Tom first started to watch Harry in his sixth year.
He knew who Potter was. Everyone knew who the Potter heir was; he wasn’t loud and neither did he excel in all his classes like his Muggleborn best friend, but he was notorious for making the Quidditch team in his first year.
And no one could forget the loud racket Potter’s father had made with Sirius Black, cheering and shouting encouragement during every game. Although Tom didn’t remember much about Potter before that year, he still vividly remembered the way the small first-year’s cheeks had been a bright red, visible even all the way down in the stands.
Potter continued to make it to the Quidditch team every year. It was impressive, if Tom ever cared about Quidditch. Tom had more important things to care about such as his plans after his years at Hogwarts ended. He didn’t have an inheritance to fall back on; that is, until he claimed the Slytherin heirship. He had his plans in place to do so as dramatically as possible and he had no reason to waste time on going to Quidditch matches.
But the sixth year was when the Dueling Club started up again. Professor Snape was the one running it, and every Slytherin was roped into going to show support for their Head of the House.
Since Tom was the top of his class, he hadn’t been surprised to be called up to give a demonstration. He had noticed Potter then, not because Potter had done anything truly spectacular, but because Potter had been staring at him with wide eyes, full of admiration and his mouth slightly ajar from shock.
Tom had paused on stage then, taken aback by the way Potter had been staring, and had almost faltered in his next spell. But he recovered soon enough and took down his opponent with a well-timed stunning spell.
The other students had burst out in applause, but Harry hadn’t moved, his eyes still wide as if he hadn’t recovered from the display of Tom’s magic.
And Tom had blinked and tucked away the knowledge that the Potter heir had a massive crush on him.
He had put it out of his mind then. There wasn’t any reason to confront Potter; Tom didn’t like him back and he was young, and besides it wasn’t as if there weren’t other people in the exact same predicament as Potter. Tom wasn’t stupid even if he feigned he was oblivious in the matters of the heart; he knew exactly how many people liked him in the school and he kept them at a well-maintained distance. There was no reason to snub people, and if he kept them lusting after him, they were far easier to manipulate. After all, all he had to do was hint he needed something to be done, and people would scramble to do the work for him.
It was an easy way to live life at Hogwarts. No hearts were broken, and it wasn’t as if Tom was interested in love. He had far more important things to do at his time at Hogwarts. If he was tied down by someone, then he had the risk of losing connections. And Tom couldn’t afford to lose any if he was to be the next Dark Lord.
He found it far more amusing to think that the Potter heir had fallen for him; the quintessential Gryffindor with a prowess at only Quidditch had fallen for him, the sneakiest Snake of them all. And Tom had absolutely no interest in Quidditch. It was a wonder Potter had fallen for him at all. He wondered if it was his face that had interested Potter; he knew quite well thanks to the gossip how many people fawned over his features.
And it stayed amusing until Potter blew through the ranks during the Dueling Tournament. Tom had assumed Abraxus would have been his match-up for the finals, but instead, Potter had stood there. He was flustered, of course, there was no denying the flush to his cheeks and the way he fidgeted in front of Tom underneath the bright lights. But there was steel to the green, and Tom knew he had a challenge. He was instantly fascinated. Wasn’t Potter supposed to only be good at Quidditch?
Still, it wasn’t as if he was going to go easy on Potter because of his supposed crush, and he had started the duel strong after the customary bow. He had thrown spells, powerful ones, and Potter had inexplicably dodged each one.
Tom would never admit this to anyone, but he only won the duel thanks to his charms. He had weaved between Potter’s stunning spells, and then lowered his eyes, peering up at Potter through his lashes.
He would remember Potter’s face forever, the way his mouth fell slightly open in shock and his green eyes widened slightly, and then he had jammed the tip of his wand against Harry’s neck.
It had been a clear victory in the eyes of their peers.
But Tom had felt guilty about it for days afterward, wondering just how he had let Potter get under his skin that he even had the potential to lose.
He avoided Potter for the rest of the year, and it was only when he became Triwizard Champion the next year that he had the guts to look for Potter.
He couldn’t help it; he wanted to see that admiration again.
And that’s when he realized it…
Out of a sea of people full of influential Heirs and Professors, he only wanted to see how Potter took the news that Tom was to be the Triwizard Champion.
But he was rewarded by his curiosity because Potter looked the same as he had the year of the Dueling Club, and even though Tom was already at the end of the Great Hall, a far distance away from Potter, he could see the green of them even there, and he was mesmerized.
It was only when Dumbledore urged him along that he realized that maybe it wasn’t just Potter who had it bad.
The realization did not come quietly. Tom had a quiet freak out after he returned to the Common Room; he had taken the Slytherins’ congratulations with good grace, but instead of joining the celebrations, he retreated to his bedroom.
They must think he was already preparing for the Tasks. But he wasn’t.
Instead, he was sitting up in bed, staring at his upturned palms with horror.
He had a crush.
On the Potter Heir.
He could have anyone in the school. He could be with the Malfoy Heir. Abraxus was pure-blood and had ins with the crowd he needed connections with. The Greengrass heir was pretty and would make a gorgeous picture on his arm. They came from old money and believed in the Old Ways.
The Potters were not pure-blood. They threw in their lot with the bloody Weasleys, blood-traitors that didn’t believe in blood purity.
Not that Tom did. He was a half-blood himself, but it wasn’t as if he needed to advertise that after he revealed his lineage.
He only needed the image.
Potter would not help that. None of the Slytherins would take him seriously if Tom actually took Potter up on his offer.
But he wanted to. He wanted to see that admiration up close, wanted to drown in the green that was Potter’s eyes…
Tom had self-control, though. He didn’t need to try very hard to squash the growing crush deep down into his heart; all he had to do was focus on the Triwizard Tournament, and that should be enough to keep Potter out of his mind.
And it worked.
Until it didn’t.
Tom decimated the First Task. But the Yule Ball was a little trickier. It shouldn’t had been. Tom had already made the decision to ask Astoria Greengrass, and she accepted with little fanfare.
But Potter had asked one of the Weasleys, and looked happy enough while escorting the blood traitor around that Tom seethed.
Those eyes should be looking at nothing else but him.
It was when the Weasley was pulled away by Lovegood that he swooped in. He didn’t even know where Greengrass was, not that he cared very much. His instincts had already taken over and before he could rein himself in, he had one arm around Potter’s waist.
Potter jumped at the sudden contact, those green eyes immediately finding the culprit and stared at him, slightly widened. “Riddle?” he stammered, and his hands found Riddle’s arm around his waist. He didn’t try to pull Riddle off though, just left his hands there as if a reminder that Tom really shouldn’t be so close.
“Care to dance?” Tom eventually asked after a long moment of silence, and Potter’s eyes widened even further.
“Okay?” it came out like a question, but Tom didn’t take it as one, already whisking Potter out onto the dance floor.
Potter felt right in his arms, and Tom couldn’t help spinning the wizard around a few times, marveling at the way Potter’s dress robes moved. They matched his eyes and his tanned complexion, and Tom even had a thought to wish that the song never ended.
But it did, and it left Potter looking at him with a quizzical look, as if unsure if Tom was making fun of him or not.
Tom came back to his senses at the look, hyper aware of the whispers that were sounding off the dance floor. Above Potter’s shoulder, he saw Greengrass’ calculating look, as if she only found it fascinating that he had ditched her for Potter.
He immediately turned to the closest student. A sixth-year Hufflepuff. When he was spinning her, Potter had already disappeared.
At the end of the Yule Ball, Tom knew that his crush was deeper than he had thought, and he needed more help if he was to squash it like it should have been long ago.
It got better after that. Tom got a better rein on his emotions, and although his heart still skipped a traitorous beat whenever he caught Potter staring at him, he was able to keep a fair distance. It helped that the girl Weasley and Potter had broken it off and were rarely seen in each other’s presence.
Of course, Granger was still there, a constant fixation at Potter’s side, but Tom was okay with Granger. She was dating that Quidditch star from Durmstrang, Tom didn’t need to be jealous.
(He ignored the part in him that whispered Potter should only be interested in him, because it was silly to think so when it was already obvious that Potter only had eyes for him. He was smug about this fact, but would never admit so out loud.)
He crushed the competition at the Triwizard Tournament.
The Minister himself congratulated him and offered him a position in the Ministry. “You’re going places,” he had said, and Tom had politely nodded and inwardly celebrated at the idea that the Triwizard Tournament was already opening doors previously closed.
He forgot about Potter for the rest of the year after that. It wasn’t hard; with him becoming the Triwizard Champion, he was swept away in a flurry of media, with the Daily Prophet sending Rita Skeeter to interview him about his plans.
His seventh year was spent figuring out those plans. He was so busy, he barely had time to think about Potter.
Still, Tom caught Potter’s eyes whenever they were in the Great Hall. Potter still flushed every time Tom caught him looking, and Tom always wondered how Potter still liked him.
Because Potter had grown up during that brief summer. He had grown taller, and his scrawniness was now replaced by a lithe body, born from the many hours the wizard spent training for Quidditch. He was made Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team and Tom realized just how many people were now crushing on him.
Surely, he could forget himself in another’s arms. If Potter stopped looking at Tom like he hung the stars, then maybe Tom could get over this stupid crush.
He was convinced this would work out, and when he caught Potter alone with the girl Weasley on a trip to Hogsmeade, he only smiled, and not sneered when the two said hello. It was a good thing that Potter was getting over him; this was what he wanted, he couldn’t be with Potter if he wanted to have any chance taking over Wizarding Society.
And it worked. Until Valentine’s.
The amount of chocolate Tom got was staggering. It seemed as if every girl he had ever interacted with was determined to get him something. He made sure to stay polite; he was about to graduate, and he didn’t want to snub anyone before he left.
He wasn’t irked that Potter hadn’t gotten him any chocolate - though it was ridiculous that Potter hadn’t because the wizard had crushed on him for four years, he would have thought that Potter, Gryffindor as he was, would have attempted to make some sort of move on him before he graduated… Simply so Tom could turn him down once and for all, of course, and let the poor bloke move on. It was disgraceful; Potter was the heir to a powerful family, he shouldn’t be chasing someone unattainable.
And he was content being annoyed until he realized just how many chocolates Potter was getting. It seemed as he had been buried in a mountain of them; the gnomes were now lining up to sing their requested songs to him during breakfast. Behind the chocolates, Potter had his head in his arms, Granger patting him on the back as a sign of comfort.
Even this far away, Tom could see that the tips of his ears were red.
It was adorable.
Tom flushed hard as soon as he thought it, nearly knocking over his own stack of chocolates. He wasn’t supposed to be thinking Potter was cute; Tom didn’t need to be wasting time thinking about this when he had other things to worry about.
Potter was abysmal at Potions. Everyone knew that. Professor Snape knew that. Even with his mother helping, Potter just didn’t have the right mindset for Potions - especially with Professor Snape being who he was. So when Tom came to drop something off and walked by Potter’s disaster of a Potion, he couldn’t stop himself from reaching over and grabbing a beetle on Granger’s desk. Potter was staring at him in wonder, and Tom couldn’t keep meeting Potter’s eyes as he threw the beetle in. Immediately, the potion bubbled to the correct color.
Potter’s mouth dropped open slightly, and Tom turned, unwilling to stay and listen to any gratitude from Potter. He was already embarrassed enough with his lack of control.
He put it out of his mind until the end of the year. It worked, somewhat. Potter never got with anyone even after the mound of chocolates and the evidence that many others were interested in him and Tom was okay with that. (More than okay, because Potter still watched him in the Great Hall with those green eyes, and Tom was okay with their relationship ending like that.)
Potter was the Gryffindor Prefect. Tom was the Head Boy. Since Potter had been selected to take over Head Boy next year, he was to escort Tom out to the boats.
It was the first time they had been alone in a long while.
Tom’s heart was being foolish; it was hammering, and all Potter had done was greet him.
“Um,” started Potter, breaking the tense silence that had descended upon them. Tom blinked at the sudden sound, but didn’t turn to look at Potter, keeping his eyes on the still water in front of them. They had to wait for a lantern to signal them to start moving.
“Thanks for the helping me in Potions,” continued Potter.
“It was a simple matter,” he said. “No thanks needed.”
Silence reigned. Tom wanted to sink into the floor, and it was stupid because he’s talked to important people before and Potter was just another student. And this was the last time he had to see Potter ever, and he was still second guessing every word.
“Did you -” Potter started suddenly, and Tom couldn’t help turning to look at Potter one last time. The lantern had been sighted across the water and it wouldn’t be long now before Tom graduated and headed to the Ministry. The light was strong, born from magic, and it alighted upon Potter’s turned face, making the green in his eyes glow.
Tom couldn’t tear his eyes away, even if he wanted to.
“Did I?” he pressed when Potter went quiet. He was biting his lip.
Merlin, was Potter planning to confess to him now? On the last night? With a boat coming to take Tom away?
He couldn’t - he shouldn’t encourage this. He should do what he always did; he should change the topic as subtle as possible so there would be no confession.
But he didn’t want to.
He wanted to hear Potter say it.
So he didn’t say anything. He just watched Potter take a deep breath and then look him clear in the eye. Just like in their sixth year, there was steel to them, and against Tom’s better judgment, his heart jumped.
“Why did you ask me to dance at the Yule Ball?”
It took all of Tom’s willpower to stop heat from flaming across his cheeks. Phrased like that, it was almost as if Harry was accusing him of the one having a crush, when really, it was Potter that started all of this. Potter liked him.
Not Tom. Tom didn’t like Potter.
“A mere formality,” he said. “I danced with a Hufflepuff and a Ravenclaw, as well as you.”
Potter’s face had fallen. The lantern had gotten close enough now that it would be rude to ignore, but it was hard to turn when the light had fully illuminated Potter’s face. He looked devastated.
But this was the last night. If it ended like this, it was okay.
Perhaps then Potter would finally let go of this futile crush.
Potter didn’t call out a farewell as Tom got onto the boat, helped on by another Slytherin.
It was better this way, Tom told himself, and tried to believe it.
Life was boring at the Ministry.
Everyone around him were sycophants, and he doubted that they ever had spines in the first place. Surely, the Minister didn’t need that many bootlickers in the Ministry.
Against all reasoning, Tom missed Hogwarts.
But Tom was trying not to lie to himself too much anymore. He got enough of that at the Ministry.
In truth, he missed those green eyes. He missed the Potter heir more than he ever thought he would.
He wondered how strange it would be if he showed up at Hogwarts for a meal; he still had his followers there and although he saw them once a week for his “meetings,” he was sure they would be overjoyed with his presence.
He was still musing on the idea when he was forced to head out to the Three Broomsticks with some of his coworkers. They always tried to get him to join in on these outings, and Tom abhorred it. He was just about to settle in to making some scathing remarks, hopefully scathing enough that the dim-witted fools would catch onto it, when he saw him.
With Granger. Seated at a table near the bar.
He looked good. Well, he mostly looked the same, at least, and there was no mistaking those green eyes.
He couldn’t stop himself from staring, but luckily, the duo hadn’t noticed him yet.
It took all of his self-control not to approach Potter; their last meeting, Tom had been rude, and he was sure Potter had finally moved on.
Which was what he wanted. He didn’t want Potter; he was still a Gryffindor, and although Tom’s reputation was doing well in the Ministry, he had his other reputation to worry about. He wasn’t sure how his followers would take to him having a Gryffindor lover, and now that he was out of Hogwarts, he had to be even more careful.
He was convincing himself of this when they finally left, and there was a call of his name.
He tried to squash down the hope that rose in his heart, and he turned.
Potter was running after him, his cheeks flushed and his green eyes hopeful. But the ground was slippery, and in two seconds flat, Tom had his arms full of a shaking Gryffindor.
Potter still had a crush on him.
Immediately, he became amused.
“Potter?” he asked, and Potter looked up at him, his eyes wild and his mouth slightly open in wonder.
He looked as he did back in their sixth year, when he had witnessed Tom’s magic for the first time.
That was the moment where Tom knew he had lost all sanity.
Because he had spent three years lying to himself, trying to convince himself that Potter was the only one with a crush. That Potter was a Gryffindor, that Potter wasn’t good enough for him.
And he was tired of it. He was the Dark Lord, and his followers were supposed to follow his every beck and call, anyway.
He would take the fall gladly if it meant he could make Potter his.
“Hi,” Potter finally breathed out, and Tom couldn’t help the smile that spread across his face at Potter’s obvious inability to say anything but a greeting.
“Do you miss me at Hogwarts?” he asked, and the flush on Potter’s cheeks grew darker.
Now that he accepted his feelings, Tom was rather pleased to find that Potter still reacted so strongly to him.
“Um,” said Potter, nervously biting his lower lip, and Tom’s smile only grew into a smirk.
“You know you can always send me letters,” he said, and squeezed Potter’s arms. Potter looked at him, with a look that was only an inch short of reverence. He basked in it, in the face of Potter’s obvious obsession with him, and leaned closer, close enough for his breath to hover over Potter’s ear.
“I always reply,” he promised, in a voice low enough to be seductive, and that seemed to be all Potter could take.
He pulled away, and Tom let him, watching as Potter tried to pull himself back together.
He was content to stand there forever until Potter’s brain started working again, but his imbecile coworkers had to interrupt.
He barely held back a frustrated sigh and stepped away. “See you around, Potter,” he said, and hoped Potter knew that he meant it as a promise.
Tom was frustrated.
He had basically given Potter what he wanted. A way to contact him after months of it being impossible, and he had even promised to reply.
And the Gryffindor, the House known for courage and boldness, was steadily not writing him.
He was fuming.
Perhaps Potter didn’t belong to Gryffindor; he should had been a Hufflepuff with the way he had been pining over Tom for so long.
He knew he was being uncharitable, but Merlin, he was so frustrated with Potter’s lack of ability to chase him.
He turned his attention to the wizard closest to him, and the wizard jumped, and then settled into a low bow seconds later.
He summoned his wand, and was just about to -
When an owl tapped onto the windowpane.
He dropped his hand, doing his best not to rush to retrieve the letter attached to the owl’s leg.
They were pen pals.
Tom knew an uncomfortable amount of information about Harry’s Quidditch team. Did he care that Harry was worried about his Chasers? Did he, a wizard planning on taking over the country, care about some idiotic game?
But he was still waiting for Harry to confess, not bloody ask him about how his work at the Ministry was going. So he endured. And waited. And enjoyed the few letters that Harry wrote him without any mention of Quidditch.
But when no confession was forthcoming, Tom got annoyed.
Annoyed enough that when Valentine’s came around, Tom ordered chocolates.
He stared at them, and then deciding he had enough of Harry’s indecisiveness, sent them with a letter.
It was up to Harry now.
His wards had been activated.
A smirk grew, and he abruptly turned. His companion faltered in her step but was mollified when he made a quick farewell.
When he made it to his office, he knew Harry was inside.
He couldn’t help himself. Just like during the Yule Ball, his instincts took over, and he wrapped an arm around Harry’s shoulders, pulling the boy flush against his chest.
Harry was shaking in his arms, and when the boy tilted his head up to look into Tom’s eyes, Tom knew that Harry was here to confess.
“Are you trespassing?” he asked, when Harry seemed content to stay in his embrace, and there was that flush that had been missing.
“No!” blurted out Harry, and Tom had to bite his lips to hide his grin. He let his gaze fall on the huge mound of chocolates his assistant had put in his room.
“Trying to steal all my chocolates, then?”
“I -” started Harry, and then he paused, closing his eyes.
Tom watched and waited.
Harry opened his eyes, pulled away from him, and then...flung a box of chocolates into his chest.
His hands automatically went up to close around Harry’s.
“For your chocolates,” he said. “You know, equal exchange and all that.”
The nerve of this boy. Riddle barely refrained from laughing and looked down at the box. It was gold and green, obviously meant for couples. “Oh? Is that all it’s for?”
He waited, watching as Harry’s eyes got wider, obviously flustered. “I think I …” Harry started, and stopped. Then he glared up at Riddle, his mouth set in an angry frown, “You sent me chocolates! What were those for?”
Harry was never going to confess. Tom should have realized that a long time ago. Resigned now, Tom let go of Harry’s hands, taking the box of chocolates. Must he do everything?
“What do you think they were for, Harry?”
“Friendship?” Harry squeaked out, “We’re friends?”
Tom took a deep breath, and then threw all caution to the wind. Obviously, they would get nowhere if he waited for Harry.
“It’s because I like you,” he said, and it felt good to finally admit so out loud. He had spent so long denying it, and so long watching Harry flounder after him, that it felt good to know that it was finally coming to culmination. He got closer, close enough that he was inches away from Harry.
He knew the exact second Harry finally realized what he said, because Harry stumbled back and knocked down all the chocolates.
Tom stared and lamented the fact that he had truly fallen for Harry. Because if anyone else had done this, if anyone else had dared to do what Harry had done, he would had been frustrated. But with Harry? He wasn’t frustrated or annoyed, just fond.
“I like you,” he repeated, and took a step forward, crowding Harry up against the desk. Harry’s eyes were impossibly large, and so, so green. “And you like me.”
There was a long pause, and then. “Why? Why me? When…” And Harry gestured at the fallen chocolates, implying that Tom could have anyone he wanted.
And Harry was right. Tom could have anyone he wanted. He spent all his years in Hogwarts being chased by absolutely everyone.
But he didn’t want them - he wanted the idiotic Gryffindor that chased him for years even when the crush had seemed futile, even when Tom had graduated and seemingly left his life forever, Harry had still pined after him.
He waved his hand, banishing all the chocolates except for the one Harry had just given him. He was annoyed, but not angry because he knew Harry would ask because really, he should have expected Harry to not know his own self-worth. He took another step forward until Harry was up against his desk and without saying a word, he hooked his hands underneath Harry, helping him up until he was seated on the desk with his legs on either side of Tom. Harry was shaking.
“Why?” he asked, and he kept his voice soft, but firm enough so that Harry would finally understand why Tom was so infatuated with him. “When you’ve chased me for so long; did you really think I wouldn’t notice your little crush, Harry?”
Harry was staring up at him with wide eyes, and Tom smirked. Honestly, he hoped the oblivious Gryffindor had some inkling that Tom knew.
He opened his mouth to continue to detail exactly how well he knew Harry had a crush on him when Harry covered his mouth with his hands.
Tom stopped, content to watch as Harry finally came to terms that they both liked each other.
“Stop,” Harry finally said, his cheeks pink, and Tom didn’t say anything, instead moving so his arms could encircle Harry.
“Okay,” said Harry, after a long second, “You’re right. I like you. A lot. Since my fourth year.”
He couldn’t help the snort that escaped him then. It wasn’t as if this was new knowledge; in fact, Tom would even say he had been plagued by that knowledge, knowing Harry had liked him so much had made him fall.
But he couldn’t regret it. Not when this had given him Harry.
So when Harry reached up to place two hands on his face, he didn’t move.
He had waited three years for Harry to finally confess, he was content to wait for Harry to do the rest.
Harry didn’t disappoint him, drawing him down into a kiss.