped to the unfamiliar teenager sitting with them. Tom slowly rose from his seat, stepping carefully around the table until he was looking right down at Crouch. And with a press of his hand against Barty’s left forearm, where the Dark Mark suddenly burned , Barty fell from his chair and onto his knees with a breathless expression.

“My Lord,” Barty whispered in awe, looking up at Tom with something akin to hope.

Harry and Tom had planned to mess around this lifetime, but with the events these past few years they finally decided that their plans would have to change. If there truly was another upstart Dark Lord trying to fill the hole Lord Voldemort’s death had left as they suspected, then Tom wasn’t going to let it happen without a fight.

 

-

Interlude: Dumbledore

“Have you found out anything, Severus?” Dumbledore asked, looking out the window of his office. He’d been nothing but troubled since young Harry Potter had gotten that howler a few months ago.

The potions master was quiet, staring at the headmaster with an inscrutable gaze. “The Malfoys have not told me anything,” Snape drawled carefully. “Draco is incredibly loyal to Harry, he has been careful about saying too much about him to me.”

“It’s important we find out who Harry’s friend is,” Dumbledore pressed, clearly aggravated. “I know that voice. I have it in my memories, clear as day, and I’m afraid of what that means.”

“You cannot seriously still think the Dark Lord is playing teenager and emotionally manipulating Potter, can you?” Snape couldn’t help but ask incredulously, recounting the theory the headmaster had presented to him months ago. “He was a madman, Albus. Completely out of his mind ages before that Halloween night. I may not like Potter, but even I can admit that he isn’t daft enough to fall for such blatant trickery.”

“Love clouds the mind,” Albus sighed.

“And so does paranoia. I believe you are very familiar with both,” Snape countered unforgivingly, unflinching at the headmaster’s reprimanding look. “We can’t make any hasty actions, Albus. Our relationship with the boy is precarious as it is. Like it or not, he may be just a child but he is influential . One wrong move can destroy us.”

It took a while, but eventually Albus let out another deep sigh. “I suppose you’re right for now. I’ve been making nothing but mistakes with him, I cannot afford any more. Just let me know if you find anything else.”

Seeing the dismissal as it is, Snape nodded and left the headmaster’s office.

He wasn’t quite sure if he should believe Lucius’ admission of the Dark Lord possibly having an heir, in the company of Potter no less, but Snape could only hope his omission of it from Albus wasn’t going to bite him back later.

-

 

In an isolated house in rural Estonia, an owl delivered a letter.

The only resident of the house offered the owl a bowl of water and a dead mouse after untying the envelope from its leg, curious at the lack of a sender’s name. He found out why once he opened it.

‘Professor,

It’s been a while. I think it’s time I collect that favor…

Signed,

H.P.’

Quirinus Quirrell couldn’t help but smile.