Harry’s eyes widened as she stood, frozen near the feet of the stairs. She could barely look at Tom right then; she only had eyes for Hermione’s crying face and the way she was curled up as far away from Tom as it was possible to be without disapparating. Her hurried footsteps led Harry to Hermione’s prostrated from before she could think about it much, and it was only once she had her arms wrapped around her friend that she raised her eyes to her girlfriend.
“What were you doing?” Harry told Tom flatly, green eyes clashing with pale blue in a situation she hadn’t expected.
Tom had nothing to say for her defense. Harry had quickly learned to read her girlfriend’s expressions, if only to get a glimpse at what went behind that giant brain of hers, but this was one she couldn’t decipher. And she was too angry to try in that moment. She let her anger take hold and glared, standing to put herself between Hermione and Tom.
“How long have you been bullying my friends?”
Tom didn’t answer, but oh how Harry knew that look. Her girlfriend’s mouth had remained pinched in that neutral expression, but her eyes… There was a surprise and a sort of incomprehension visible in them that usually only surfaced when Harry did something Tom didn’t expect. It wasn’t quite an admission of guilt, but both Harry and Tom knew she wouldn’t be able to talk her way out of it this time.
It was the sound of Hermione moving to stand up that let Harry tear her gaze away from Tom, and she hurried to lead her friend out of the empty corridor, giving Tom a last lingering glance in guise of any parting words.
The next few weeks were difficult for Harry, to say the least. Hermione was reluctant to give any further details about the situation, and while she had clarified that what Harry had seen was a one-time occurrence, she’d also grumbled that Tom was a “possessive twat who will alienate you from everyone if you let her, Harry,” while Ron simply mentioned that “she was a Slytherin after all.” Neither of them was even remotely helpful, and while that would usually be excuse enough for Harry to seek comfort in Tom, such a thing was impossible now that her girlfriend was the root of the problem.
Sighing in disgruntlement, Harry buried her head into a couch cushion and resisted the urge to scream into it. The cool metal of the locket Tom had given her for their 6-months anniversary pressed into her cheek, and it only made her miss the other girl despite everything. Harry had taken care to avoid Tom, unwilling to face her until she’d set her thoughts in order, but the fact that Tom hadn’t bothered chasing her down spoke volumes as well. And Harry didn’t like it.
But still, she had to put her foot down somewhere, and Harry drew the line at threatening her friends. If Tom wanted this to change, she’d have to make the first step.
Tom Riddle wasn’t a girl who easily admitted her faults. She had worked far too hard throughout her life to stand above the riffraff that surrounded her, and part of that implied being untouchable. She had to be above reproach at all times, to let others look up to her without letting them approach her level. She couldn’t afford to doubt herself, especially in Slytherin, and so she didn’t.
And yet, she couldn’t help but remember Harry’s gaze, fury, betrayal and disappointment swimming in those green eyes Tom loved so much. She had barely seen those eyes since. Harry hadn’t looked for her, seemed to be avoiding her, and as much as Tom was itching to confront her again, she knew Harry wouldn’t budge, not on that.
The thing was, Tom couldn’t quite find a fault in Harry’s reaction. She knew she’d been hasty in confronting Granger like that, but what else was she to do? Someone had already taken steps to make their interest in Harry known, enlisted Hermione’s steps to do so, and the bookworm had still refused to tell Tom their identity. Granger had never made a secret of her dislike of Tom, for all that they tolerated each other for Harry’s sake. Who knew what that girl would do if she found an option she considered better for Harry?
Tom blinked as she realised that her steps had brought her in front of a tapestry under which she’d usually meet Harry on their route to potion class together. It was under that very tapestry that Tom had made her intentions known the previous year, and the memory of Harry accepting still fuelled her patronus to this day. Harry was... Harry was worth everything to Tom, and she knew she couldn't let her own actions break the bond they'd built between them.
The thought of this memory firmed Tom’s resolve and she knew she wouldn’t let this separation fester between the both of them, not when she’d betrayed Harry’s trust by interrogating one of her best friends. As much as she disliked it, she’d have to apologise.
For all that they still hadn't gotten used to avoiding each other, neither Harry nor Tom felt ready when they finally faced each other again.
Harry couldn’t help but hate the situation. She was angry at Tom, justifiably so, because even though Hermione’s explanations shed light on the situation, it didn’t make Tom’s reaction any less deplorable. However, it wasn’t the silence that unsettled her as much as it was the loss of the easy camaraderie she and Tom had shared before this whole debacle. Even now, despite weeks of not speaking to each other, she could still see her own emotions reflected in the other’s eyes. The hesitation, a touch of awkwardness, as well as the desire to make it all better again.
“You guys go ahead,” Harry told Ron and Hermione, both of whom seemed prepared for a standoff. They looked at her with obvious reluctance, and Ron even seemed ready to argue, but Hermione must have seen something in Harry’s eyes because she pulled them both away.
“We’ll be waiting for you in the Great Hall,” Hermione agreed, warning clear in her voice as she glared at Tom.
Tom didn’t reply, keeping her eyes on Harry until the two other Gryffindors had moved past.
“I believe I should apologise to you.”
The words came out blunt and unexpected, but Harry barely processed them, focused as she was on Tom’s expression. It was more complicated than usual, but the determination was all too obvious. Tom had thought about this, she really had, and it didn't seem like she was simply planning on doing it to appease Harry. And yet, Harry still had to check.
“Apologise to me?” she asked instead of letting her relief at the fact that they were speaking again show. Harry wasn’t the one Tom should apologise to, and she was sure Tom knew it as well. As much as Harry loved Tom, this simply wasn't something she could let go, not if she wanted this relationship to last.
Tom's wry grin made it obvious that she'd understood the underlying message.
"You'll always be the first I'll apologise to, Harry," the Slytherin said, expression softening as she walked closer to Harry, close enough to take her hand if she so wished. "But rest assured that I am also planning to make my regret known to Granger as well."
With that, a breath Harry hadn't realised she'd been holding in blew past her lips as the tension in her body released. "Really?" she asked, grasping Tom's hand as she stepped closer.
Tom hooked a finger under Harry's chin to make their eyes meet. "Harry," she said, voice low and more sincere than others had gotten to hear, Harry was sure. "I apologise, both for betraying the trust you put in me and frightening your friend, and for letting my jealousy control me like this. Will you... forgive me?"
As confident as Tom had sounded at first, the last two words were tinged with the slightest bit of doubt, but Harry already knew her answer. "I dunno, do you promise not to do it again?"
She watched Tom nod, and couldn't help but feel the satisfaction at having rendered her girlfriend speechless. Pushing herself up on her toes, Harry pressed a gentle kiss to Tom's mouth and let her fingers trail on her cheek.
"We'll work on that temper of yours," she told her relieved girlfriend as she linked their fingers together and they walked towards the Great Hall.