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The New Dark Lord, Same As The Old Dark Lord

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Summary: Dumbledore has identified who the next up and coming Dark Lord is. And he's never wrong. Su-u-u-u-re, he isn't...

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Harry Potter > Non-BtVS/AtS StoriesGreywizardFR1315,4733254,91019 Jun 1219 Jun 12Yes
Disclaimer: They all belong to JKR. Deal with it. I have.

Time Frame: Follows the conclusion of a *very* AU 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.'

Spoilers: Nope. None at all. Sorry to disappoint.

Character Bashing: None, aside from the usual suspects.

Feedback: Of course!

Archiving: Talk to me first, please.

Author’s Note 1: This was inspired, and parts of the first section written, by 'Dark King' (dark_king98) at the CaerAzkaban Yahoo group, msg # 149901, who offered it up as a free range plot bunny for anyone to pick up and run with.

Author’s Note 2: Many thanks to Bill Haden and Theo (Starway_Man) for beta-ing this story.

Author’s Note 3: As usual, "word" indicates speech, :: word :: indicates mental communication and { word } indicates a character's thoughts.

~~~

Somewhere in the Caribbean

Late 1999


Hermione Granger woke up slowly and stared around at her surroundings in confusion.

{ What in Merlin's name happened? The last thing I remember was… }

That thought was cut off as the confusion was replaced with an icy feeling of dread. The young woman's last conscious memory was of her infiltrating her way into the 'lair' of the Dark Lord with the intention of taking him down before he could ruin any more lives.

{ My first mission for the Order, and it's gone tits-up. So much for my hopes that they'll finally take a muggleborn seriously, }, Hermione thought bitterly to herself as she surveyed the actually rather nice room in which she'd awoken.

A quick assessment of her situation revealed: her wand was gone (although that really wasn't much of a surprise discovering that); she was fully clothed, though all of her tools and potions had been removed (even the concealed bottomless bag she'd had hidden in the back of her belt); she was in a well-furnished room; and there didn't appear to be any doors or windows.

{ What now? } the young witch pondered as she slowly stood up. Just as she had finished getting herself upright, she felt the familiar tugging sensation of a portkey and vanished with a loud ‘POP!’

Hermione Granger, the newest and the most controversial addition to the Order of the Phoenix, found herself in what looked like a dining room. The large table apparently set for breakfast certainly helped convey that impression.

"Ah, you're awake. Right on time. Have a seat?" The smooth male voice struck a chord of fear in Hermione.

{ Damn it, } Hermione thought to herself as she reflexively wondered what plans her captor might have for her.

"So, I'm your prisoner?" she asked, attempting to convey an impression of calmness and composure.

"I suppose that's how one might describe the situation. Although, personally, I would prefer to think of you as more of a guest. Enforced, naturally, until we can sort this whole situation out properly."

"What's to sort out? You caught me on your grounds; you must know what I came here for." Hermione's tone sounded more than a little petulant. After all, she wasn't at all used to failing at any task she took on.

"True, but you are not in possession of all the facts of the situation. If I know you, that has to be infuriating..."

Hermione finally looked around and leveled a glare at her so-called host.

Him.

The new Dark Lord.

The one person whom she had never thought would betray her.

Harry James Potter.

He certainly didn't look like a Dark Lord.

There were no dark robes.

No masks.

Just a Margaritaville t-shirt, cargo shorts and flip-flops, an outfit completely suitable for a beach.

{ Well, he does live in the Caribbean, } Hermione reflected somewhat distractedly.

"How’s Ron? I heard you two got engaged recently, didn’t you?" Harry asked politely.

"That’s none of your business," Hermione growled, not wishing to discuss her betrothed with this – person. Ron Weasley had tried to persuade her not to undertake this mission, and the young woman suspected that Potter would use that against her if she let that information slip.

"Oh, c'mon, Hermione," the apparently aspiring new Dark Lord cajoled her. "You're laboring under a bunch of false impressions and outright lies. And right now, I have no scheme more nefarious than a good breakfast and conversation where you’re concerned."

With that, the putative Dark Lord on the rise grabbed a plate and started to help himself at the buffet.

Inwardly shrugging, Hermione followed suit, making sure she only took food from platters that her host had already taken food from.

"There's no poison or anything like that in any of the food here, Hermione. If I wanted you dead, you wouldn't have woken up," Potter said without even glancing over at her.

"Humph," was her only response. Miss Granger thought she spotted an amused grin on the reputed Dark Lord’s face out of the corner of her eye, which only made her feel more annoyed at the situation.

The pair sat down at opposite ends of the table, Hermione only starting to eat after she saw Potter do so.

"Such paranoia," Potter, the supposed Dark Lord, grinned. "Well, I guess we can talk while we eat. Coffee?"

"No, thank you. And what on Earth can you possibly tell me that I'd want to know?" Hermione demanded, her annoyance at both the situation and her own perceived failure evident in her voice.

"Well, I wanted to clear up several misunderstandings. The first of which is, that I'm not a freaking Dark Lord."

Hermione just stared, her disbelief written all over her face.

"Oh, come *on*, woman! Use that eminently brilliant brain of yours! What evidence do you have that I've gone dark?" her former friend challenged her.

"The Ministry of Magic has declared you a Dark Lord," Hermione replied immediately.

"You're not serious, are you? We're talking about the same Ministry which denied the return of Voldemort for an entire year, right? The same Ministry which sent Umbridge to Hogwarts? The same Ministry which imprisoned Sirius Black without a trial? The same Ministry which allowed Lucius Malfoy and other Death Eaters to bribe their way out of trouble?" Potter jibed. "I know you're smarter than that, Hermione. You, of all people, should know that the Ministry does whatever it is told to do by rich and/or powerful individuals."

Her former classmate's tone of voice was clearly mocking in tone, and Hermione felt a slight blush heating up her cheeks as she considered her companion’s comments.

"Well, it’s not just that, Potter. People I know and trust, including Headmaster Dumbledore, have told me you've gone dark."

"Is that so," the young man said calmly enough. "Well, did the illustrious Albus Dumbledore offer any evidence to support that claim?"

"He told us about the Prophecy, and about the Horcrux in your scar."

"And that's all? Because I'd hardly call baseless, uncorroborated accusations inarguable proof that I've gone dark," was the calm and unruffled response Hermione’s accusations received.

"Dumbledore said that after you killed Voldemort the second time, all of the Horcruxes had lost their fragments – and I wasn’t the only one to verify that for myself. The Headmaster theorized that the only possible explanation – which everybody knows is true – was that Voldemort had used some dark ritual to gather them together to possess you, via the Horcrux on your forehead."

Her glare only intensified as the so-called Dark Lord actually laughed out loud when she said that.

"Honestly, Hermione, is that the best you can come up with? Or more accurately, the best that *Dumbledore* could come up with?" Potter qualified his question, shaking his head. "He just makes up this ridiculous claim and you believe it. What actual proof did Albus give you that Tom Riddle took over my body? And how could you possibly state that that load of crap is, and I'm quoting you here, 'the only possible explanation – which everybody knows is true'? "

"The Horcruxes..."

"The *alleged* horcruxes are a bunch of artifacts that *may* or *may* *not* have held fragments of Voldemort's soul," Potter cut her off firmly.

"Let me ask you this, old friend – had you ever even *heard* of Horcruxes before Dumbledore mentioned them?" the youth followed up his previous statement with a calm and unflustered question.

Hermione hesitated for a moment before reluctantly replying, "Well, no, not as such, but..."

"Hah! So our esteemed Headmaster shows you a bunch of relics from the Founders and tells you that they were Horcruxes for Riddle's soul fragments. And it never occurred to you to examine the bloody things *before* the soul fragments all supposedly vanished, did it?"

"No, I didn't get the chance. But why should I? He's Dumbledore – "

"Hermione! Are you, or are you not, your own witch? I’d have thought that that experience with Lockhart during our second year had taught you to avoid blind obedience to authority figures!" the so-called Dark Lord raised his voice, looking very disappointed in her."

Hermione blushed again, simply unable to help it. It had never occurred to her to doubt Dumbledore's claims. Still, she was inclined to take the Headmaster's word over Potter's.

"Oh, this is hopeless. I could play twenty questions with you all day, Hermione, but I'm really not in the mood," Potter sighed as he settled back into his chair. "So I'll just tell you what actually happened."

Hermione remained quiet and focused her attention on her former friend. If nothing else, she might be able to figure out Potter's plans from whatever fiction he was spinning to justify his current position.

"Tom Marvolo Riddle certainly made a Horcrux, I’m not denying that," the so-called Boy-Who-Lived began his explanation. "It was the diary which possessed Ginny during our second year at Hogwarts.

"After I'd told him what had occurred in the Chamber of Secrets, Dumbledore believed that Tom had made more – he even mentioned something about the magical properties of the number seven, but then he lapsed back into his usual practice of 'don't tell anyone anything about anything' habit.

"What Albus didn't know, however," Potter continued his recitation, "is that Tom's creation of that Horcrux was extremely traumatic. He wasn't able to practice any sort of magic for weeks afterwards – a weakness he made sure to disguise from his followers, of course. And once he finally recovered from the trauma, he discovered he'd lost some of his magical strength.

"The fact is that splitting off a part of your soul can’t be done, at least not without consequences. Part of your magic goes with it, or else the soul fragment would simply – evaporate – for want of a better term," the young fugitive from the British Ministry of Magic told Hermione, his comment eliciting a raised eyebrow from his guest-slash-captive. "That's the main reason why more wizards haven't created them, and we're not up to our arses in would-be Dark Lords; the drawbacks to doing so are *huge*. And the cost is simply too high, for anyone planning to take over the Wizarding World."

Hermione's head swam as she assimilated that nugget of information.

Sure, she only had Harry's – Potter's – word for it. But the logic of his argument made sense, and it did explain why Horcruxes had never become popular as a means of achieving immortality.

"That’s why Riddle swore off Horcruxes after making the diary. Having that would be enough to keep him immortal in the short term, and that would give him time to carry out his other plans. Those other plans included finding a better method of immortality," Harry said with a small shrug

"How do you know this?" Hermione demanded.

Harry – Potter, that is – gave her a crooked grin at her question.

"Because I found his research notes," he said simply.

"If nothing else, Riddle was very good at recording his own work," the so-called Boy-Who-Lived elaborated a moment later to her goggle-eyed stare. "A lot of it is really dark and unpleasant; that's been buried in the North American Ministry's National Magic & Technomancy Agency. They've got vaults secure enough to make sure no unauthorized person ever sees them without a very good reason – and those vaults are a *lot* better than Britain's Department of Mysteries, with its open door policy that lets pretty much anyone – even a bunch of Fourth and Fifth Year wizards and witches – who wants to walk in, do so. They've also got researchers who might be able to find constructive uses for some of that information."

"What possible good could come from Voldemort's research into the Dark Arts?" Hermione demanded.

{ And if he's been studying Voldemort's research, I guess that would explain why Potter went Dark... } she cautioned herself about her former friend.

"Actually, it’s already enabled number of medi-wizards and -witches to make some significant strides in curing mental illness. Come now, Hermione – where did you think the cure for Neville's parents came from?" was the astonishing, completely unexpected answer she received.

Hermione was literally shocked into silence. After a few seconds, she'd recovered enough to croak, "That came from – *you*?"

"No. Or rather, only very indirectly. That treatment was created by some American researchers who were working on Riddle's notes concerning the Cruciatus curse. Amazing what can be learned, isn't it, even from the darkest of sources? Then again, the idea for vaccinations came after observing that suffering from Cow Pox rendered you immune to Small Pox."

Hermione covered her unsettled state and stalled for time by taking a sip of tea. Harry's – Potter's – grin reappeared as he watched her try to recover her composure.

"At any rate, Riddle's notes concerning his long-term plans were what made for interesting reading as far as *I* was concerned," her former classmate picked up his account again. "And to get back to my explanation, the diary prevented Voldemort's soul from moving on after his first death in 1981. My destruction of the diary in Second Year caused him some severe problems, though. Riddle had to hurry up and get himself a new body before his soul just departed for whatever was waiting for him beyond the Veil.

"That ritual Riddle had Pettigrew kidnap me to use in, at the end of the Triwizard Tournament? Turns out that was most definitely *not* his first choice of action. In fact, it was pretty far down his list of priorities. When you look at the end result, of course, you can see why – it was pretty hard for him to blend in after that. Riddle wanted something that would restore him to a semblance of his former appearance before he made that first Horcrux. The destruction of said Horcrux forced him to choose the easiest solution available, not the best one.

"I hope by now that you've cottoned on to the relevant part here, Hermione? Namely that the scar on my forehead was never a Horcrux, deliberate or otherwise," Harry – that is, Potter, Hermione corrected herself again – stated firmly as he looked her directly in the eye. "If it had been, Tom would never have had the magical energy to maintain himself as a wraith for over a decade, his so-called Horcruxes or not."

Hermione did not want to believe Harry – Potter – but, just like before, the logic of his argument certainly seemed strong.

"If I had to guess, I'd say the scar was a mental link of some sort. How it was created and what it did – apart from making me a Parseltongue, of course – we’ll probably never know for sure, as the only chance to research it properly died with Riddle," Potter mused.

"Still, it meant that when I fought Voldemort at the Department of Mysteries, he had no Horcrux available as a backup. And Riddle knew it, too, which is why he sent his lackeys to attack us, instead of doing the job personally. Remember how he only turned up after he'd discovered that Malfoy, as usual, had bungled the job of obtaining the prophecy sphere?" Potter reminded his former friend turned Order agent.

"After that, it was just pure luck that I managed to hit him with that cutting curse which took his head off, and fulfilled that bloody Prophecy. The spectacular disintegration of his corpse, afterwards, was just a consequence of the method he'd used to create it," Harry noted analytically. "Of course, good old Dumb-as-a-door had turned up at exactly the right moment to witness everything.

"Must have been a massive shock to his system, though, seeing all that happen," Potter smirked.

"What do you mean? Dumbledore turned up to save us from Voldemort!" Granger exclaimed hotly, in defense of her mentor.

"Did he really?" was the slow drawl of a question Hermione received for her assertion.

"Well, if that was the case – that he came there to save all of us from the great and powerful Dark Lord – then I for one can’t help wondering, why did it take so long for Dumbledore to arrive?" Potter asked sardonically. "I figured it out later on, you see, after a fair amount of thought.

"Our oh so wise and noble Headmaster could easily have turned up at the same time Sirius and the rest of the Order did," her one-time friend pointed out. "I checked, and there's really no plausible reason why he didn't.

"Not unless you consider the possibility that the old man deliberately waited until Riddle himself showed up," Harry stated firmly. "He knew that Tom wouldn't turn up if both his enemies were already there. Basically, Albus used us – and the Prophecy – as bait."

"But why? The Headmaster already knew from the Prophecy that you were the only one who could defeat Voldemort," Hermione reflexively protested.

"Hah!" Potter snorted derisively. "Did Dumbledore ever mention just *how* he believed I was actually going to achieve that little feat?"

Hermione paused. That little factoid had never been disclosed, as a matter of fact, she belatedly realized.

Nobody had ever really asked how Potter was supposed to do that, either, now that she thought about it.

"Dumb-as-a-door never did do his bloody homework," Harry – no, Potter, Granger reminded herself yet again – said with a frown. "For whatever reasons, he truly believed that Riddle had made multiple Horcruxes and that I was the seventh one.

"If he'd ever actually bothered to research the topic properly he would have known that it was impossible; Tom's magical power would have been diluted to the point of him becoming a squib after doing that," Harry stated confidently.

"And so, because the stupid old bugger believed that I was a Horcrux – and I'll tell you why a living Horcrux is impossible, in a minute or so," Potter promised, "Dumbledore convinced himself that *I* had to die before Riddle would pass on. *That's* why the devious old bastard was manipulating everyone and everything he could for Riddle and I to eventually kill each other. And if the dreaded Dark Lord were to kill me first, the Wizarding World's Greatest Hero, Albus Dumbledore, would finish Voldemort off and save everyone – just as he did when Grindelwald threatened the entire magical world, back during World War Two."

Hermione was gob-smacked. "How do you – what on earth makes you think that?!"

The grin she saw on Harry's – that is, Potter's face, Hermione corrected herself yet again – could almost be described as feral, she decided, as she felt a small shiver run down her back at the sight of it.

"Because," the 19-year-old wizard informed her, "once we got back from the Department of Mysteries, Albus brought Sirius, Remus and myself to his office. Don't ask me how he managed it, but Padfoot somehow slipped the sneaky old bugger some Veritaserum.

"That was when the whole plan came out: how I was meant to die; how Albus was setting himself up to get his hands on the Potter fortune, so he could use it 'for the Greater Good'; how he was going to use his hero status to change Britain's magical society and 'make it a model for the rest of the world to emulate.' It was all pretty sickening, actually," Potter declared with a grimace.

"After the potion wore off, Dumbledore realized what he'd told us and that he needed to cover himself," he went on. "And I’ll give him this much; the scheming old bastard really can think quickly on his feet when he has to. First off, he tried to persuade us that Voldemort wasn't really gone, and that we need to work together 'in spite of our differences.'

"None of us were convinced about that, though, so we decided to look into the whole Horcrux business ourselves," Harry then continued. "That's when we found Riddle's notes. Plus, we'd also located a bunch of stuff in the Black Family Library that covered Horcruxes in detail. Once we figured out what had actually happened, we went back to Dumbledore to tell him the good news: that Riddle was gone and never coming back.

"Of course, he completely refused to believe us," the so-called Boy-Who-Lived snorted, shaking his head with resignation.

"Never mind that my scar was – for the first time in my life life that I could remember – absolutely quiet. Never mind that the books about Horcruxes that Sirius had dug out of the Black Family Library basically confirmed everything that was in Riddle's notes. He, the great Albus Dumbledore, had decided what 'The Truth' was – and any opinions that contradicted it were utterly wrong," Harry said, scathingly.

"Which leads us to his second course of action. Sirius, Remus and I refused to buckle under and accept Dumbledore’s opinion, just as he must have known right from the start. So the old git simply used that as more evidence that I had been possessed by Riddle and that I had somehow managed to mind-control Sirius and Remus," the green-eyed youth who'd saved her from a troll when they were innocent Firsties told her, shaking his head in disgust. "After that, the battle of public opinion began, something we had utterly no hope of winning. After all, who in their right mind would take the word of a werewolf, an accused murderer and a punk teenager over that of the renowned Albus Dumbledore? Pretty soon, the three of us decided that we were better off getting out of Britain. So we left, not long before the smear campaign against us would have made that impossible."

"So why go dark? All those deaths..." Hermione asked, her uncertainty evident in her voice.

"Were not caused by us," Harry declared firmly. "I have absolutely no idea who's behind all of those terrorist acts in Britain. Personally, I suspect it's left-over Death Eaters who're looking to make some sort of final statement concerning their beliefs about blood purity, but Sirius thinks that Dumbledore might be orchestrating the incidents himself, in order to try and discredit us further and make the other Ministries more sympathetic to his requests to extradite us back to England. What I can tell you for certain is that none of us have been back to the UK since we left three years ago; and quite frankly, I don’t much care what happens there anymore, even if Moony and Padfoot do."

"Can you prove all that?" Hermione was still suspicious of the man in front of her, although her loyalties were clearly wavering.

"Would testimony under Veritaserum do? I'll even let you brew it yourself, using your own ingredients and equipment. That, and I can give you pensieve memories detailing what I was doing at the time of any alleged attack, at least for myself."

"Well, if you're willing to do that, then..."

Hermione was now starting to get a *very* bad feeling about all this. Although still a novice, part of her training as an Order agent was to develop good instincts both about people and situations, as more often than not they were what kept you alive in a life-or-death situation.

And if, as she could not help wondering, everything Potter had just told her was true...oh, Merlin’s *beard*...

~/~/~

Several hours later


The black-haired, green-eyed youth smiled to himself as he stretched out on one the lounge chairs positioned on the beach stretching from the back of the vacation house they were currently staying in down to the ocean's edge, and luxuriated in the warmth of the sun beating down on him.

Hermione was currently ensconced in the mansion's library, reviewing and examining every detail of the various memories the three fugitives had deposited for her inspection in a pensieve Remus had managed to acquire for her use.

{ If Hermione remains true to form, I'll almost certainly have to physically drag her out of the room to make sure she eats dinner, } he grinned to himself as he took a sip of his chilled bottle of Red Stripe and simply enjoyed the tranquility of his environment.

{ On the other hand, once she verifies the information I told her about horcruxes, and she validates that none of us were anywhere near any of the sites that were hit by whoever those idiots currently terrorizing the Ministry are, it's virtually certain that she'll accept everything else I told her as true, too, } the young wizard thought as a small grin appeared on his face.

{ And once she finally accepts that Dumbledore is wholly fixated on the idea that an imaginary horcrux took possession of Harry Potter, she'll be more than willing to help me convince the Ministry and rest of the ICW that he's completely delusional now, and they'll help lock Albus away so that he won't be able to bother me any more, } he mused, considering the various opportunities his co-opting the loyalty of one of the most brilliant minds of the past several decades would offer him.

{ And the best and funniest part of this entire situation, } Tom Marvolo Riddle thought to himself with immense satisfaction, { is that, while Dumbledore was partially correct about Potter's scar being a horcrux, its creation wasn't something I had intended to do, back when I tried to kill the bloody little brat. }

{ I wish I could see the expression on the old fool's face if he were to ever learn that it was whatever damned spell Lily Potter used to protect her damned little sprog which was actually responsible for splitting my soul apart, and that it was a piece of his crib which ended up embedded in that blasted scar that tied the fragment to Potter, } the only recently re-embodied Voldemort smirked to himself as he again considered the way Fate had finally offered him the opportunity to reunite the two previously isolated sections of his soul, down deep within the Department of Mysteries.

The shock and trauma of his decapitation had resonated in the portion of his soul which still resided in Potter's scar, and Riddle had instantly and reflexively taken advantage of the youth's momentary lapse of concentration to attack him mentally as viciously and brutally as possible.

And he wasn't at all reluctant to admit (at least to himself) that luck and reaction time had played a significant role in his victory. Had Potter been the slightest bit more on guard or a fraction of a second faster in reacting to his psychic attack, the youth could just as easily been the victor of their final encounter.

It was the work of only a few brief seconds to overpower and then exorcise the Potter boy's soul from his body, but only after Tom had first absorbed and assimilated the boy's memories. After all, it wouldn't do to have anyone suspect that he really wasn't the Boy-Who-Lived by acting in an uncharacteristic manner, now would it?

Dumbledore's already heightened suspicions regarding his true identity had flared into a single-minded certainty after that battle within the Ministry, despite his efforts to behave as much like Potter as possible, and it was primarily due to Black's and Lupin's efforts on his behalf (in the mistaken belief he was still actually their old friend's child) which had allowed Riddle to evade the manipulative old bastard's efforts to maintain control over him and escape Britain's shores to what some wizards still persisted in referring to as 'the colonies.'

With a guilt-ridden Lupin taking care of their departure arrangements, and a similarly guilt-ridden Black (who was seriously mentally damaged from his years in Azkaban) negotiating the transfer of the contents of all of their Gringotts vaults to their branch in the Cayman Islands, Tom had been left free to recover from the stress of his victorious 'final battle with the Dark Lord Voldemort' – an opportunity he'd eagerly grabbed, in order to allow him to deal with the consequences of his hostile seizure and takeover of his opponent's body, and his adaptation to the significantly higher levels of power he'd acquired along with it.

The opportunity to relax completely which followed their arrival at the resorts dotted along the coast of the Mediterranean had provided him with the time to integrate the purloined memories with his own, as well to figure out how to deal with all of the emotional connections which had been transferred along with the memories.

In actuality, it had been those stolen memories which had provided the would-be Dark Lord with the solid foundation he'd unknowingly so desperately required in order to reintegrate the two surviving segments of his damaged soul. It had taken him a while to adjust, but the time he'd needed to adapt to the various emotional connections he'd inadvertently assimilated had also allowed him to review his past actions and ponder what he might do differently, this time around.

And so, after a fair amount of thought, the newly re-embodied dark wizard had decided to play his cards a lot more subtly and live the life he'd never had the opportunity to enjoy in his previous existence.

After all, as the fairly well-off scion of an Ancient and Noble family – one good-looking and famous enough to have hordes of young women chasing after him (despite the Ministry’s smear campaign) for the chance to shag his brains out – Tom also had more than sufficient money and influence to allow him to begin forging connections among the movers and shakers of the Wizarding World.

What was even better was the fact that, more often than not, he didn't even have to put in the effort to meet such people, since they made it a point to seek *him* out – either on their own initiative, or as agents for whoever it was they followed.

And the perfect example of this was currently sitting in his library, verifying that the facts of the situation (at least, those she was aware of) regarding his persecution by Dumbledore were completely true and correct, so that when she did finally return to the Order and report her findings, she would do so with all the fervor and intensity that only the converted true believer could muster. And given the intensity with which she'd always approached any other task she'd undertaken, the Dark Lord was completely confident that Hermione Granger would manage to convert at least some of her fellow members of the Order of the Phoenix of the truth of her beliefs.

Whether or not Dumbledore believed Granger’s report was pretty much immaterial to him, at this point in time.

If the old fart chose to believe the easily manipulated bint and ended his quest to imprison and then somehow 'redeem' his former nemesis, then Tom knew he'd be free to proceed with his plans without opposition.

And if Dumbledore decided that his adversary had somehow managed to beguile his agent with some unknown charm or hex and continued his efforts to capture and extradite him, then the fact that several of his own supporters believed him to be a mistaken and/or deluded old fool would only enhance the idea that Harry Potter, the Man-Who-Defeated-The-Dark-Lord-Voldemort, was an innocent target of the British Ministry of Magic's evil intentions.

The fact that such behavior would only allow him to play the 'political persecution' card with even greater ease when the British Ministry tried to do anything about him, at Dumbledore's insistence, made the game all that much better.

{ Things are working out much better than I'd ever dared hope, } Tom Riddle, now currently known as Harry James Potter, decided as he allowed a long sigh of satisfaction to escape his lips.

{ Another four or five years, and I'll have enough money and connections to be able to put Harry Potter’s name forward for the post of Minster of Magic. And despite the current media campaign against me, given the awe and reverence these idiots have already established as regards the name of Harry Potter, I can't see anyone being able to seriously oppose me, } Riddle decided with what anyone seeing it would consider a truly terrifying smile.

Yes, indeed. With the resources he had available to use now, it was simply a matter of time before he was ruling the British Wizarding World, as the first step in his quest to rule the entire magical world.

And best of all, this time around, he'd be doing it *legally*.


FIN

The End

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