November 18th, 1941
As hard as it had been, over the past few days, Harry had successfully managed to push aside all thoughts of his impending tutoring session with Tom. He resolutely refused to be bent into a frantic state of nervousness over something as simple and innocent as a tutoring session.
So Harry had neatly tucked away any and all thoughts of Tom into a box that was stored on a shelf at the very back of his consciousness. He then proceeded to build an impenetrable barrier around the box in addition to the ones that had already been set in place.
But now—with only forty minutes left on the clock for him to get to the library—all the emotions and thoughts he’d been so desperately trying to box away tore out of their confines, unleashing onto him a violent storm.
Merlin, it was just so embarrassing for him to feel such trepidation towards spending time with a fourteen-year-old. Yet all his anxiety and nervousness weren’t able to quench the unjustifiable exuberance he felt towards the prospect of spending time with Tom .
It was precisely because of this exultant feeling that was dominating his emotions that he’d tried so hard to lock away all thoughts of Tom. He didn’t want to feel triumphant and exhilarated at the mere notion of spending time with the boy that had broken him so many times, in so many different ways.
It was too easy to ignore, to disregard and overlook the potential the boy had to destroy him. So very easy to forget that this beautiful boy had the potential to grow into a grotesque monster driven by fear and bloodlust.
It was a delicate matter, dancing on the edge as he was. Balancing between loving and loathing him.
He could never allow himself to tip to either side.
Could never allow himself to love him more than he despised him.
Could never allow his desire for him to overpower the repulsion he felt.
If he did, he would inevitably forget. He would lose himself in Tom and there would be nothing left of himself.
He’d forgive him and he’d forget, allowing Tom the opening he needed to once again destroy his world… and whatever was left of his heart.
He could never allow that to happen.
So he danced and pushed and pulled—always and forevermore pushing himself, then reeling himself back in.
Yes, it was a delicate matter indeed. Delicate and deadly.
He knew very well that he couldn’t permit his emotions to cloud his judgment, and he was also perfectly aware that he couldn’t afford any slips in his composure.
There was no room for him to err. He needed to be calm and collected; poised and in absolute control of his actions and emotions.
Yet he was helpless to the onslaught of emotional waves crashing against each other, each a contradiction to the other, rolling roughly and fighting to dominate.
He was a slave to the storm, pushed and dragged to the powerful whims of the rough currents.
Dragged down, down, down—always deeper and steeper—further down and onwards into the heart of the storm.
All his training and all his centuries of experience were no match against the raw and inexplicable emotions that were tightly woven into his heart.
True love is held back by no logic and is restrained by no barrier. True love is unshakable, its sting embedded into your very being and thus changing you forever. You cannot outrun it, nor can you protect yourself from its venom.
And it was because of all those reasons that Harry found himself fretting over something as trivial as his choice in wardrobe.
He was utterly pathetic .
Right now, Harry, with a green towel wrapped around his waist and still dripping wet from the shower, was agitatedly rummaging through his closet trying to find something suitable to wear to impress Tom. Impress Tom.
He was utterly wracked with nerves and the state in which his corner of the shared dorm room found itself in reflected as much.
Several articles of clothing were scattered on the floor and on his bed, and more were still following as Harry irrationally felt that none of them were appropriate.
"I highly doubt that your choice in clothing is going to make much of a difference to Riddle," Death drawled as he watched yet another pair of pants be carelessly discarded to the side.
"I didn’t ask you to come and watch me get ready, so just bugger off and go do some soul collecting, or whatever it is you do when you’re not around to make me miserable," Harry snarked back, head still buried in his closet.
Death scoffed and shook his head. "And miss you bumbling about like a fool? I think not, friend."
Harry grumbled something unintelligible under his breath then straightened his back and emerged from the depths of his closet with a pile of clothes in his hands. He slammed his closet door shut and turned to face Death with a dark glare fixed on his face and a warning glinting dangerously behind his eyes.
"I can’t possibly begin to guess what you've got planned, but whatever it is isn’t going to happen,” he told him, forcefully punctuating each word to make sure that his friend understood that he wasn’t playing around. “I don't want to see or hear you anywhere near us this evening. Is that understood?" he demanded, taking a threatening forward and looking straight into the abyss of Death’s hood, unafraid of the void he saw.
"Where’s the fun in that, Harry, darling?" Death crooned sinisterly, not at all intimidated by Harry’s threatening presence.
"I'm not fucking joking,” Harry growled through clenched teeth. “You've meddled enough as it is. Don't think for a second that I don't know that you're the one that planted this idiotic idea in his head."
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Death said in a faux perplexed tone that grated at Harry’s fraying nerves.
Harry groaned and turned his back to Death, deciding that an argument was a waste of his time.
“Just don’t bother me tonight. You got what you wanted, now let me handle the rest,” he said before allowing the towel to drop from his waist so that he could change
“As well as you’re handling your choice in attire?” Death couldn’t help but quip back, dodging the heavy belt Harry threw his way.
“As well as I’ll skin your hide if you don’t shut the hell up,” he threatened as he pulled up his pants.
Death’s lack of response almost made Harry turn around, but as soon as Harry fastened his black trousers Alphard barged into their dorm room looking puzzled.
“Harry? Who were you talking to?” he asked, looking around the room and clearly searching for someone.
“Myself,” Harry was quick to supply, sending Death a glare that could rival his own.
“I could swear I heard you say something about skinning someone’s hide... and what in Morgana’s name happened in here!” he exclaimed, utterly bewildered by the mess Harry had made on his side of the room.
Harry never allowed his area to get into this state of disarray. He was rather neurotic in his tendency to keep everything neat and in order. So it was quite the shock to Alphard’s system to witness this when just this morning Harry had scolded him about a set of school robes he’d forgotten to put away the night before.
“Nothing, just couldn’t find this shirt,” Harry admitted sheepishly, innocently holding up said shirt he’d apparently been searching for.
“What's all this fuss about then? Where are you going?” Alphard asked him curiously, immediately narrowing his eyes when he noticed the nice looking dark green shirt Harry was buttoning up.
“Nowhere, really. Right now I’m probably late for my first tutoring session with Riddle,” he sighed, casting a quick tempus and cringing when his suspicions were confirmed.
Alphard frowned and threw his bag onto his bed with a touch too much force. “I forgot about that. I still don’t understand why you didn’t just tell Riddle to bugger off.”
The fact that Tom Riddle was somewhat of a prodigy was no secret. The thought that he might need tutoring was laughable. So really, when Tom Riddle was suddenly asking for tutoring you simply knew that it was part of some ploy.
Tom Riddle was the worst kind of bad news, and Alphard didn’t want to see his friend falling in with the likes of him .
It was far too easy to fall for Tom Riddle’s charm. He’d seen many of his housemates and peers fall for the younger boy’s charismatic presence, which was unfortunately only aided by the angelic face he was blessed with. He’d always been a beautiful child, and as he grew older his striking features became even more pronounced, captivating almost everyone that had the pleasure of laying their eyes on him.
He was beautiful, much too beautiful.
His face made you forget the monster that lurks beneath the mask. Made you forget about the venom that flowed through the boy’s blood. Made you forget just exactly why Tom Riddle was the unopposed Serpent King of Slytherin.
Harry threw Alphard an exasperated look, having already had this argument with him before.
“Slughorn approached me first. I could hardly say no to Slughorn,” he reminded Alphard as he slipped on his dark grey waistcoat.
“I don’t know what game he’s playing, but that boy doesn’t need any tutoring, Hadrian,” Alphard warned him once again, frustrated by the fact that even after he’d specifically warned him away from the Riddle, Harry was still going go along and play right into his hand.
“Slughorn mentioned as much,” he shrugged, turning around to face his mirror, “and I’m perfectly aware that Riddle has an agenda. I’m not as ignorant to inter-house politics as you might think, Alphard. But I’m fairly confident that I can handle myself against a fourth-year, even if he is a prodigy. Besides, I’m curious about the little Slytherin King whose name is on everyone’s lips. Now, I would really appreciate it if we could drop this argument,” he finished with a clipped tone, prepared to ignore any further protests from his friend.
Alphard sighed but relented, knowing that he wasn’t going to be able to talk him out of it. Instead, he watched his friend as he fixed and tidied his shirt, then gave himself a once over in the mirror before a small approving smile graced his lips.
He untied his hair and ran his hand through the shoulder-length waves, trying to comb out any knots that might have formed through the day.
Harry was the type of person that always made sure to look his best, but he didn’t primp . He never put too much care into his appearance. His perfection was always casually and effortlessly attained since he was much too handsome to look anything other than perfect, and he knew that.
So Alphard couldn’t help but notice the extra care Harry was investing in himself this evening.
“Is there a specific reason why you’re primping yourself before a tutoring session with Riddle?” he asked crisply, unable to effectively mask the jealousy he felt stirring in his heart.
Hadrian couldn’t possibly be... interested in Tom Riddle, could he?
Harry paused his fingers mid-comb and locked his eyes onto his friend’s through the mirror.
Harry wasn’t blind to Alphard’s feelings for him, so he couldn’t help but feel guilty when he caught the hurt and jealous glint in his eyes.
He would need to find a way to gently dissuade his feelings because the last thing he wanted was for Alphard to get hurt.
Alphard narrowed his grey eyes at Harry, but before he could utter another word Orion burst into their room with his bag swinging casually behind him.
“Har-ry,” he sang. “Are you done yet? Woah, looking particularly fancy this evening, Peverell,” he complimented him with a small but sincere smile, blissfully ignorant to the fact that his innocent compliment had just raised the tension in the room tenfold.
With one last glance at Alphard, Harry quickly tied his hair into a low and elegant ponytail, then he turned to face his friends.
“Thanks, Orion,” he mumbled, giving the oblivious boy a tense smile.
Alphard just glared at both of them before he gave a resigned sigh and threw himself onto his bed with a groan.
Orion looked between the two, confused with the exchange. When Alphard buried his face in his pillow he turned his questioning gaze onto Harry. “What’s wrong with him?”
Harry forced a grin and shrugged, cupping the side of his mouth with his palm as if to share a secret. “It’s probably that time of the month,” he whispered loud enough for Alphard to hear, hoping that it would diffuse this awkward tension in the room.
Alphard was quick to send a pillow flying Harry’s way while Orion rolled his eyes at them. ‘And people dared call him immature,’ he thought, crossing his arms over his chest.
“If you two are quite done, Harry and I have places to be and things to do. Don’t we, Harry?”
Harry hummed and nodded his head in agreement. “Right you are, Orion,” he said and went to grab his bag from under a pile of his clothes.
On their way out, Alphard called out one last warning to Harry. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you when you find yourself being fed to a snake in the Forbidden Forest!” he exclaimed before Harry slammed the door shut on him.
Orion looked at Harry and back at the firmly shut door. “What was that about?”
“Dunno,” Harry shrugged, keeping his eyes set firmly in front of him as they made their way out of the Slytherin common room.
Orion opened his mouth to press the issue, but he seemed to notice Harry’s reluctance to share and decided against it.
Harry gave him an appreciative smile and went back to mentally preparing himself for the upcoming dance.
Let the music begin , he thought wearily as the common room door slammed ominously behind them.
Tom was comfortably seated at one of the more secluded tables in the library, working on the thirteen-inch Arithmancy essay he’d been assigned that day while trying not to think about Peverell, who was already running five minutes late.
Over the past few days, he had done his best not to allow his thoughts to linger on the indifference Peverell had shown him, but it had been impossible to ignore. It nagged at him at all hours of the day, unrelenting in its persistence.
He wouldn’t have felt this unease or concern if there wasn’t such a stark difference in Hadrian’s attitude towards everyone else in the school.
After their small exchange, Tom had watched the man’s interactions even more closely, wanting to determine if he really was the only one treated with this type of open disregard.
Unfortunately, his observations concluded that he was indeed the only person in the castle Hadrian Peverell acted towards with such apathetic dismissal.
What had he done to deserve such treatment? Over and over again he asked himself that one question, never coming closer to a feasible explanation.
Before he could continue distracting himself from his unfinished essay with more troubling and vexing thoughts on why Peverell disliked him, he caught sight of the man himself entering the library... with Orion Black just a step behind him.
Tom’s mood darkened at the sight of the fifth-year Slytherin, and he hoped that the boy wouldn’t be staying with them throughout the whole duration of their tutoring session. If Peverell did invite Black to stay with them, there was nothing Tom could do about it. He couldn’t risk seeming rude when this was his chance to charm the older boy and redeem himself from whatever opinion he had already formed.
Once Peverell was close enough for Tom to notice exactly what he was wearing, he was sharply robbed of all the breath in his lungs and any coherent thought.
The dark green shirt he wore hugged his arms and torso in a way that showed off the strong muscle one could find under his skin. His black pants fit low on his waist while the grey button-up waistcoat fit him snugly, allowing him to look deliciously sinful and absolutely ravishing.
Tom had to look away from him and actively think of something absolutely repulsive to battle off the flush he could feel rising up his neck.
“Riddle,” Harry nodded in friendly greeting, dropping his bag on one of the available chairs around Tom’s chosen table.
“Peverell,” Tom acknowledged with a small, innocent smile, rolling up the essay he had been working on to buy himself some more time to compose himself. “Black,” he inclined his head, having decided that it was in his best interest to act completely cordial with the fifth-year in Peverell’s presence.
“Riddle,” Orion grumbled, narrowing his eyes suspiciously at Tom’s unusually civil demeanour towards him. It was, after all, no secret that Tom despised all the Blacks residing within the castle, with Cygnus being the only exception.
“My sincerest apologies for running late, Riddle,” Peverell apologised as he took a seat, but gave no excuse for his tardiness.
Tom simply shrugged. “None needed,” he waved off. While he wasn’t exactly thrilled about being left waiting, he was more concerned about the fact that Orion Black was sitting at his table, but he didn’t say anything about that either.
Hadrian must have caught Tom’s eyes flickering towards Orion because he turned to Tom with a rueful grin on his face and explained.
“Right, Orion is here because he’s helping me with a side project I’m working on. He’s going to be drowning in books in about ten minutes, so don’t worry, you’ll have my undivided attention,” he reassured him.
Tom gave a nod and felt himself relax. At least Black would be too occupied to interfere.
Harry swiftly pulled out a folded piece of parchment from his bag and handed it over to Black.
“These are the books we need to find. Just compile a list with all the relevant instances you find, including the reference so that it’ll be easier to integrate later,” Peverell instructed him, pushing him towards the towering aisles of books. “Just remember that you’re the one that signed up to help when you get a headache from all the tiny script, okay?”
Without another word, Orion strutted away, more than content to leave Riddle’s company.
“What is it that you’re working on?” Tom asked genuinely curious, and then hastily added, “If you don’t mind me asking, that is,” not wanting to somehow offend the older boy simply because he wasn’t able to curb his curiosity.
Harry stopped taking out his things from his bag and turned his green eyes to look at Tom.
So polite and, in a way, completely unrecognisable. Even his eyes were a brighter shade of grey, lacking the madness of a torn soul.
“I don’t mind, but it’s all very boring stuff. Over the past summer, I took my rightful seat in the Wizengamot, and I’m currently working on a few legislations I wish to introduce in the near future. Orion has generously offered to help me with some of the tedious research that needs to be done before I’m able to introduce them to the Wizengamot,” he explained without really giving an answer.
Tom wasn’t fooled by the non-answer, and it only served to increase his curiosity.
“What kind of legislation?” Tom asked before he could restrain himself, earning himself a sharp look from Peverell.
“Aren’t I meant to be tutoring you in DADA?” Harry asked a touch too sternly.
Tom lowered his eyes and gave him a reluctant nod, clearly disappointed at having been denied an answer but unwilling to further upset the man with more probing.
Harry was as eager to discuss his plans with Tom as Tom was to hear them.
But he couldn’t do that, not yet. It wasn’t the time to discuss all the ways he wanted to change the world.
Once he was sure that all the pieces were falling into place and he successfully secured Tom’s loyalty, he’d include him, but only then.
He would, however, give him a small crumb to sate some of his curiosity.
Harry allowed an apologetic smile to grace his lips. “I’m sorry for being so abrupt with you, Riddle. I know what it’s like to have an overly curious mind. Knowledge is power after all, and I can appreciate that in sharp mind such as yours.”
Tom tried not to let the small compliment get to him, but it did. He was pleased to know that at the very least Peverell had heard about his abilities.
“I’m young still, but I’ve got a few changes I wish to make that I believe will serve for the betterment of our world. I find that we have lost our ways amidst all the prejudice and conflict. Fear and injustice rule our laws and as the years pass us by we descend further into self-destruction. The public is blind and unaware, content with being oblivious to all the problems and dangers that surround us. We are so weak that we allowed an individual wizard with a vision reap chaos across several nations. Changes must be made if we want to survive.”
Tom couldn’t help but hang onto every word that Peverell said, carefully filing away every word that slipped from between his lips. It was clear to anyone who dared to take a closer look that this was a subject Peverell was very passionate about.
While Tom agreed with everything he’d said so far, he noticed that Peverell hadn’t really said much at all. He’d revealed nothing of his beliefs. One had to admire Peverell’s skill.
Anyone else would have probably mindlessly nodded their head, swiftly agreeing without really knowing what they were agreeing with, but Tom was no such fool.
“That’s all very well put, but it doesn’t reveal any of your intentions,” he pointed out. “Everyone has a different opinion on what actions define progress. For all I know your ideas for a better world align directly with Grindelwald's vision.”
Harry took his time to look thoroughly insulted. “Do I really look like someone who would condone mindless slaughter?”
“You don’t,” Tom was quick to agree, “but that wasn’t the argument I was trying to make.”
Harry chuckled, “Point taken, Riddle. I simply strive for equality and justice. For a world that judges you for your own merits, and where tradition and progress need not be enemies.”
“Some might say that those are idealistic goals to have,” Tom said before he could bite his tongue.
Harry gave a small, sardonic laugh at that and leaned back into his chair. “There’s no need to be so kind, Riddle. Unrealistic is what most people would call it, but I believe that I can prove them wrong. I won’t allow general opinion to stand in the way of my ambitions.”
Tom nodded his head, able to respect and empathise with such sentiment.
He took a moment to mull over Peverell’s previous statement and frowned. “Does your pursuit for equality draw a line at magical people and creatures or does it also extend towards the muggles?”
Harry hesitated for a moment before coming to the conclusion that sharing his beliefs with Tom could hardly be construed as involving him in his plans.
“I believe that the muggles are invaluable to us,” he admitted, not looking away from Tom as he said this, “But I also believe that it is imperative that we ensure that the Statute of Secrecy is upheld.”
“You do?” Tom asked him dubiously. “Aren’t you somewhat contradicting yourself? You don’t want them to know about us yet you claim to find them invaluable to our existence.”
“Precisely,” Harry agreed, earning himself an irritated scowl from the younger boy.
“I see that our tutoring session is going to go brilliantly,” came Tom’s sarcastic reply.
“It’s simple, really,” Peverell said, and while Tom wanted desperately to comment otherwise, he kept his mouth shut and listened. “Sure, it took the muggles about two hundred thousand years, but they finally managed to invent electricity. In 1879, Thomas Edison continued exploring Franklin’s research and managed to make the first ever light bulb. Since then, their evolution has been rapidly picking up. Just look at the firearms they use. In 1892 they introduced automatic handguns. Now they have nuclear weapons, bombs that could destroy whole countries. These are not threats to joke about or take lightly,” he explained solemnly.
Tom tried to hide away the haunting look that crept over his face, but Harry saw the shadows that crossed over his beautiful grey eyes.
“I know,” Tom whispered, still looking away from him. His mind was back at the orphanage, with sirens blaring loudly in his ears, warning everyone of the impending bombing and the devastating destruction they brought along with them.
“Then you can understand why they must never find out that we exist. While I do believe that we need muggles, we simply cannot trust them not to turn on us should they ever find out about our existence. The number of muggles willing to understand and accept us would be far outweighed by those too afraid of what they cannot understand. The unknown breeds fear, and fear leads to addled minds and unnecessary violence.”
Peverell was right. Muggles could never be given the chance to break war against them. They would destroy too much with their abominable inventions.
“Yet you say we need them,” Tom said, hoping that he would elaborate and move on from the subject of muggle war.
“What we need is fresh blood to be combined into our bloodlines. Since the witch hunts, wizards and witches have been wary of mingling with the muggles, not that they can be blamed. But because of our separation from them, our numbers have been steadily dwindling," he explained. "Talents that used to be the reason for a house’s pride no longer appeared. The number of squibs has been increasing, and I don’t even want to start discussing the general population in terms of magical strength,” Harry scoffed, wrinkling his nose in disgust.
“What you’re saying is that because the majority of the wizarding world is inbred, we’ve become stagnant.” It wasn’t that Tom disagreed with him, on the contrary. It was simply highly unusual for a pureblood of his standing to openly comment about such things. But then again, none of the other purebloods strived for equality.
“Precisely,” Harry agreed with a self-satisfied grin. It was sort of adorable. “Do you disagree?” he asked him, leaning forward in his chair.
“I don’t,” he admitted reluctantly. “But we now come full circle back to your contradiction,” Tom noted with a smirk on his face.
Harry shook his head still grinning.
Tom perked a questioning eyebrow and waited patiently for the reveal.
“Just because we need to enforce the Statute of Secrecy, doesn’t mean that wizards and witches shouldn’t integrate themselves into the muggle world. It’s our ignorance of the muggle world that puts us in danger. If we are better educated and able to blend in with them, it wouldn’t be so hard to go out into their world and meet a beautiful and supportive muggle woman or man to settle down with and have a family. Those willing to enter our world simply need to be ready to abide by our laws and learn our traditions. It’s not all that different from following the customs of your host country while being a guest on foreign land. Why shouldn’t those accepting of us be given the opportunity to behold all the wonders of our magical world? Those unaccepting are easily dealt with if the regulations concerning such matters are revised and better enforced.”
Tom’s face remained cool and impassive while he catalogued all the new information that was being offered to him.
“You are essentially planning to alter twelve generations’ worth of conditioned thinking.” Tom sounded moderately impressed.
Harry hummed and chuckled. “Yes, that sums it up neatly, Riddle.”
“That also sounds like more than just one legislation you’ll be working on.”
Harry blinked at that statement and cursed himself internally, realising that he might have said more than he had initially intended to.
Deciding that they had discussed enough of his views, Harry quickly changed the subject. “You’re right, and it’s all so very boring. Tell me about that EE you got. Do you have the essay with you?”
Tom didn’t understand what had prompted Peverell to suddenly retreat back into himself and change the subject but decided to let it slide, having gotten more than enough information to dissect later on.
Tom couldn’t help but notice that, as Peverell settled into his company, he seemed far friendlier than their previous interaction.
Maybe all of Tom’s worries had been for naught.
Tom handed Peverell his purposely inadequately written essay, trying to contain the distasteful sneer that fought against his thin-pressed lips. He really hated having to show even the slightest bit of incompetence, yet here he was, asking for tutoring lessons from the man he was trying to woo.
He honestly had no idea what he had been thinking when he decided to go along with this plan his sleep-deprived mind had come up with.
The following hour was spent with Peverell explaining the many different shielding charms and spells used to defend oneself in various situations. He hated to admit it, but there had been a few facts that he hadn’t thought about and found that he was actually learning some things from Peverell.
Hadrian Peverell was a complete enigma. He believed in freedom and evolution, yet had a healthy respect for the muggles, enough to not let it blind him from the threat that they could pose.
He spoke with passion and conviction, but his words weren’t just beautiful and empty. He presented arguments that had several valid points to them, backed by undeniable truths that would drive even the most hard-headed wizard to deep contemplation.
These goals Peverell has set out for himself seem to be intimately entwined with his own. But what about his views on the Dark Arts? Were they also of similar mind on the matter? Could it be possible that they were more alike than he could have ever hoped for?
“I think we can wrap it up for today, Riddle. Did Professor Merrythought give you a date when to hand in the essay?” He asked him, shuffling through the parchment he had used to scribble his explanation on.
“Yes, she did,” he said absent-minded, still lost in thought.
“And?” Peverell prompted him with a poke to his arm, jarring him from his thoughts.
“Tomorrow. I have to give it in tomorrow,” he said, drawing a wide-eyed look from Peverell.
“Tomorrow? Why didn’t you say anything when we agreed to meet today?”
“It didn’t sound like you had much time for me otherwise,” Tom reminded him, nodding in thanks when Peverell handed him his notes for referral.
“Right, I apologise if I was rude or anything,” Harry winced, looking away from the beautiful boy.
“You weren’t,” he reassured him with a charming smile. He was more than willing to forget about their disastrous first meeting.
Then suddenly Black appeared from behind the towering shelves.
“I’m famished,” Orion groaned, dropping ungracefully into the available chair next to Hadrian while pushing a large pile of parchment towards him. “And I still need to go to the owlery before dinner,” he moaned, dropping his forehead onto the table.
“That, my dear friend, is called tough luck,” Harry teased him with a friendly pat on his back. He took the offered parchment and browsed through the list Orion had so generously made for him.
“Does that mean you’re not going to escort me?” he asked him with a wobbly pout. “After all this hard work I did for you?”
“Apologies, Orion. But I already promised young Riddle here that I would escort him to the great hall for dinner,” he told him with a noticeably fake apologetic smile.
Peverell had done no such thing, but Tom wasn’t about to complain about his extended company.
“You’re a rotten friend, Peverell,” Orion informed him nasally.
“I hold deep affection towards you, as well, Orion dear,” Harry mumbled distractedly, his eyes still looking through the long list Orion compiled for him. “Good work,” he looked up to say but noticed that Orion was already walking away in a huff.
“Your friend seems to already have taken his leave,” Tom pointed out uselessly with an amused smirk tugging on his lips.
“Yes, he gets that way when he’s hungry,” Harry explained with a shrug while gathering his belongings. “Speaking of, shall we head to dinner? I’m starting to feel famished myself,” he admitted, rubbing his growling stomach.
“Is that why you lied to Black?” Tom asked as he got up and followed after him.
“No, that was because I didn’t feel like spending the next half-hour listening to him moon over his betrothed,” he confessed sheepishly, a boyish grin gracing his lips while he rubbed the back of his neck.
Tom felt somewhat disappointed at the confession but didn’t let it show. So what if Peverell hadn’t lied just to spend more time with him? The result was the same, so he would enjoy it as such.
After a few moments of comfortable silence passing between them, Tom turned to look at him with that angelic face of his. “Thank you, Peverell. For taking the time to tutor me this evening. Your help has been greatly appreciated,” he told him, daring to reach out and touch the older boy’s arm.
Warmth spread along his fingers where he touched him, and Tom had to restrain himself from reacting to the soothing feeling.
Harry, much the same, was trying to ignore the warm shivers he got from Tom’s gentle touch.
Trying very hard not to look down and stare at the appendage that was touching him, Harry gulped silently before answering. “It was no problem,” he smiled before quickly looking away from the tempting boy, because that’s what he still was - a boy.
As mature and grown-up as he liked to think he was, Tom was nothing but a lost boy in dire need of some guidance.
He wouldn’t allow his physical attraction towards him to derail any improvement he managed to make with him.
This time it couldn’t be about how good they made each other feel in bed. Before Harry was anywhere near ready to venture down that road he needed to feel secure in their relationship—whatever type of relationship they may have.
Also, the fact that Tom was still only fourteen made him feel like a dirty paedophile, even if he knew very well that he’d never think about any other young adolescents that way.
Tom… damn it. Tom was just Tom. He’d always be able to make Harry’s heart beat frantically in his chest. It was the curse of love.
“I think that next time we should focus more on the practical side of the shields. Knowing about them is all well and good, but when it matters you need to be able to produce the shield you want to protect yourself with.”
Tom bristle slightly at the implication that he wasn’t able to produce a simple shield charm and dropped his hand from Peverell’s shoulder as if burned.
“I already know how to cast a Protego,” thank you very much , he continued silently with his eyes and the way he pulled on the strap of his bag.
Harry threw him a disappointed frown. “And that’s the only shield we’ve discussed today?” he asked expectantly.
“No, but all the others aren’t taught until our fifth or sixth year. Not to mention the Patronus has been completely removed from our curriculum,” Tom pointed out.
“Do you remember me mentioning that most of the inhabitants of the wizarding world are powerless buffoons?” Harry asked him.
Well, he hadn’t said it in those words exactly, but something along those lines. He couldn’t see how that was relevant to-
“Do you consider yourself to be one of those powerless buffoons, Riddle?” he asked him with a raised brow.
Right. That’s how it was relevant.
“I don’t,” he told him firmly, turning hard grey eyes to glare at him.
“I didn’t think so,” Harry agreed. “So why should you hold yourself to a timetable set for those less capable?” he asked him rhetorically, not expecting him to answer. But when did Tom ever do as he expected?
“I don’t. I’m further ahead than any of my classmates in all of my subjects. Just because I said that they aren’t taught until our fifth or sixth year doesn’t mean that I haven’t already mastered them,” Tom couldn’t help but brag, needing the older boy to see that he wasn’t just some fourth-year imbecile that couldn’t keep up with him.
Harry bit his cheek to keep from grinning foolishly at the adorable boy that was trying to impress him. “Does the Patronus Charm make the list of your accomplishments?” Harry asked, stopping to lean against the wall. Once they rounded the corner they would arrive at their destination and Harry didn’t fancy being stuck talking to one of Tom’s lackeys, especially not Abraxas Malfoy. Harry had to forcibly stop himself from shuddering at the thought.
Tom’s self-assured smile dimmed at Harry’s question, but he didn’t look away from his challenging emerald eyes.
“No, but that’s hardly something to be ashamed of. Most grown wizards aren’t able to produce a corporeal Patronus,” he argued, defensively crossing his arms over his chest.
“Now wait a moment. I never said anything about feeling ashamed. There is no shame in not being able to do something—anything. All I’m offering is my help, if you want it, feel free to take it,” he told the cross looking boy that looked about ready to hex him.
“Of course, you can produce a corporeal Patronus,” Tom mumbled enviously under his breath.
He would pay a pretty penny for someone to find something the wizard wasn’t good at. “I have this nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach telling me that I don’t want to know how old you were when you first managed to produce one,” he grumbled, but for some reason found himself unable to stay upset with the man and gave him a hesitant smile.
“Follow that gut feeling, Riddle. It will take you places,” he joked with a huge smile on his face.
Harry couldn’t believe it! This was all turning out better than he expected. They were actually joking around. Joking around! And teasing each other!
Merlin, how much he’d missed Tom.
“I’ll take it then; your help, that is,” he clarified when Harry gave him a confused look. Harry’s face instantly lit up, and Tom thought that there was no way such an expression could be faked.
Butterflies started fluttering in his chest, and the longer he looked at the beautiful dark-haired wizard, the larger the butterflies grew.
Before they could exchange any more words Peverell’s eyes wandered over his shoulder and suddenly grew large and dismayed.
“Abraxas,” he breathed in a horrified whisper.
“Excuse me?” Tom asked, not sure he’d hear right, but then he heard Malfoy call his name from a short distance away. “I take it you’re not very friendly with our resident Malfoy,” Tom chuckled, more relieved than he cared to admit to seeing that Peverell wasn’t in the least bit interested in Malfoy.
“He’s an alright bloke, you know… when you’re not his current love interest,” he whispered before straightening out with a friendly smile forced onto his face. Now that Tom had something to compare to that smile, he could easily see how forced it was. Nothing at all like the beaming smile he had not two minutes before.
“Malfoy, a pleasure to see you this evening,” Peverell greeted charmingly, gaining himself a small, inconspicuous glare from Tom.
‘Well, if one doesn’t want to be found attractive, they shouldn’t act so damned charming,’ thought Tom.
“The pleasure is all mine, Peverell,” ‘Braxas smirked in what he probably thought was a seductive and appealing way. Tom thought that he failed terribly, and looking at Harry’s pinched face, he’d have to say that the man agreed with him. “Evening, Tom,” Malfoy nodded vaguely in his direction, barely acknowledging him and never taking his eyes off Peverell.
After a moment of awkward silence, Harry decided that it was time to extract himself from the situation.
“Right then, gentlemen,” Harry said, pushing himself off the wall. “I’ve got some roast pork and sweet potatoes calling my name. Same time next week, Riddle?” he asked as he straightened out the strap of his bag.
“Tom. Call me Tom,” he repeated shyly when Peverell turned around to give him an infectious grin. “We’re friends now, are we not?” he asked, almost hesitantly.
“Sure we’re friends,” Harry smiled. “You call me Hadrian then,” he insisted. “See you later, Tom ,” he smirked, sending him a mischievous wink. Tom almost sighed at the way his deep velvety voice sounded his name. “Malfoy,” he said in parting, before turning the corner and moving out of sight.
“I thought you didn’t need friends, Tom,” Malfoy said to him, sounding perplexed and jealous all at the same time. If he was jealous of him or Peverell, Tom wasn’t entirely sure.
“I don’t, but I am willing to make an exception for Peverell,” he admitted, mostly to see what Abraxas would say.
He wasn’t disappointed. Abraxas opened and closed his mouth several times, his face growing redder each time he repeated the action. It was very comical, Tom thought. At least it would be if he were able to draw amusement from such matters.
“Does that-” he started but thought to reword his question. “Do you want...” he struggled again, finally drawing out the last bit of Tom’s patience.
“Will you just spit it out already, ‘Braxas?” he snapped, having grown more than irritated with him.
“Do you fancy Peverell?” he practically spat before he could stop himself.
Tom sneered at his lack of restraint but decided that this was the best opportunity to shut down Malfoy’s advances on Peverell. “Not that it would be any of your business, but no, I don’t currently have an interest in Hadrian beyond friendship. But I wouldn’t be entirely opposed to the idea if such an opportunity were to present itself,” he said, before making his own way towards the great hall.
Roast pork and sweet potatoes did sound very good. It didn’t matter that he didn’t usually like sweet potatoes, he was sure that some gravy would solve the small issue nicely.
Harry was lounging in his usual spot on top of the roof of the Astronomy tower, unable to tear the stupid grin from his face. Even Dumbledore had commented on his unusually upbeat mood during their meeting that evening.
“Today turned out to be quite productive,” came Death’s neutral voice from next to him, scaring him seven ways into the next century.
Well, maybe not quite, but he had startled him.
“I really need to put a fucking bell on you,” he growled, his good mood instantly diminishing.
“Don’t act like such a pussy, Potter.”
“It’s Peverell, now,” Harry reminded him. It was better not to mix these things around too much.
“To me, you’ll never stop being that lost little shit that couldn’t figure out why he’d stopped aging,” Death shrugged, sitting down in the open space next to Harry.
“Need I remind you that you took your sweet time introducing yourself to me?” Harry smirked, enjoying this little trip down memory lane. “How was I supposed to know that simply using all three objects in the same evening would automatically make me immortal?”
Those were the simple days. Back when had just defeated the Darkest wizard of all time and thought that he finally had a chance at a normal life.
Life had been going really well. He was married, thinking about having children and building a future. The only worry he had back then was the fact that he didn’t look a day over seventeen. He’d convinced himself that it was nothing, wizards aged differently, right? Completely disregarding the fact that everyone around him seemed to be ageing normally.
He’d been very wrong indeed.
But he only realised that when Death came swooping into his life. Harry was not ashamed to admit that he fainted when Death visited him for the first time.
“Five years, if memory serves,” Death commented lightly.
“Five years,” Harry agreed.
Yes, Death had allowed him five years of peace before letting him know that life would never be the same for him again.
And it wasn’t. His wife and friends grew older while he stayed the same, growing only more powerful with each passing year.
He had left Ginny when he was twenty-six years old, allowing her to find someone she could grow old with. At that point in his life, it had been the hardest thing he’d ever had to do, but he had done it.
He had watched his friends have families, live their lives, and grow old. He had gone to each one of their funerals with tears streaming down his cheeks, until the last one.
His Teddy’s funeral was the last he could take before he and Death started wandering through different time periods, educating himself in whatever branch of magic caught his fancy. He had even dabbled in various different trades, ever expanding his set of skills.
Over the centuries there was no subject he’d left untouched, and it would seem as if the world had nothing new to offer him, yet funnily enough, each day he seemed to be learning something new anyway.
“All joking aside, it did seem like a most productive day,” Death repeated, and Harry knew that he was smiling softly under that dark hood of his. That big old teddy bear.
“It was,” he nodded, leaning back and stretching his hands under his head so that he could comfortably look up at the stars. “Orion is a surprisingly good researcher, you know, for being a total spaz. It also seems like I’m finally getting through to Dumbledore.”
“Yes, and last, but not least important; Tom Riddle is absolutely smitten with Hadrian Peverell,” Death teased, bumping his knee into Harry’s.
“Shuddup,” he mumbled, blushing, but couldn’t help but smile goofily up at the stars. “He is, isn’t he?” he asked him, glancing at him bashfully from the side of his eye.
Death snorted and rolled his eyes.
“He was different. I don’t know how to explain it,” Harry told him dreamily.
“Three years do make a difference, Harry. And remember that you’ve never met a Tom that hadn’t already made a Horcrux,” Death pointed out.
And this time around Tom wouldn’t get to make his first one, not if Harry had anything to say about it.
Immortality was a gift that he would gladly give him. Alchemy was one of his best subjects, not that there were any subjects that he was particularly bad at. Immortality was something he could give him, but only if Tom chose the right path for himself.
“If this all goes south I’m still blaming you,” Harry warned him.
“What happened to the positive little boy that I took under my wing?”
“He spent way too much time with you,” Harry deadpanned before turning around to grin at his friend.
It was about two in the morning when Harry made his way back to the dungeons. “Boomslang,” he said through a yawn, tiredly stretching his hands over his head.
The portrait hole opened for him and he quickly made his way in, enjoying the immediate change in temperature he felt. He was going to head straight to his dorm room when he noticed that there was a figure hunched over on the plush black loveseat next to the fireplace, furiously scribbling away on a roll of parchment.
It didn’t take him long to realise that it was Tom sitting there, his beautiful face being lit up by the warm light of the fireplace.
“Riddle?” he called out gently as to not startle him. Tom looked up at him with tired and blurred eyes, cutely rubbing away the sleep from his eyes. “What are you doing up at this late hour?” he asked him, moving closer.
“Peverell? I could ask you the same thing. And didn’t we already agree that it’s Tom?” he asked him with a small, tired smirk.
“We did,” he agreed. “And I’m awake because I’m a bit of an insomniac. Wandering around the castle halls at night helps me clear my mind enough to fall asleep for a few hours,” he admitted. “Do you mind?” he asked gesturing towards the empty place next to him.
Tom shook his head. “Not at all,” he said, shuffling to the side to make some more space for him.
“Cheers, Tom,” he said before lowering himself to the loveseat. “So, what are you doing up?” he asked again, giving the parchment in Tom’s hands a curious look.
“I was working on my DADA essay, but it’s almost done. I’ve just got to finish it up,” he said, dipping his quill into the ink bottle that was resting on top of the coffee table.
“I’m beginning to see that you don’t mess about when it comes to your education, do you, Tom?” he chuckled amusedly.
Tom threw him a look that let him know how stupid he thought that question was, before lowering his head back to his essay with a concentrated look on his face.
“Well, since I’m here I might as well have a look at it before you hand it in tomorrow,” Harry offered.
“In a minute,” he told him distractedly, and Harry just allowed himself to watch the younger boy as he worked.
True enough, one minute later Tom put his quill down and started looking over his finished work, looking pleased with the end result. “Here,” he said, handing him the still drying parchment.
Harry took the offered essay and carefully read over each elegantly written word. He couldn’t help but feel astonished at the way the fourteen-year-old was able to articulate himself. He was also surprised that he had actually bothered to use the notes he had made for him earlier. Tidbits of information he had offered him, voluntarily twined with Tom’s own words. For some reason that had his throat drying and his chest constricting.
He cleared his throat and gave him an impressed tilt of the head. “If Professor Merrythought doesn’t give you an O, I’ll go file a complaint myself,” he told him in a small show of praise.
“Thanks, again, for helping me,” Tom told him, for once not finding it hard to say the words and actually mean them.
“Don’t mention it, kid,” Harry waved off only to recoil at the venomous glare Tom send his way.
“Is that really what you see me as? Some little kid?” Tom asked him before he could stop the words from spilling from his mouth.
“I’m sorry,” Harry rushed to apologise, stretching out both of his open palms in a show of peace. “I should have known that you would find such a term of endearment derogatory.”
“So you do see me as a kid,” Tom mumbled, closing off his expression.
“Tom, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a kid. You’re fourteen! You have your whole life ahead of you. Enjoy your last few years of adolescence, because you’ll have more than plenty of time to be an adult,” he promised, trying to rectify the damage he had done with one obtuse comment.
“What if I don’t? What if I don’t have my whole life ahead of me? You said it yourself, the bombs the muggles are using in their war are horrible. Being a parentless child means that I’m stuck in that awful muggle orphanage right in the middle of the war zone. What if next summer I don’t make it out? Or the summer after that? What if right now is all I have?” he asked him, desperate for answers he knew that Hadrian couldn’t give him.
‘Merlin, he must be really tired if he’s sharing this with me,’ thought Harry wearily.
“Would you believe me if I said I know otherwise?” Harry asked him quietly, not looking away from those frightened grey eyes. Wanting desperately to reach out and comfort him, but he couldn’t. Not yet.
Tom frowned at his question, searching his bright green eyes for any sign of deceit, but found none.
“Are you a seer?” he asked him, clearly wary of his own theory.
Hadrian chuckled and shook his head.
“Then how would you know something like that if you can’t predict the future?” Tom challenged.
“Magic,” he told him simply with a wicked smirk, drawing a small smile out of Tom.
“That hardly explains anything at all,”
“Or maybe it explains everything,” Harry countered with a shrug. “I promise that one day you’ll know what I’m talking about, but for now you’re just going to have to take my word for it.”
“Take your word for it?” Tom repeated incredulously.
“Yes, you know. Trust me,” Harry said cheekily.
Tom sighed and rolled his eyes. “You’re really something else, Peverell.”
“Hadrian,” he corrected. “We’re friends now, remember?” he teased.
“As a friend, can I ask you something, Hadrian?” he asked, testing how the name sounded on his lips. He had to admit that it sent a very pleasant and warm feeling through him.
When Hadrian nodded his consent, he bit the corner of his lips, wondering if maybe he should have left well enough alone, but decided to brave the question that had been plaguing him since the last Saturday.
“Why didn’t you like me when we first met?”
“Excuse me?” Harry squeaked a pitch too high, taken aback by this turn in questioning.
“I got the impression that you felt uncomfortable in my company,” Tom explained, not beating around the bush.
Harry blinked at him, completely at a loss at what to tell him. He hadn’t realised that he had failed so miserably at concealing what he felt. He’d been aiming for mild indifference, not dislike.
“You reminded me of someone I knew a long time ago,” he found himself admitting, and that was the truth. This Tom standing in front of him was two Horcruxes away from his Tom. They weren’t the same person.
“Oh?” Tom asked him surprised, not expecting that answer.
“Yes,” Harry replied giving him a weary smile. “In some ways, you two are exactly the same, and at the same time completely different.”
“He hurt you.” It wasn’t a question. Tom could easily see it in the way his beautiful eyes had dimmed. It was as if a bright star had been extinguished, leaving them to drown in darkness. He hadn’t realised how drawn he was to that light until it was gone.
“He did,” choked Harry. “But where he is he won’t ever hurt me again,” he reassured him, trying to muster the best smile he could while faced with the image of his nightmares.
Tom’s features were too soft, gentle in a way that he had never seen before. It was too much for him and he had to look away.
Tom wanted to ask him more about this person. Wanted to find out his location and destroy him with his bare hands. This sudden surge of protectiveness took him by surprise, but he was too far gone to question it.
He opened his mouth to ask his questions, but one look at Hadrian's stoic face made him change his mind. Another time. There would be time for such questions.
“I think I’m going to head up and have a little kip,” Harry said, rubbing his knees before getting up. “Goodnight, Tom,” he waved.
“Night, Hadrian,” he called after his retreating back, slumping back into the loveseat.
There was only one thing Tom knew for sure, and that was that Hadrian Peverell was going to turn his whole world around.
Yes, he felt a healthy amount of anxiety towards the oncoming change, yet he couldn’t find it in himself to do anything about it.