Summary: In each ending, a beginning.
He agreed to meet with Thomas Riddle out of courtesy, and because Riddle had evoked an allegiance he'd once held. He did not expect to like him. Riddle was all of the things he most abhorred: a child, of mixed blood, brash and foolish, certain in his belief that all the world came down to black and white. But Riddle was personable, very bright, with an easy charm that would serve him well.
They stood at the window in Abraxes' library, looking down at the lawn. At the two boys, one almost ten and the other barely five, armed with brooms and riding shaggy ponies. “Broom polo,” Abraxes said, shrugging. “They are quidditch mad, but they haven't the control necessary for flying, not so young. This is the most acceptable alternative.”
“They are yours?” Riddle asked. “Fine boys. You should be proud of them.”
Abraxes could feel the other man at his shoulder, sleek and well-fed as a cat. He was going to destroy that complacency if he could. The Diviner he had consulted had said it was too late to turn Riddle to a different path, but he could still be humbled, made to think.
“One of them is mine,” he said, without turning. “The other is my cousin Eileen's.”
Riddle stepped closer, peering through the diamond panes at the green lawn, the ponies, grey and black, the boys, fair and dark. The fair one, the elder, was very good, with the easy grace of a young Cossack. He guided his pony with his knees, leaning hard to the right to swing at the ball. The younger was very clearly overmatched, and angry with it; he hauled hard at his pony's mouth, kicking it around in a desperate attempt to block the goal.
He failed, of course. Abraxes snorted, watching, as the child's face went red, and then white. The older boy said something patronizing. The younger knocked him off his pony with a storm of wandless magic so strong it activated the wards of Malfoy Manor and sparked distant thunder.
“The dark one is yours,” Riddle said. “He is very powerful, for a child so young. Most impressive.”
Abraxes smiled sadly, thinking of his oldest son Philip, dead and buried in a mass grave in France, and his second son, Cassius, who had turned pacifist and fled to America: both of them as dark-haired, and fire-tempered as the dark boy on his knees in the grass. “No,” he said, watching the fair-haired boy gasp for breath and sit up, while beside him the ponies waited patiently, their mouths full of lawn. “The other is mine. The child of my second marriage, of my old age.”
Riddle looked again, less certain now. “They are both very like you,” he said, which was true. One child was very handsome, and one very plain, but there was only a hairsbreadth of difference between them, for all that: their heritage was stamped on their faces, for all the world to see.
“Eileen's grandmother and my grandfather were brother and sister,” Abraxes said, watching as the blond boy wobbled to his knees and then tackled the other, and they both rolled over and over in a tangle of arms and legs and broomsticks. “She was born a Prince,” he added idly, and watched as Riddle's face changed.
“She married one of them,” he said, and his pale eyes glittered. He was more of a fanatic than old Gellert had ever been. Looking at him now, Abraxes could see none of the charm, nothing of reason: only a torn banner, in a cold wind; only a trench in the mud beside the Somme. “Then that brat--.”
“His blood is as unclean as yours,” Abraxes said, but he wondered, saying it, if he were making a mistake.
“And did you ask me here to mock me?”
“You asked yourself here.” All at once his library smelled faintly of carrion, of the man before him, who was little better than a vulture.
“I will destroy you for this,” Riddle hissed. “No, I will destroy your son.”
“I am not so old I cannot have other children,” Abraxes pointed out.
“No,” Riddle said, and his voice was full of triumph. “But you will never have another son like that.” His eyes were on the boys, and despite himself Abraxes, too, glanced over. But he could not tell which one Riddle was watching, and he knew it did not matter. They were both exceptional, though with luck Riddle would not be clever enough to realize it, to see how they could be used.
“They are nothing to me,” he said, and shrugged. And that, too, was true.
“You have betrayed everything He ever stood for,” Riddle said angrily. “You are a fool--.”
“Not I, Thomas,” said Abraxes, and turned his back. And eventually Riddle went.