Chapter 1: where we came from
“Well, look who I ran into," crowed Coincidence.
"Please," flirted Fate, "this was meant to be.”
Laying on the ground of a half demolished underground station, with the headache of her life, was not what Harry had in mind for her Sunday morning.
To be fair, getting drunk usually led to one adventure or another. At least, that was what she’d recently discovered, thanks to one converted Seamus Finnigan, who’d shown up in front of the girls’ dormitory with an apology and a bottle of fire whiskey. It was true that he’d been willfully ignorant when he believed the lies the daily prophet spread about her, but he’d learned from his mistakes. Ever since then, Ron and she had been a bit curious. But their usual shenanigans shouldn’t have let her roam father then maybe Hogsmeade, though. If even that far.
As she took in her surroundings, she realized that she couldn’t stay there because she didn’t trust the decrepit ceiling to hold. She also noticed that she was holding onto, what looked like, a few shards of an empty potion flask.
Probably one of Hermione’s if she had to guess. Her palm wasn’t cut too badly though, she was barely bleeding.
Harry tried to stand up, slowly. Well aware, of the fact, that everything was spinning and that her sense of equilibrium had been shot to hell.
Once she managed to somewhat steady herself, she felt for her wand and found it at her hip, shoved in the waistband of her skirt. Relieved she left it there, not wanting to risk falling on top of it and breaking it or harming herself in the process.
Moody’s reprimands about possibly losing an ass cheek or worse hadn’t ever really left her mind. However, the glaring absence of pockets in women’s clothing, left her no choice but to get a bit creative when it came to where she hid it.
After a few grueling attempts she found herself leaning against a soot-covered brick wall. It would probably leave smudges all over her white shirt, but she needed the support more than she dreaded Hermione wiping at her, to make her look more presentable. She started doing that back at the beginning of the fourth year when cameras were following her everywhere and the news was tearing her apart, and she hadn’t stopped since.
When Harry looked around, she realized that she wasn’t that far off the entryway. Just a few steps really, and she’d be out in the sun.
Harry gathered her breath and tried to swallow back the bile that worked its way up her throat in waves.
She could do this.
She’d been hungover before, not this bad and usually with Ron by her side, but she could deal with it.
Braving her fears and her body’s undying desire to crumble under her like a puppet, whose strings had been cut, she took an uneasy step towards the exit. And another one. And another one. And then Harry spewed.
She groaned as she tried to get down on the ground, safely, barely capable of holding herself up against the wall, anymore and just managing to make it so, that she laid down next to her spit up, and not on top of it.
She’d never felt quite this sick before. This weak. This broken down.
‘Harry! It’s not meant to be used that way,’ Hermione laughed, as she pushed a few more of her Daffodil seeds towards Ron, to cut up coarsely.
‘It could be,’ she snorted into the half-empty flask of fire whiskey.
She remembered that they’d been together yesterday, evening. But the memory didn’t come easy to her. She had to concentrate on the fleeting feeling of recognition. This felt a bit like one of her dreams with Voldemort. Like it was neither here nor there. Caught somewhere in between and she needed to hold onto it, to make it feasible.
Ron shook his head. ‘Not a chance. You’d have to find someone willing to test it first.’ He shoved the cutting board towards her and made grabby hands at the bottle of whiskey. They switched.
‘Don’t mince them!’ Hermione reminded sternly, her cheeks flushed, from either the alcohol or the potion fumes, Harry didn’t know. But it didn’t matter, she threw her head back and laughed at the comment, it wasn’t like she could blame Hermione for taking that tone with her. It was her default setting. Put anything in front of Harry on a cutting board, hand her a freaking knife and she starts mincing on autopilot. What could she say? Petunia trained her good. It wasn’t like she’d done the heavy lifting and cooking since she was a child. No. She’d always been given her the busy body tasks.
‘Mince the herbs, mince the garlic, mince the onions, mince the carrots,’ Harry chanted in a high-pitched voice, trying and failing to impersonate his aunt’s shrill sounding nightmare of one. Meanwhile, Ron laughed heartily. He loved it when she opened up about her shit relatives in a way he could react to, without making her feel like shit about it. Even Hermione smiled fondly at her, from her position over her cauldron.
They had been catching up on a last-minute assignment. She knew that Hermione had disapproved when she’d shown up to finish their potion report and Ron and she had been well on their way to being wasted. She must have decided that she deserved a bit of fun, too, instead of resorting to her usual mothering.
But… what were they brewing and why?
Harry rubbed her head, tiredly, trying to remember something that made sense to her.
‘We need more practical experience,’ Ron groused. ‘How are we even supposed to write this report in the first place?’
‘He brewed it in front of us,’ Hermione argued, exasperatedly.
‘Once!’ She remembered herself saying. ‘Once three weeks ago. This is going to be unspece- inspecifi- not quite right, at best,’ She concluded while Hermione looked at them thoughtfully.
Merlin, they had to have been wasted, to even consider brewing something in the boy’s dorm room, while the majority of their friends were fast asleep.
It had to have been an important potion, too, or else Hermione wouldn’t have risked it. Contrary to popular belief, Hermione wasn’t an effortless genius, but a genius through effort. Harry knew her well enough by now, that she realized that her roommate wouldn’t miss out on that kind of opportunity. She was almost always up for doing dumb shit if it meant that Harry and Ron were helping her practicing something productive in the process.
Even if that meant brewing an incredibly difficult potion, utterly pissed. She tried to think back to the last classes she had and shuddered. It had been the Reditus potion. Commonly called the Reversal potion, composed of an unholy mixture of sweet flowers and exceptionally disgusting innards of magical beasts. It was meant to reverse superficial harm, within a few minutes. It could be applied up to five days after the harm was done while remaining effective.
She remembered that now.
Snape had been even more vindictive than usual in his relentless berating because it was his potion design. Harry groaned. She wanted to vomit again. How could she have forgotten something she’d been moaning about for the better part of last month? What had Seamus spiked that thrice-damned fire whiskey with?
‘Oh my god,’ Ron murmured in shocked recognition.
‘What?’ Hermione asked, in that tone of voice that implied that she was only dedicating a small amount of her attention towards him because she was concentrating.
They’d all lost the ties and the sweaters, by now, only sitting there their dress shirts and skirts
‘You still have it!’ Ron exclaimed. Pointing at her cleavage.
‘Boobs?’ Harry asked.
She sighed pathetically, inwardly cringing. Great job at deducting, drunk Harry.
‘No,’ Ron waved away, and Hermione’s eyes snapped up, glaring at them both.
‘What do you mean, I don’t have boobs?’ She asked irritated.
‘You still have the time turner!’ Ron exclaimed again and Harry’s eyes snapped towards Hermione’s cleavage, finding the little chain.
‘I could have—’ her thoughts immediately went to Cedric and she shuddered.
‘You couldn’t have,’ Hermione interrupted. ‘It’s been deactivated. It’s not working anymore. Dumbledore did it himself after our third year,’ She hurried to say, as she shook her head. ‘It’s just a useless trinket, now. I kept it because of the memories.’
‘Let’s see it then!’ Ron called. ‘Merlin’s pants, I still can’t believe I missed out on that. I would have loved to know how that felt like,’ He admitted sheepishly as he reached out for it, while Hermione pulled it over her head and held it out to him.
Sober Harry felt her heart drop in horror as she remembered seeing Hermione, know-it-all-extraordinaire, and by-the-book-doer-for-life, dangle the dangerous piece of jewelry over the cauldron. Surely not, she thought, in horror.
‘Seriously? Be careful with that, there’s still sand inside and everything,’ Ron called out and grabbed the chain but missed the pendant, which sailed towards the potion, still dangling on its chain. Drunk Harry stumbled forward to catch it, hoping she could save it.
In a moment of panic, she used her incredible seeker reflexes to reach out for the pendant, at the same time as Ron hurled up the chain, that was still connected to it, and thus she slapped the small hourglass against the inside of cauldron.
It burst immediately, sand seeping out of it and into the seething potion, even as her hand reached out in a desperate attempt to catch the shards or the sand or whatever. Anything to make the situation better.
The potion roared up into a full boil before anyone could react, and a few splashes surged onto Harry’s face, when stumbled back, and away from the angry bubbling concoction.
A few seconds nothing happened, besides Harry wiping at her face, trying to get the stuff away from her eyes, afraid that she might lose her sight, and spreading it on her forehead in mindless panic.
Hermione and Ron watched her do it, shocked still, wide-eyed, afraid and yet hopeful. Because maybe, just maybe, for once in their fucking life’s, they’d get away with it.
After a few tense moments passed, Harry gathered her wits and smiled reluctantly, still unsure and afraid, but also increasingly optimistic.
She was just in the process of shoving herself back up and away from the ground near the cauldron when she suddenly felt a tug in her scar.
It grew in strength and intensity and after a moment, she could feel it drag so sharply at it, that her scar felt like it was on the verge of tearing open. She panicked, but before she could ask for help or even articulate what was wrong with her the feeling intensified tenfold.
It was unlike any pain she’d ever felt, before. Ran deeper, felt harsher, more finite. It was as if something was ripping away at her very essence and she screamed bloody murder.
She saw Hermione stumble towards the door of their dorm and felt Ron try his best to hold her down so that she couldn’t hurt herself while thrashing. Harry had more and more trouble breathing. The pain wasn’t just in her scar, anymore. It set her whole nervous system on fire. She felt it everywhere at once and it was relentless in its persistence.
The push and pull were the actual worst but at least she felt the pressure from Ron’s grip on her arms, vanish, as her friend stared at him in unadulterated horror.
‘Your arms!’ He screamed at her and Harry who was in the worst pain of her life, couldn’t concentrate on anything anymore.
She would have liked to scream back, what’s with my arms? but she couldn’t even formulate the thought before the burning pressure distracted her again. Harry barely acknowledged Ron’s tears, never mind the fact that she couldn’t feel Ron’s weight pressing her down, anymore, even though she should be able to, because up until then Ron had used his body weight to hold her in place, and he hadn’t moved away.
She’d just stopped feeling him.
She tried to look at what was happening, but she couldn’t. The pain had started cold and harsh and was now searing hot against her forehead. As if it was burning something away. When she felt the first waning of intensity, she was aware enough to hear her best friend’s desperate calls.
‘Stay with me. Don’t—’
The pain shot through her once more. Throbbed against her, pulsed. She knew the pulling would start again, felt her body rise to the challenge when Ron’s voice cut through the haze of bone-deep terror.
‘Harry! You’re vanishing. You have to—’
And then everything just stopped.
No otherworldly experience.
Harry sat in the decrepit train station, that looked like something out of a horror film and shook her head in faint trepidation. Her headache had receded since she’d lain down, but she knew that she needed to get out of there.
Grasping her wand, she steadied herself once more and walked towards the exit.
Walking out of the train station, she realized two things. The first one was, that she was in London. The second one was, that it wasn’t her London.
Streets filled with rubble and debris greeted her. People hurried through it as if they were used to it. She took in a shuddering breath and tried to keep walking.
Sooner or later she’d probably find a wizard or see something that would trigger some kind of memory as to where or more importantly when she was, or so she hoped. She didn’t make it far before a police officer saw her, but she was aware enough to duck down and hide before the man could brave the rubble and get to her.
She frantically tried to figure out how to deal with this. Sadly, the only thing she remembered about time travel was Hermione’s ominous warning from the third year and that certainly wasn’t helping her any. Bad things happened to witches and wizards who meddled with time. Frowning, she could only hope that this, like all other magic, was more about intent, than accomplishing the actual deed.
When the third police officer noticed her and she barely dodged him, by making a run for it, she had to grudgingly admit that she needed to change her appearance. The skirt from her school uniform was covered in dust and soot. As was the simple white dress shirt she’d tucked into it. Even though the uniform was a bit more conservative than most uniforms she’d seen, it still didn’t look quite right for this time.
The white shirt fit a bit too tightly and the skirt was a bit shorter than what seemed to be the norm but other than that her clothes didn’t look too different from the ones the people around her wore.
Walking through the streets she realized that she was garnering a bit too much attention. She would have to find Diagon Alley, soon. There she could easily transmute her clothes, without getting in trouble for underage magic.
The whole situation was more than a little precarious.
She took another sharp corner, in the hopes of miraculously seeing the Leaky Cauldron behind it, she was getting a bit desperate there, but quickly had to step away, when she found herself almost face to face with the police officer from before.
The burly old man immediately grabbed her by her arm, much like Vernon had in the past, and hurled her against the wall.
‘How old are you?’ He asked staring Harry down.
‘Fifteen,’ Harry answered through gritted teeth, aware that if she tried to make herself older, she’d probably just end up getting into more trouble.
‘Thought so. Where are your parents?’
‘Home.’ Harry tried.
‘Ahhh,’ the police officer nodded. ‘And is this home still standing?’ He replied, dryly, examining Harry as she frowned up at him.
‘What do you think?’ Harry asked annoyed with the way absolutely nothing worked out for her, today.
She slowly realized why the police officer had picked up on her and not the other teens, that were still lingering around. She was grim covered and a little bloody, from the cuts on her hand, running aimlessly around London.
Fuck. She must have been more out of it than she initially thought.
‘I’ll take you to Wools. Mrs. Cole will be unhappy about another mouth to feed, but she’ll appreciate the cheap labor. They need a few more workers over there,’ he told her as he hurled her away from London’s busy streets in quick and decisive steps.
‘What is Wools?’ Harry asked stricken. She’d stopped trying to pull away when she realized just how much it took out of her to do it. By the time she managed it, she’d be ready to collapse.
‘It’s the orphanage,’ the police officer shrugged. Hand still placed securely on Harry’s shoulder with just enough pressure to make sure she followed the older man’s lead. She groaned. An orphanage. Of course.
Wools looked straight-up depressing. The only thing that was missing from the scene before her was a possessed nun or something.
She was still sickly and had thrown up once more, while the officer had tugged her along mercilessly. ‘Probably smoke poisoned.’ The officer said after examining her, while Harry just shut down. It wasn’t a conscious decision, anymore. She was tired and exhausted and scraped up and she wanted the day to be over.
‘Mrs. Cole?’ The officer called as his heavy fist came down against the fragile wooden door.
‘Tell me you don’t have another one for me!’ A stern sounding woman called back as she walked over to them.
She was a bit fuller than Harry would have expected anyone to be in times like this. She also looked to be a bit drunk, but her demeanor wasn’t unkind when she mustered her.
‘You made it out of the rubble?’ She asked after a few moments passed.
She sounded like a woman who would have liked to be able to feel pity, still. Maybe she’d been someone who had been able to emphasize at some point in her life but lost the ability along the way and was now trying not to acknowledge its glaring absence in the face of tragedy.
Harry didn’t mind that.
She minded a lot of other things, though, like her appearance in a time that was so obviously not her own. Her uncertainty concerning the length of her stay and the impending dread that came with the realization that the decrepit, half demolished train station, might have been a better place for the night.
Then she realized they were waiting for her to respond. She nodded, still shocked and tired and done. Her head was hurting like hell.
‘I think she’s breathed in a bit too much smoke. She also keeps touching her head like she’s in pain,’ the police officer offered while taking a step back from her, as Harry looked up at him in surprise.
‘She could have knocked her head on the ground,’ Mrs. Cole murmured, as she reached for Harry’s head, probably to feel for a bump, but Harry evaded her searching hand.
Mrs. Cole stared at her for another long moment, before she nodded. ‘No touching. That’s okay. Can you do it yourself? See if there’s a bump?’
Harry nodded quickly and rubbed her hands through her thick red hair. She groaned when her fingers ghosted over what felt like quite a bit of a bump at the back of her head.
‘There’s a small one, on the back of my head,’ she said, voice still hoarse from disuse. ‘Probably from the impact,’ Harry added thoughtfully. It must have been. She had been hurled through time.
Mrs. Cole nodded. ‘We’ll put you in the room with the babes. They cry every few hours anyway, so you’ll wake with them. Maybe you’ll even be able to help out. We’ll see.’ She said nodding to herself. Harry agreed easily. Concussions were no joke and she was not about to risk the consequences of sleeping uninterrupted with one.
‘What’s your name?’ Mrs. Cole asked in that stern tone that always seemed to spurn an immediate response from Harry.
‘Harry,’ she answered, still a little wary. Realistically she knew she could probably tell them her real name. There was no way, that this woman would know anything about the Potter family. In addition to that, the name Potter wasn’t exactly unusual for muggles. Never had been. It was also the only thing that still connected her to who she really was. She swallowed. She was stuck. Somewhere between here and there and maybe nowhere at all. Maybe this was all part of an elaborate illusion. Some fever dream, she experienced from the horrid concoction they’d brewed.
But what was if it wasn’t?
What happened if this really was the past?
What if she could change the outcome? Knowing her life, she’d probably somehow end up making it worse.
She owed it to herself to and preserve her timeline, without creating a paradox or something like that.
She was in a situation so detached from everything she'd ever known or cared about, that she probably could have gotten away with it. She didn't risk it, though.
'My name is Harry Evans. Everyone calls me Harry,' she said hoarsely, caught somewhere between grief and yearning and Mrs. Cole nodded again.
She didn’t lie about her first name, even if she wished she had.
At least she’d learned the reason she’d ended up with the name Harry, this summer.
Even if it was just because her father had drunkenly sworn a vow to Sirius, after losing a bet in their fourth year, which ended with them having to name their first-born heirs after their respective grandfathers.
Harry could be lucky, they hadn’t specified that nicknames were out, or else she would have ended up being a Henry, instead. Apparently, her mom had thrown the fit of a lifetime when she found out.
‘Alright, Harry, tomorrow we’ll figure out your sleeping situation. Now, you should get cleaned up. Carla will get you some clothing and I’ll show you where you can warm up some water. There’ll be no food for you today, since we don’t have enough rations, but we’ll organize for food stamps for you by tomorrow,’ Mrs. Cole explained, effectively disrupting Harry’s train of thought and Harry felt her stomach turn.
Not in hunger, but dread. They were rationing food to this extent.
‘Yes, of course,’ she said tiredly and Mrs. Cole looked relieved.
She saw a few of the kids from the orphanage on her way to the washing basin and the tub, that was located next to the kitchen. They looked a bit weary of her and the other teens that were there looked mean and sad and as if her arrival didn’t change a thing, which to be fair, it probably wouldn’t. After Mrs. Cole had shown her where she could warm the water up, she’d left Harry with Carla, who looked to be about Madam Pomfrey’s age.
‘I’ll leave you to it,’ Carla said simply, as she laid down a simple grey cotton skirt with a dark wool sweater and a pair of grey knee-high socks. Great, she thought, happily. At least she’d be able to keep her brown leather shoes. They were well-loved and exceptionally comfortable, so she was relieved when Claire didn’t move to take them away.
The underwear was a bit different from what she was used to. It was just a simple white cotton camisole and a pair of white shorts that were held in place by an elastic band and rose up over the belly button and came down just over her mid-thighs. The uniform looked clean and as if it would fit her okay, which she was thankful for, even if she would have preferred the uniform the boys were wearing. She sighed as she sat down next to the tub and started scrubbing herself down with the water from the bucket.
After she got most of the grime off, she stepped inside the tub and picked up the bucket to let the warm water wash over her long hair. She did the last step in increments, hoping beyond hope, that she’d manage to braid her hair into submission, later. She’d never realized how much more they all should have been appreciating showers before she started the long and uncomfortable process of making do without one. Washing had one huge advantage, though. She felt somewhat alive again.
After quickly drying herself off, she slipped into the uniform and tucked her wand down her waistband, in the hopes that the non-elastic-band would hold it in place against her hip. It wasn’t the best place for it to be, but she wasn’t about to use her wand as a hairpin.
Knowing her hair, it would probably react to it in ways that went beyond unflattering and ended up being straight-up tragic.
She’d have to take care not to let anyone see it, while she figured out how to get out of there. After that, she quickly washed her discarded clothes as best as she could inside the tub before she dumped the dirty liquid out and slipped outside to hang them up on the washing line. She had a feeling, that she would do well not to ask too many questions and be as independent as she could be, which were both things she was already familiar with, thanks to the Dursleys.
When she was done with hanging everything up and reflecting her shit fate in life, she stepped back inside and was promptly herded to the sleep room of the babies, by an increasingly stressed Claire. It looked like she was about ready to serve a late lunch when Harry had shown up and asked her where to go.
At first, she felt weird lying still in bed, next to four little cribs with babies who were in various states of wakefulness and chattered and cooed into the empty room, but then she realized how tired and exhausted she’d been since she’d first tried to make sense of what happened to her today.
Truthful to Mrs. Cole’s prediction she was woken up every few hours by loud wailing, but she was in no condition to help care for them and it didn’t seem like anyone truly expected her to, either.
Mrs. Cole didn’t mind. She just stepped close, to see if Harry had really woken up and after a few moments of forced eye contact, she let her go back to sleep, while she cared for one baby after another.
When Harry woke up for the seventh time she was greeted by a small tablet that held a piece of toast, an egg, and what looked like a glass of thinned out milk. Either way, she was grateful for it. She made the mandatory eye contact with Mrs. Cole, sat up, and started to eat without much preamble.
‘You slept for a long time, it’s almost noon,’ Mrs. Cole noted.
‘I must have hit my head harder than I realized,’ she murmured between two bites of toast.
‘Yes, which is why you won’t have to do any chores, today. Those will start tomorrow. I already told your roommate that she would have to pick you up and show you around. She’ll only be your roommate for two more weeks until Tom gets back from school, though. After that, we’ll have to see how we can make this work, without putting anyone up in the attic,’ she said nodding her head decisively. Harry looked at her in barely suppressed horror. She remembered the Dursley’s attic, well.
They’d sent her up there once to collect some errand Christmas decoration, but she’d been so afraid that all the baubles on the tree had exploded before she even made it three stairs up the ladder. It had looked dingy, dark and cold up there and that was in the Dursley’s nice, freshly renovated home. She could only imagine what the place would look like here. Not that she planned on staying long enough to find out.
‘Alright.’ Mrs. Cole mistook her silence for a yes, before calling for Mary, who was apparently her new roommate.
The girl was blonde, blue-eyed, and shy. She spoke quickly when she told her the rules, probably to try and cover up her lisp. Her hand movements looked erratic, and her eyes always ghosted over everything in the room before she stepped in behind her. She looked a bit haunted, but she hid it well.
Harry learned a lot in the next ten minutes. Meals were always held at the same time. Breakfast at seven, Lunch at noon and dinner at six o’clock. The chores were divided by the week. The only exception to this was baby duty and helping in the garden. Those were given to those deemed mature enough to be trusted with them. Mary also explained that they could leave the orphanage, as long as they showed up to do their chores and came back every night before curfew, which was at seven-thirty, sharp.
If you didn’t come back before curfew you were in trouble. If you missed a meal, you missed the meal. There were no leftovers, to be had. If you skipped out on your chores, you were in trouble. If you backtalked, you were in trouble. Harry listened to Mary for as long as she could, before her thoughts started to drift off.
She could leave. These people were kind enough to help her, kinder than the Dursleys had been, in times so much harsher and colder than she’d ever known. However, she realized that if she wanted to go back to her time, she had to return to the wizarding world to search for help.
‘You should introduce yourself to everyone,’ Mary whispered, disrupting her thoughts. ‘They don’t like it when the new ones don’t do that,’ she quickly added, as if she really needed to make sure Harry understood the severity.
After she piled another ‘You wouldn’t want them to dislike you.’ on top of that, Harry complied.
‘I will if you show me where they are,’ Harry said shrugging.
‘Don’t mind Billy, okay?’ Mary said. ‘He can be a bit difficult,’ she explained and Harry groaned inwardly.
As if she gave a flying fuck about what Billy’s problem was. She forced herself to smile, anyway, because she was the intruder here and she already knew what it felt like not to be wanted and to be disdained by the people you shared a home with.
The room they entered looked almost as big as the kitchen, downstairs. Toys and books were strewn across the floor and people were talking over each other. Smaller kids tumbling about, brawling over the very limited number of toys, that were available for them, while the older ones were sitting by the window playing cards.
Harry quickly got the introduction over with, when she noticed people looking at them.
‘Hello, nice to meet you, I’m Harry,’ she said quickly and as confident as she could manage.
‘Harry is a boy’s name,’ a boy that eerily reminded her of Perkins, argued.
‘It could be short for Harriett?’ A girl with dark brown hair, murmured, from somewhere behind Mary.
‘It’s just Harry,’ she repeated, without any heat. It was what it was. She wasn’t a big fan either.
A few moments, no one said anything and then the Perkins-look-alike, said, ‘Name’s Michael.’ and just nodded at her. Thankfully the others followed his lead. She kept herself slightly behind Mary, while they did so.
They were staring at her freckles. It would have been annoying if she hadn’t grown used to it over time. Everyone used to say, you look like your mother, but you have your father’s eyes and well, her mother had freckles galore and fiery red hair, which was not exactly a plain combination. That combined with her dark brown eyes wasn’t what people were used to either, they expected something a lot lighter, more piercing and a lot less warm.
She was used to the initial pause. Everything about her was a bit too much. Her hair too red, her skin too pale, her freckles too bountiful and dark. Evidently, her name alone did a lot to throw people off, too.
Thankfully, neither the kids nor the guys seemed particularly interested in her or her introduction, after the first awkward staring match, but that was more than fine with her. The rest of the day was spent making plans and sleeping and eating and recovering.
She would have to make the potion again and she had to try and find the material they made the sand for time turners out of. She sighed as she thought about what the fuck that could be. Rooming with Hermione had spoiled her. Even if she wouldn’t let her straight up copy anything from her, she always shared her books and helped, where she could, especially when Harry felt like she hit a wall. Never mind Ron, who helped diffuse horrid situations like this with his sense of humor, and more often than not, actually knew of something helpful.
She groaned. Remembering them would only end in tears and she couldn’t afford that.
‘Our room is only a few to the side.’ Mary added after a moment. ‘The girls’ room got too crowded, so we had to use it, even if we usually don’t.’ She told her this as she walked down the small corridor with purpose. As if she was defying something.
‘Alright?’ Harry asked.
‘Yeah. It’s still a bit weird,’ she said after a moment. ‘Even if he isn’t here. It’s like he’s claimed it somehow. Mrs. Cole even called the priest to make sure there was nothing wrong with it before she told me to go sleep in it.’
Harry just stared at her for a moment. ‘I’m sorry, what’s supposed to be wrong with using it?’
Mary stared at her for a moment, before she just shook her head. ‘It’s Tom’s room and sometimes weird things happen around him.’
‘Things like what?’ Harry asked, knowing the answer already.
‘Things that don’t make sense. We should get back to the others,’ Mary answered in a clipped tone.
Harry stared at her for a moment. This Tom was away at boarding school, in times of food rationing and he'd obviously caused quite a ruckus to have made this much of a bad impression. Accidental magic could do that.
Fuck, they fucking went and called the priest on him. Thank Merlin, her aunt had never tried that special route of re-educating her.
Chapter 2: leaving impressions
The soul would say,
Yes I am your pain, but I'm also your peace and your power.
Know always, that I am aware and able.
Harry spent the next days, keeping to herself and following orders. She was very competent at doing that. It was a familiar routine that came to her with such ease that she almost hated herself for it.
Mince the onions, mince the garlic, mince the carrots.
Her thoughts mocked her relentlessly, any time she was assigned a new task.
Pull the weeds, water the plants, scrub the floor.
The shrill voice of Petunia chanted, as she did, what she was told.
To her ever-growing frustration, she realized that this helped her shut her thoughts down and clear her mind like nothing else ever had.
In her first, and now probably last, Occlumency session with Snape, he’d only taught her the theory of everything, without hinting at how it was applicable. She had no idea how one cleared their mind when she left his office that day.
But she felt like she found a way to do just that, now. It was not her happy place. Not even a neutral one. No, she cleared her mind with repression and repetition.
If she needed to shut down, she could just think of this moment, in the hall, where she scrubbed the hardwood floor, following orders. She wasn’t in control. Not doing anything other than listening, implementing and repeating. It was a feedback loop that she could probably call meditative, if meditation was supposed to make you feel like shit.
Merlin, when she finally got her own place, it would always be a little messy. A little out of control. A little overgrown. A little cluttered. A little too much and yet just enough. And she would clean it exclusively with magic. She wouldn’t even buy conventional cleaning supplies, she thought viciously as she stared at the freshly scrubbed hardwood floor.
‘You missed a spot.’ Billy called from somewhere behind her. As she turned to look back at him, he grinned meanly at her, while pointing at a random spot and Harry tried her hardest not to roll her eyes.
‘I’ll have to go look for it later, then.’ She said, trying to keep her voice neutral, while Billy’s eyes narrowed a bit. They both knew she wouldn’t. The thing was, that Harry tried to be civil to everyone, she really did, but this kid deserved a fist to the nose.
But she wouldn’t do it, wouldn’t give in to it, not now. She’d ignored everything else up until now, too. She even managed to shut down questions regarding her family situation, with an 'I don't know.', that was so cold, distant and detached, that no one had bothered to ask her about her past again. At least not for the four days after that. She was on day eight now and could only hope that her lucky streak wasn’t about to break.
Billy was a bit of a personal challenge for her because he reminded her greatly of a simpler, crueler version of Dudley. And if she’d learned anything over the years, it was how to spot the Dudleys and Vernons of the world. The people that were just looking for the slightest sliver of an opportunity. That just needed a reason to fight. To scream. To shove. To chase. To punish.
Billy still seemed to be waiting. Waiting for her to react to him, but Harry knew better than that. It was a pity, that that knowledge just meant that she was aware that he’d crack sooner or later, even if she somehow managed not to take the bait. That was just what guys like that did.
For now, she would do her best to ignore his sense of entitlement. Keep her answers short and clipped and take care to at least have one person in the room with them at all times. She didn’t do this because she was afraid. No. She still had her wand and she’d damn well use it if she had to. But she knew that if they caught her fighting, she’d lose her outdoor privileges and that was just something that she wouldn’t risk.
She would go out again today and explore the second street north from the orphanage this time. The one with the bakery. Diagon Alley had to be around there somewhere. They were still in London after all. Granted, it was the London of the year 1942, but she couldn’t imagine that Diagon Alley changed locations depending on the time it was in.
She groaned. Actually, now that she thought of that, it seemed like a very magical thing to do.
After she spent almost her entire second week in the past searching, she finally managed to find Kings cross and from there, Diagon Alley wasn’t too far off. As soon as she hit the curb, she transfigured a simple black overcoat for herself, sure of the protection it offered. That would work well enough to hide her uniform.
She remembered Hermione’s stern warning as if she still stood next to her, to rant, to talk, to share her ever-growing knowledge and maybe even to annoy her a little.
‘It doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective. Just figure out what’s the most efficient tool you’re going to need and hide behind it. Too many transfigurations attract more attention than someone who doesn’t fit in quite right. Because let’s be honest, no one in the magical world ever really looks like they fit in like they’re supposed to.’ She grinned toothily at Harry, who just bit down on her quill and stared at her essay.
‘So, is that a no to transfiguring myself some boots?’ She’d asked, somewhat forlorn, as she stared at her transfiguration essay, in which dragon leather boots, with elaborate patterns, were playing a significant role.
‘It’s over the top. It’s unnecessary, it takes too long to transfigure and most importantly, it’s too recognizable. You don’t want anyone thinking twice about what you’re wearing, when you’re in hiding and actually have to use transfiguration for something practical.’
Now, that she was existing in a time that she had no business being in, she understood, why. The last thing she wanted right now was attract attention.
Attention had been everything she yearned for until she’d actually gotten it and realized what it felt like to be seen and yet still not recognized for who she was.
Now, that she finally found her place in her own time, she didn’t want to mess it up, couldn’t afford to lose it, not if she wanted to hold on to the people, she’d spent the better part of her life searching for.
She squared her shoulders, breathed in deeply and walked with a lot more confidence than she actually had, towards Flourish & Blotts.
Harry knew that she couldn’t spend the day between the tall stacks of books, reading away, without earning herself the scorn and undivided attention of the staff, but what she could do was browse.
She’d seen others do it often enough to know that browsers rarely got in trouble. So, she started looking through the indexes of books that seemed useful. Her time was spent, with her eyes running over seldom used magically enhanced natural resources, while simultaneously trying to get a read on their uses.
An hour into the endeavor, it seemed more than a little impossible. Almost every magical potion ingredient and every magical plant that ever had the misfortune of having been discovered by a witch or a wizard technically fell under that category and a multitude of those was made from a material that was hard enough to be ground up into something resembling fine sand. And that’s ignoring the idea that someone might have transfigured something entirely different to look and behave like sand when it was really flubberworm saliva or something.
After she weeded through half of their herbology section, with little to no success, she turned to leave. She felt like someone had been watching her and she didn’t want to reach the point where a staff member came over to talk to her, to begin with.
On her way out the door, she stumbled, and almost crashed into a student, trunk in one hand, back turned to her, looking through the pile of used books. He was tall. Much taller than her, but that wasn’t a huge accomplishment in any time.
She narrowly managed to dodge running into him, missed a step, and reached out before she could think twice about it. One hand firmly placed on the guy's upper arm, Harry finally steadied herself, before she looked up, to see a very disapproving look on an all too familiar face.
She immediately tried to school her features, but she must have shown some kind of emotion, because the young man in front of her stared at her curiously, when she pushed away from him, as if she’d been burned.
He reached out again to hold on to her.
She was sure, he’d ask her, why she’d reacted to him like that when she obviously didn’t know him. But before his hand could reach her, she ducked under his arm, sidestepped his trunk and hurried out of the store.
That had been him, she thought shakily.
In the flesh.
The disapproving eyebrows and the artfully tousled hair were just as infuriating as she remembered. Villains didn’t deserve to have nice, easily manageable hair.
The eyes were different. Not glowing red, for one, but they also didn’t look as lost and deranged, as of yet.
She touched her scar carefully. It hadn’t hurt. It had barely even throbbed since she’d come to this time.
Her breathing came faster and faster as she remembered how her scar used to hurt, back in first year.
How Hermione and her, had read up on what it meant to be a Parselmouth. Whose lineage she was supposed to share and how stumped they’d been when they couldn’t find a direct connection.
The pressure-like hurt against her scar had become a steady companion from the moment the creature, that was so very entwined with everything she was, left that steaming cauldron. He’d laughed and taunted her, pressed his hand against her scar and made it hurt.
She tried not to let herself think about why Pettigrew had drawn upon her blood to revive him.
There’d also been something decidedly strange about the dreams that haunted her through her fourth year. Never mind the beginning of her fifth. The reoccurring dream about the door had gotten so bad that she’d been ordered to take Occlumency classes with Snape, after Hermione had ratted her out to McGonagall. It was in times like this that she’d have preferred Ron as a roommate. Not that he wouldn’t notice, no the guy was just as perceptive, but he tended to be much more respectful about it than Hermione.
But if that potion had healed her scar and cut that connection, there would be no reason for her to be send this far back in time?
Unless it hadn’t tried to heal her.
She was close to hyperventilating, which was why she stopped and leaned back against one of the empty entryways, to try and reign in her emotions.
He looked a bit younger than he had in the chamber, but that could also be because she’d been so much smaller, when she’d seen him then, lording over her.
He was still tall, now and as handsome as he’d been, back then. Not that that mattered. Not that that ever had mattered, because all of what he was, and what he had the potential to become, was overshadowed by what he would become.
She shuddered. If she wanted to go back, it wasn’t just what he had become, it was what he needed to become.
Based on the time frame Myrtle would die sometime this year. And she couldn’t stop it.
For the first time ever, she had something to lose that she just wouldn’t risk. Her breathing had calmed down a little, with the acknowledgment of pain. She would have laughed if she had been capable of it. Harry the girl who lived, the savior of the wizarding world, would let a young girl die and an evil megalomaniac racist reign supreme, just so she could keep her ragtag group of friends.
He’d told her then, in that thrice-damned chamber, Voldemort is my past, present, and future and she’d been so envious of that, at the time.
She wished, she could have made that choice for herself, as well. Could have told herself and the world, that expected so much of her, Harry Potter is my past, present, and future.
But she never had that choice, at least not before today. It’s always been him, since the day he decided he needed to kill a one-year-old. And wasn’t that fucking ironic?
Because now, at fifteen, lost in time, choosing herself meant choosing him, too.
His influence over her life, the death sentence, the hurt, the loss. And the only reason she could even consider making that choice was the love she experienced through all her hardships.
It was the only love she’d ever known and no matter how much she’d like to deny it, she was ridiculously possessive over it. Of Ron’s kindness. Of his family’s easy acceptance of her. Of Hermione’s eagerness to include her in absolutely everything. Of Hagrid’s warmth and even McGonagall’s watchfulness. She knew, that that wasn’t much, but it was all she’d ever known.
And for the first time in her fucking life, she knew she wouldn’t give herself up for the idea of changing something bigger, because there were no guarantees.
If she managed to kill baby Voldemort, maybe another version of her, in another world, would get to experience what it was like to grow up with parents.
But what about her? Would she be stuck? Would she fade out of existence? Would she be forgotten?
There was no light and no dark here. Everything that was supposed to happen had already happened and not one of the people who’d be so righteously expecting her to make the necessary sacrifice, had been proactive about stopping him early on, when they still had a chance. She was done feeling responsible.
With the realization that she wouldn’t try to change him or reach out to him or try to push him into being something he wasn’t capable of being, came freedom and doom.
What if she’d already changed something? What if she’d just been the conduit for the potion? Had it healed something in him?
She pressed her overheated face against the cool stone of the elaborately decorated entryway, closed her eyes, and concentrated on the firmness and the coolness of the stone. She tried to let that feeling wash over her. She had to remember that she didn’t know the answer to any of these questions. Sure, she had theories about it, but she’d been wrong before.
Thinking about her questionable choices always ended up with her smiling about her and Ron’s first few years at Hogwarts. She heaved another deep sigh and swore to herself that she’d do anything in her power, to get back faster.
Gathering her bearings, she squared her shoulders and started to walk back to the orphanage.
It’s been questioned numerous times. Harry’s intelligence, that is. But, to be completely honest she’d never felt dumb. Not even a little bit.
In fact, she felt rather accomplished most of the time. Especially with the way, life kept throwing new challenges at her. It had all somehow come down to this: If she still somehow someway managed to do what she needed to do, she felt proud. Like she was winning against all odds. After all, who could expect good grades and a stellar work ethic from her when she was busy getting traumatized year after year?
It was no excuse.
She should have made the connection.
Should have realized that where she was headed wasn't the safe space, she wanted it to be.
But she didn't. It had been two weeks since Mary last spoke about Tom.
Granted, they had packed their stuff and moved out of the room yesterday, but that was because Mrs. Cole insisted it would be best to air the room out before he came back.
Harry groaned just thinking about that miserable day.
She'd truly thought of the attic as a thing of nightmares, which was why she was beyond relieved when Mrs. Cole told her she could sleep in the nursery, as long as she did the night shift with them. Mrs. Cole probably only allowed this, because one of the younger girls had been adopted, which freed up a place for Mary to sleep in. She didn’t have it in her to send Harry to sleep up there alone.
So, babysitting it was. It wasn’t like that was new for her. More like another one of those things Harry had an automated response to. How to care for toddlers came with all the babysitting she did over the summer.
The money from that was something she could keep for herself and use freely. So, it had always been less of a chore and more of an escape. Petunia had even gone so far, as to encourage her to do it after she'd first been asked by the neighbors to look after their toddler when she was twelve. It made sense that she wanted her to, because it kept her away from the house and out of Dudley’s reach. The boy was a menace and even if she won the game of Harry hunting most of the time, it still looked quite bad if she didn’t. And that was the last thing Petunia wanted. To look bad.
All in all, it really could have been worse. Helping out gave Mrs. Cole ample opportunity to rest at night, which made her nagging more bearable. Not that she’d ever nagged her, no Harry was shaping up to be one of her favorites.
The old hag was quite selective that way. She had a few kids, she’d decided were bad and treated them accordingly, while she praised and actually cared about the others. It wasn’t anything new to Harry, but it was still disgusting to witness, from any perspective.
Harry, who’d grown up in the cupboard under the stairs, in a house with four bedrooms, two for Dudley, one for guests and of course the Dursley’s master, had taken a little too long to realize how fucking wrong all of this was. How messed up the idea was, that some kids were forced to sleep in the attic, just so that one boy could keep his bedroom to himself.
She hated it when that happened. When she took too long to realize that she was being mistreated in a very obvious way. In a way that no one who had a good upbringing and actually knew their worth ever would. Ron had been good at reminding her of her worth, whenever he noticed her slip up. The fact that it still happened to her, made her feel frustrated with herself, every time she recognized it.
So, all in all, she felt more than a little dejected and resigned with herself, when she walked in through the entrance hall and saw Tom Riddle struggling to pull his trunk up the flight of stairs.
His white dress shirt sleeves were folded up over surprisingly muscular arms, his hair hung low in his eyes and he grunted with the effort it took him to hurl the chest up a few steps at a time. He was sweating and he stared at the trunk as if he debated setting it on fire. He probably could do it, too. There weren’t a lot of people around, but she had a feeling that even if there were, they wouldn’t have helped him.
‘You!’ He said, as his eyes fixated on her, perched on top one of the last steps, breathing hard, clutching his trunk.
Harry watched him for a moment, in a way this really helped her put things into perspective. He was a sweating, struggling, and disgruntled teen. And not Voldemort.
‘You’re the daft bint that almost ran me over.’
She realized, that the fact that no one was helping him, was probably his own fault. Harry debated if she should really answer him. It wasn’t like he was going to abandon his suitca—
The trunk crashed down to the bottom of the stairs, as he let go of it mid-step and came down to her.
‘Hello to you, too.’ She said, willing herself to sound as calm as possible, holding her ground, as Riddle stalked towards her with narrowed eyes.
‘You were at Diagon.’ He sounded almost accusingly, towering over her, expression hard and focused.
‘I know.’ She shrugged, as if admitting that she was a witch wasn’t a huge deal.
His eyes narrowed even further. ‘What do you think you’re doing here?’
Harry frowned up at him. ‘Why is anyone in an orphanage?’ She tried to keep the bite out of her answer. But it came out sharper than she intended it, too. Technically he was the one who put her there.
His left eyebrow ticked up as he took her appearance in. She was wearing the uniform without the sweater and had transfigured her black coat back to the handkerchief she was keeping in her shirt pocket.
‘Has no one ever told you that it’s rude to answer a question with a question?’ Riddle asked, mockingly, as he smirked at her obvious annoyance with him.
Harry rolled her eyes and tried to sidestep him when his hand reached out and he grabbed her forearm firmly.
She flinched in response, bracing herself for the searing hot pain in her scar, that didn’t come, again.
Calculating eyes took in her reaction.
‘What—’ He started to ask, when Mrs. Cole’s sharp voice disrupted him.
‘Harry!’ Mrs. Cole called from the doorway; eyes fixated on the part of her arm Riddle still had a grip on.
‘Please go to the kitchen. Mary needs your help carrying the water jug.’ She said, very calmly, but her tone sounded anything but.
Riddle immediately let go of her arm, but he kept watching her for a moment longer, as if to convey that their discussion wasn’t over, before his eyes turned hard and he focused on Mrs. Cole.
‘Hello, Mrs. Cole.’ He said smoothly.
Mrs. Cole stared at Tom as if he was the vilest thing, she’d ever laid her eyes on. ‘Hello, Tom.’ She said, in a tone colder and more distant than Harry had ever heard her use before.
Sadly, the rest of their conversation was drowned out by the noise in the kitchen, where Mary really did end up needing her help carrying the jug of water.
“I envy people that know love. That have someone who takes them as they are.”
― Jess C Scott, The Devilin Fey
She reminded him of fire, or her hair did, anyway. The red wavy strands were long and in a state of blatant disarray.
The girl was pretty, in an unconventional way. Her hair was redder than the usual orange he’d seen on redheads. The freckles were darker, smattered across her entire face instead of just dusting her nose; even her eyes were dark instead of light.
The way she held herself led Tom to believe that she was at least a half-blood. She had that innate pride and confidence that came with ease to the privileged and was almost impossible to imitate.
The redhead was too dark to be a Weasley and too pretty to be a Selwyn. He’d seen the youngest Selwyn: he had freckles that were similar to hers, but his eyes were piercing blue and round where hers were warm, brown, and almond-shaped.
He’d noticed her ever since he entered the shop . It was rare to meet magic users their age that weren’t attending Hogwarts, and he would have remembered seeing her there. It typically meant they were either homeschooled or attending a different wizarding school.
Homeschool generally meant strict pureblood parents, especially for girls, but he wasn’t too sure that was the case here.
As the girl browsed, she constantly looked around as if she didn’t want to be noticed. And she didn’t seem to care too much about her appearance, not if the way she wore her hair or the lack of make-up was any indication.
It looked like she was looking for something, and she seemed to get more and more agitated the longer she looked, not the best time to try and talk to her. Maybe not a good idea at all. Her robes were clearly not of the best quality, and poor purebloods were pretty fucking rare and usually disgraced.
When she tensed, he quickly turned towards the books he’d come there for, not wanting to get caught watching her.
He focused on the sales bin, looking intently at the covers. There were a few books in there that he saw some upperclassmen read. Summer would be hard as is, but he didn’t even want to think about what it would be like without the distraction of at least one book or two.
His thoughts were interrupted when someone abruptly grabbed his arm. Turning around to see who’d dare to grab him like that, he saw the girl again.
But her eyes didn’t look resigned, this time. No, she looked like she’d seen a ghost. pale and shocked and scared all at once, before she reigned her emotions in and stared at him with forced calm. Definitely a pureblood then, he thought. No one else needed to be able to be that repressed.
Before Tom could confront her about anything at all, the weird girl made a run for it, she didn’t hurry along or placate him or even apologize. No, she fucking turned tail and ran.
He shook his head as he turned back to the bin. Potions with Purpose only cost fifteen knuts. It would have to do.
Tom knew that he wasn’t going to get as much as a ‘hello’ from Mrs. Cole when he came back to the orphanage. He was proud that they weren’t pretending to be civil anymore.
He’d made a terrible situation livable. If having his own room and generally being excluded from most social settings meant he had to hurl his hundred-pound trunk up two flights of stairs on his own, then so be it.
He’d felt her eyes on him before he heard the faint footsteps in the entryway. The girl looked dejected, as if she wasn’t even a little surprised that she’d see him again, in this place, no less. She almost looked as if she should have expected it and that bothered him far too much to let it go.
She didn’t back away from him this time when he stalked towards her, even though she seemed so quick to get away from him at the bookstore. It pleased him greatly that she had to crane her neck to see him.
‘You were at Diagon.’
‘I know.’ She shrugged, as if admitting that she was a witch wasn’t a huge deal.
His eyes narrowed even further. ‘What do you think you’re doing here?’
Harry frowned up at him. ‘Why is anyone in an orphanage?’
She was a witch. That alone should have saved her from ending up in Wools. When she turned to leave, he couldn’t just let her go. There were too many things about her that didn’t add up and of course, that was when Mrs. Cole came in and saw them.
The girl didn’t think twice about going to help Mary, and he could already see that she was turning into one of Mrs. Cole’s favorites.
‘Tom, you know you aren’t supposed to touch the others.’ Mrs. Cole said in a no nonsene tone. He was used to it by now. She never outright threatened to leave him behind, when the time come to evacuate, but he had a feeling that given half a chance, she’d do it.
‘That’s why you have your own room,’ she repeated sternly.
He knew that. The no-touching rule had been established after he killed Billy’s dumb rabbit, not that they had any proof that it was him. It wasn’t like he did it because he liked killing the rabbit. Honestly, he couldn’t have cared less about doing that. He just needed to send a message to Billy, one that would stick.
One of the reasons why he’d been forced to go that far in the first place had been Mrs. Cole’s blatant disregard of the situation. Billy always tried to be manipulative and cruel, but he was bad at it, too crude to really fool anyone. At this point he couldn’t remember anymore what had been worse for him: the other boy’s pathetic attempts of getting him in trouble or that he kept succeeding. It had become obvious that adults didn’t need finesse or cleverness to believe Tom to be evil. They just needed someone to point the fucking finger.
Tom sighed, well aware that he wouldn’t be able to show Mrs.Cole how inferior she and everything she believed was. How disturbed she must have been to propose this deal to a seven-year-old. What he understood was that she thought him to be dangerous. Diseased. Freakish. Well, he hadn’t been dangerous then, but he certainly was now.
When he was younger, the other orphans had picked up on their weird deal and even a few of the older kids had started crying when they’d touched him, even if it just happened while they were dispensing the food. It had been an important lesson. Being feared meant being safe. Power equaled the absence of pain, at least at the hands of others.
‘It won’t happen again,’ he finally said after they stared at each other for long enough.
She nodded. ‘See, that it doesn’t.’
He shook his head as he made his way back to the stairs and started the abysmal task of returning his trunk to his room, again.
Harry stared at Mary in disbelief. ‘What?’ she asked for what felt like the third time.
‘He’s not supposed to do that.’ Mary repeated, looking at her as if she couldn’t possibly understand the implications of what had happened to her.
‘He just held me by my arm,’ Harry recounted. It had been more of a grip, really, but it hadn’t even been as bad as Hermione’s when she was set on getting her to go to the library with her. If she thought about it, it had just been enough to make him appear assertive, in control of the situation, not that he had been either of those things.
‘It’s always been this way, at least since I remember. Sometimes it happens on accident, but even then, Mrs. Cole will talk to the kids it happened to, in private to see if everything is alright.’ Mary shrugged as if that was normal. They were both peeling potatoes and throwing them into the large pot on the stove top.
The Dursleys hadn’t been good to Harry. But they’d never been apprehensive about reaching out to her, or having her touch them.
Her aunt also used to brush and tame her hair when she was younger, and she’d actually always tried not to hurt her, when she did it.
A lot of other instances came to mind, too. She knew that someone always held her hand when they went outside, to make sure she followed along and didn’t get lost.
Her aunt used to run her fingers through her hair, to try and fix it. They’d never questioned wether they should reach out to her or not. Even Dudley, wouldn’t think twice about sitting next to her and having his arm brush up against her. They’d been cruel and abusive, but they’d never made her feel dirty or repulsive, never mind Ron and Hermione, who both had no sense of personal space.
To be fair, she lost her concept of personal space with them, too. They were constantly hanging out with each other, went on adventures, shared near-death experiences, and sometimes they even fell asleep on the same couch after Hermione had nagged them into doing revision with her (even though they were all exhausted).
All of that hadn’t been conducive to establishing healthy boundaries, either.
It seemed wrong to exclude someone from something so simple. Something that was done, without thinking about it, without even second-guessing the movement. The very act of reaching out had been taken away from him.
‘That seems awful,’ she finally said. It wasn’t like she was defending Riddle or even pitying him. It was just that she could recognize and acknowledge that what had been done to him and what was still being done to him sucked.
‘You don’t know him, yet,’ Mary said as if she was so used to how obviously messed up Riddle was, that the idea that someone else might not agree went completely over her head.
Harry would have snorted, but she knew Mary wouldn’t have understood it, and how could she? How could she possibly understand that Harry probably knew him better than any of them did? Knew how far gone he’d be and how much he’d change within the next few months. But he wasn’t a monster, yet.
‘He’s handsome, but you know what they say about the wolf in the sheep’s clothing.’ Mary elaborated, while Harry frowned at her, not liking what she was implying.
‘It’s just weird, is all. I’ve never met someone that was deemed so dangerous that they weren’t allowed to touch other people, but not dangerous enough to be locked away,’ she elaborated.
Mary blushed. ‘I guess it’s not like that everywhere.’ She just said, somberly, and Harry groaned inwardly. Of course, Mary wouldn’t know. After all, she’d told Harry that she’d been in the orphanage for as long as she could remember.
They didn’t speak much more after that, at least not until Mary asked her where she’d spent the afternoon and Harry told her she’d been searching for a book shop that she remembered visiting a while back. Harry also told her that she hadn’t been very successful, yet.
Her mood dropped significantly when Mrs. Cole called her to her office a few moments later.
‘Are you alright?’ Mrs. Cole asked, looking worried.
‘Yes,’ Harry said, earnestly. ‘I feel fine,’ she added after a moment, trying to put as much reassurance in it, as she could. It was kind of Mrs. Cole to worry about her. She was terribly misguided but at least she cared.
‘Sometimes it doesn’t happen until the nightmares set in,’ Mrs. Cole said, warily. ‘Most of them dream of snakes in their beds or something equally as horrid,’ she said shaking her head.
Harry shrugged. ‘I really don’t think he did anything,’ she said. ‘He just asked me a few questions, because we ran into each other in the city, and he probably thought I followed him home.’
Mrs. Cole examined her for a few moments. ‘You’re a kind girl, Harry.’ She said it as if that was a bad thing. ‘Being kind is going to be your downfall, with that boy though,’ she added, after pausing for emphasis.
‘I’m not going to go out of my way to see or talk to him,’ Harry stated easily. She really wasn’t.
Mrs. Cole watched her a bit longer. ‘Alright,’ she finally said. ‘Just remember that you can always come to me when something happens.’
Harry nodded, even if she thought Mrs. Cole's overprotective behavior slightly confusing. She would have been flattered by it if she hadn’t she used the word when.
‘It’s nothing, now go back to the kitchen. You can eat there with Claire tonight.’
The rest of the day passed in a blur. She’d eaten with Claire and helped distribute food right afterward. Riddle seemed to do his best to ignore her, but she caught him looking a few times when he thought she didn’t notice.
Harry wasn’t too fond of having caught his attention, but she also realized that there had been no way around it from the moment he’d seen her in Diagon. So she buried those feelings of doubt and inadequacy. She kept them locked down with all her other regrets and tried to concentrate on where she would look for clues tomorrow.
There had to be a way back. There always was. They lived in a magic world for fuck's sake.
By the time she was ready to turn in for the night, she’d almost forgotten their encounter. It was scary how little this Riddle reminded her of the Tom Riddle she’d met in the diary or Voldemort. Maybe she was biased, but the fact that he had a human face and was somewhat socially inept helped her perception of him along.
In the evening, she did one small rotation with Edna who was supposed to help her change and feed all of the babies before bedtime. That went swimmingly. She didn’t dare sleep, though, because she didn’t want to dream of Cedric, she always did that after remembering the graveyard.
However, she wasn’t the one who had trouble sleeping that night.
One of the babies in the nursery, Maddie, sometimes struggled with infantile colic, which meant that she had a terrible stomachache and tonight was a particularly bad one for her. So, she laid Maddie across her lap and started rubbing her back carefully. She didn’t have a lot of experience with this. This was just the second night she’d been left alone to care for them, and even though she knew the basics of what could help, it still scared her.
An hour into trying and failing to put Maddie to sleep, Harry finally got her to stop crying a few minutes ago, she heard footsteps. Thinking it was Mrs. Cole, she murmured, ‘Thank god. She’s really struggling, tonight. Do you think you could hold her for a second while I make her a warm water bottle?’ She asked relieved.
‘I don’t think that would be conducive to her health,’ a deep voice drawled behind her.
Harry groaned before she looked at Tom, unnerved. She wasn’t afraid because she still had her wand, and she also knew that the boy had more to lose than her should he try to curse her.
‘What do you want?’ she asked, exasperated as she turned towards him, not feeling comfortable with leaving her back wide open for him to curse. Maddie gurgled against her shoulder and shook her little fist against her before she continued to make those disturbing self-soothing sounds that Harry had always hated.
‘I came here to talk,’ Tom said, leaning back against the door frame, keeping an impressive amount of space between her and himself.
Harry examined him. He looked about as lanky as Ron, as if he was still growing into his features. He also looked a bit shady. No one, who didn’t have anything to hide put that much effort into his hair and uniform looking perfect.
‘So, talk,’ she finally said.
‘Did Dumbledore send you here?’ He asked, staring at her in anger. His whole posture seemed tense, he seemed beyond paranoid.
‘No.’ Harry shook her head, snorting. ‘A police officer brought me here,’ she shrugged.
‘But you know of him,’ he hedged on.
‘Who doesn’t?’ Harry countered.
‘Aren’t there any places for wizarding children to go to?’ Tom asked dubiously.
Harry shook her head. ‘You tell me,’ she answered drily.
Riddle shrugged her off, but she saw that his mouth had twitched as if he’d been holding back a snarl.
‘How did he catch you in the first place?’
‘He saw me after I’d made it out of the ruins of the old train station downtown. I hadn’t processed what happened or how bad I must have looked at the time and thought I could get away with searching for Diagon without drawing attention to myself. When he got to me, I wasn’t strong enough to get away without breaking the secrecy ban,’ she finished.
‘Didn’t your parents have any friends that could take you in?’ Tom frowned at her, as if he’d expected something more exciting, like being a spy for Dumbledore.
‘I wouldn’t know about that,’ she said, shaking her head.
Maddie was slowly falling asleep in her arms. Harry probably should set her down, now that she was still drowsy, but she didn’t want to show Riddle her back. She didn’t want to risk that in this setting. Not when killing and disposing of her, would be so easy and the only witnesses to the horrendous crime would be a bunch of babies.
‘Why not?’ Riddle continued, completely uncaring. He was really socially inept.
‘Merlin, what do you think? They died when I was really young. My aunt and uncle raised me,’ she answered.
‘But you know magic,’ he said, moving his hand to hurry her along. He was still focused on her as if he was trying to read her very soul.
She hated lying but she did okay with half-lies. So, she tried going from there. ‘There was a squib, who lived on the same street as we did. She showed me books and a friend of hers took me to get a wand, my aunt knew about what I was, because my mum had been the same way.’ Technically true. Mrs. Figg had shown her picture books, and she knew Hagrid through Dumbledore.
Harry looked down at Maddie critically. She was asleep. This was the absolute last thing Harry wanted. The transfer into the crib was going to take forever, wake Maddie up again and probably end with them both in tears. Fuck her life.
‘There’s always one that doesn’t make it,’ Tom said, shrugging, completely misreading her look.
Harry stared at him. ‘She just had a stomachache. That’s not a death sentence.’
‘If it doesn’t go away, she won’t sleep or eat enough to get better,’ Riddle said again, sounding nonplussed. ‘Why do you care?’
‘It went away, for now, I’ll just have to figure out how to help her. Most people would feel the need to help, instead of predicting her death,’ Harry answered, brows furred.
‘I’m not most people. Even if I could help, why would I do it?’ He asked her while he managed to look simultaneously condescending and honestly uncomprehending.
‘Because it would be the right thing to do?’ Harry answered, rolling her eyes.
‘I don’t care,’ Riddle said and Harry snorted before she stared at Maddie again. Yeah, that seemed to fit alright.
‘Wandless magic would be a real blast right now,’ she just murmured.
‘It’s not that hard to learn,’ Riddle shrugged.
She just stared calculatingly at him for a moment. He was right there were certain spells that were rather simple to perform wandlessly. Like an Accio for your wand.
She thought about what it was like to feel magic flow through you. She tried to remember the finer elements of what made an Episkey work. And then there was suddenly a hand on her shoulder, pulling her from her thoughts.
Harry opened her eyes to meet Riddle’s shocked ones. ‘That would have put her into her grave,’ he said staring at her, and Harry immediately stopped, trying to emulate the feeling of magic and watched him in shock.
‘I didn’t do anything, yet,’ she said, wary about the fact that her silent efforts had been tangible enough for him to feel them.
‘You were conjuring,’ Riddle answered, frowning at the place where his hand was still placed on her shoulder.
Harry felt a bit faint. Conjuring was usually a good thing, but without a wand or an idea on how to release it, it could accumulate magic and fire off the power in an uncoordinated way. It was one of the reasons, wandless magic was taught so late.
‘Thank you for stopping me,’ she finally said, even if she could guess why he did it. A magical death in the orphanage he lived in wasn’t exactly great for his reputation.
‘I just tried to get a feeling for it,’ she tried to explain, without explaining much of anything. Honestly speaking, she’d just tried to see if she could do it without actually intending to do it. But her magic felt closer as if some kind of barrier had been stripped away from her. She shuddered. Just what had that potion done to her?
‘I can’t,’ he said, after a few moments. ‘I can’t heal wandlessly.’
Harry nodded before she looked down at Maddie again who was now snoozing against her.
‘Wouldn’t it make sense to learn that, though?’ She asked. ‘London is a horrible place to be at the moment.’ She was kind of done with Maddie. No offense to the baby, but Harry wanted her full range of movement back. So, she put her down, as quickly as she could manage, without waking her up, and turned back to Tom. He’d pulled both eyebrows up at her display.
‘You don’t trust me very much, do you?’ He asked, watching her carefully.
‘I don’t know you.’ Harry replied, even if that was somewhat bullshit. She didn’t know him now, but she sure as hell knew what he was capable of and that tended to overshadow everything else.
‘It’s not practical to heal wandlessly. I’d rather be able to defend and attack.’ He shrugged before he continued. ‘Why did you end up in that train station?’
Harry sighed. ‘Why are you here?’
‘I thought we already talked about why anyone would be in an—’
‘No, I mean in this room with me, asking me this?’ She interrupted.
Riddle stopped for a moment before he turned his eyes back on her. ‘You’re lying about something,’ he said simply.
Harry stared in his dark blue eyes, for a few moments, leaning her head to the side. ‘What makes you think that?’ She finally asked.
‘How did you end up in that train station?’ He countered again.
‘I don’t know.’ She said, honestly.
He stared at her again. ‘Accidental magic?’ He asked. ‘At your age? I don’t think so.’
‘I don’t know if it was accidental magic.’ She admitted.
‘Why didn’t you go to Hogwarts?’ He asked, taking a step towards her again as if to intimidate her into answering truthfully.
‘It wasn’t an option.’ She had to force herself not to smile at that. Baby Voldemort had nothing on Snape, not when it came to intimidating dramatics.
‘Everyone gets a letter,’ Tom said, angrily. ‘money’s not a problem either.’ He added after a moment.
‘No, but the approval of the guardians is,’ she said, remembering uncle Vernon's frantic attempts to keep this from her.
‘But they let you go to the Squib?’ He said the last word, particularly disgusted.
Harry’s hand hovered over her wand at her hip, as she stared back as fiercely as she could. ‘It helped stop the accidental mishaps.’
Riddle nodded. ‘Makes sense. Except for the fact that the ministry would have picked up on the magic,’ he said that last part smirking, as if he’d had her cornered.
She laughed. Mrs. Figg had been the crazy cat lady growing up, but to everyone else in the neighborhood she’d been the one with the crazy relatives who didn’t know how to dress themselves. ‘Do you really think she didn’t have a floo connection to her family? Didn’t have them over for visits? I could practice freely there, and I’ve been mindful whenever I was somewhere else.’
His eyebrows were raised, and he stared at her unattractively. ‘Everyone looks down on them. They are always disinherited. Why in the world, would anyone want to keep them close enough for a floo call?’
‘Because their families love still them, and they can’t just stop doing that? Because they won’t just stop seeing them because of some prejudiced rule that says that Squibs can’t live in the magical world anymore?’ Harry guessed, not really knowing where to go from there.
Something about the way she stood up for Mrs. Figg must have revealed something about her because Riddle’s eyes widened, first in anger and then in recognition. ‘You’re from Kent,’ He said knowingly. ‘there was an attack, recently. Everyone talked about it in school, a few were even crying at breakfast.’
He smirked. ‘You flinch every time I touch you. You try your best not to show me your back. You defend squibs like one of those sympathizers, and you turn somber when I ask you about your family. As if it’s been fresh. It probably happened quick, too. There’s no one left, is there?’ He asked, and the fucker still smirked, as he asked that.
Harry swallowed thickly, trying her best not to look him in the eyes. She didn’t want to show him how much his last question had hurt her. Right now, at this moment in time, none of her loved ones existed. She was alone.
‘So, what did they do?’ Tom asked and Harry twitched when she heard the perverse giddiness in his voice.
‘Want me to show you?’ She countered as she pointed her wand at his chest, faster than he could react.
He stared at it, for a moment. ‘If you use that, they’ll know.’ He said, his tone cold, again, as his gaze bored into her.
‘They won’t know who did it. I could leave and then it would be just you here. You and Mrs. Cole, and I don’t think that that will work out too well for you.’ She was honestly angry, now.
Riddle’s eyes widened, and he was about to say something else when they heard Edna’s heavy footsteps against the hardwood floor. Riddle was pale when he backed away from the door. He realized that he was about to be caught when Harry pulled him towards the closet, she’d been told she could use. She thought of it, as a bit of a joke. What was she supposed to put in this thing anyway? She didn’t have enough clothes to fill it even a quarter of the way.
‘What do you think you’re doing?’ He hissed at her, as he tried to pull his arm back. Harry was honestly surprised that he hadn’t thrown her off by now. He seemed honestly apprehensive about contact or insecure about how to react to it.
‘Shut up,’ She murmured, looking back towards the door as she quickly opened the closet and nudged him towards it. ‘get inside.’ She said hurriedly.
His eyes widened at her, and he was about to say something else when she shook her head. With one last look towards the door, he stepped inside the closet and let her close the door hurriedly behind him.
The wonderful wulcanbiology has been kind enough to beta read this chapter. <3 She’s also on ao3 and writes Tomarry, so if you want to go check her out, here’s a link to her profile:
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
‘You’re still up?’ Edna asked, disapproving, when she stepped into the room just a few seconds after Harry had closed the closet door to hide Tom.
‘Maddie kept me awake for most of the time,’ Harry admitted as she ran her fingers through her hair. She was exhausted.
Edna shook her head. ‘Go to bed girl, you’re just supposed to soothe them if they wake up before it’s time to feed, and feeding them is my job.’ Edna was one of the older girls, and she seemed harsh, but Harry was used to harsh kindness that sounded like a reprimand but meant something else entirely.
The red head nodded as she walked towards her bed. ‘I hate the self-soothing sounds they make.’
‘Ah, that’s something you’ll have to get used to,’ Edna nodded, as she picked up one of the smaller kids. ‘It’s better they do that, than cry.’
‘I know,’ Harry murmured as she started changing into her sleeping gown, which was just a long white dress shirt. It was probably from the guys uniform, but it reached down to her knees and hid everything well enough. Edna was also wearing hers, but she’d put a skirt over it to cover her legs a bit more since she had to come down from the girls’ room.
Harry angled herself away from the dresser as best as she could while she changed, almost sure that Tom was staring at them through the slit between the doors.
Edna was a prude, and Harry knew that she wouldn’t watch her change. She hadn’t done it the last time Harry needed to change in front of her either. The witch was thankful for that because she had to put her wand back into the waistband of her knickers in case she needed it later.
After half an hour of waking babies up and feeding them and putting them back to bed, Edna bid her goodnight, and Harry waited a few moments before tapping against her closet.
Riddle stepped outside cautiously, keeping his distance as best as he could, trying not to make too much noise.
When she finally caught his gaze, he examined her.
Harry couldn’t really place the way he was looking at her. It was somewhere between suspicious and surprised, and, maybe if you squinted, he even looked a bit thankful. But also angry about having to be thankful in the first place?
His eyebrows were pulled up, his jaw was set, and he was still staring at her.
‘Interesting,’ Tom finally said, breaking the awkward silence between them.
Harry swallowed thickly. She wasn’t about to ask him what he found interesting; she’d have to be an idiot to set herself up for that kind of conversation. Instead, she held her head high up and tried to school her features into cold indifference while he watched her.
When he realized that she wasn’t going to explain herself, his left eyebrow ticked up, and he looked like he was about to frown. Then he quickly stepped away from her and made his way to the door, making sure to close it loud enough to wake at least one of the babies back up.
Merlin, he was petty. Harry shook her head in disbelief.
Tonight had been a close call. He probably wouldn’t have been lurking around in the nursery if she hadn’t been thrown into the past, so having him get caught would change things. They’d probably assume that he was up to no good and maybe even go as far as to punish him for it. And that would change things, which was the last thing she wanted to do.
She let out the breath she’s been holding and went to lay down to sleep, her wand safely tucked under her pillow. She wasn’t so far gone on the whole savior thing that she seriously thought her mere presence in this time would change him. If Hogwarts hadn’t been able to teach him love, tolerance, and compassion, nothing else would.
Thankfully, Edna didn’t wake her up again and she was able to sleep through the third feeding, waking up just in time for breakfast. Harry didn’t have any chores for the next few days, besides the baby duty, which meant that she could go out and explore later. She smiled at Mary as they stood in line to get their two pieces of toast with butter and marmalade and a cup of tea. It wasn’t as filling as a hearty and fatty breakfast full of roasted veg and eggs would have been, but it didn’t leave her hungry either.
‘So, what do you have planned for today?’ Mary asked through her second bite of toast.
‘I’m still looking for that book shop,’ Harry said as she bit into her toast.
‘Hmm. Betty and I wanted to go out to the old station to see if we could find some newspapers to sell.’
‘Does that work?’ Harry looked up at her in surprise.
‘Lots of people leave them lying about on their way to work. We just pick them up and sell them for a few pennies,’ Mary explained.
‘That’s clever.’ Harry answered thoughtfully. ‘But I really need to find that store. Maybe another time, if that’s alright with you?’ she asked, and Mary nodded, even if she looked a bit sad.
Harry had been careful not to look into Riddle’s direction too much because she didn’t want Mary to insinuate anything, again. She’d seen him briefly when they walked in.
He sat alone in the far-right corner of the room and read Potions with Purpose unapologetic amidst the muggles. She would have hidden her face in embarrassment if she’d gotten away with it.
In his mind, he probably thought that this made him look somewhat special or interesting, but, in reality, he looked like a weirdo who was reading strange stuff that no one cared for.
Harry was going to have a coronary. Tom Riddle was a cruel nerd, Hermione gone wrong, as Ron would say.
After the quick breakfast, she hurried outside and started the long walk to Diagon. Today she’d move on from Flourish and Blott’s and start looking through the other book shops. She just needed to get a feeling for magical materials that had a potency for something like time travel.
Logically, she knew that they had to have been researching for materials for the first Time Turner already, but, without actually breaking into the ministry, she’d have a hard time getting this kind of information.
And breaking into the ministry was off the table, not in times of war, without a way to claim her identity. They’d probably think she was a spy or something. Riddle had actually unknowingly supplied her with a backstory in his attempt to shock and hurt her. She’d just have to verify it before she could actually try to use it.
Harry would have loved nothing more than to reach out to Dumbledore and asked for his help, but their relationship had suffered a lot over the last summer, and, if she was being honest, she couldn’t bring herself to trust him, at least not now, when she still felt betrayed by him.
After walking for a few minutes, she felt like she was being watched, and she sighed deeply as she turned around slightly and saw Riddle walking behind her. He was dressed in a simple wizarding robe and his school uniform without the tie.
He probably didn’t have much else to change into, but, then again, neither did she.
Not willing to let him know that she’d seen him and was aware of him, she continued walk. They walked like that for half an hour, ignoring each other and pretending they weren’t walking in the same direction.
When they finally reached Diagon Alley, Harry had had enough, not enough to talk to him, Merlin no, but enough to duck into Diagon, cast a few quick transfiguration charms, and stalk away, in an effort to ditch him.
Once, she ducked into a little bookstore just around the corner of Knockturn Alley, she was sure she’d lost him. The bookshop was old and a bit dingy, but it had a feeling of seniority over the newer shops Harry had explored in her time. It smelled like old books and a bit dusty. The warm light and the dark wood had something comforting about them. Harry heaved a deep sigh and started towards the beautiful dark bookcase.
‘Are you looking for something specific?’ an all too familiar voice drawled behind her.
‘Yeah, some peace and quiet,’ Harry said, without needing to turn around to know that he was sporting a victorious looking smirk. How had he found her so quickly?
‘I have to say, I’m a bit baffled that you didn’t think to transfigure your hair. It’s quite distinctive,’ Riddle remarked casually as he leaned against the bookcase she was currently browsing.
Harry, who’d taken a few steps away from him and was still looking through rows of books, hummed absentmindedly. Her hair wasn’t that distinctive, at least it didn’t seem that way when you hung out with the Weasley clan regularly.
She felt a sharp tag at one of her locks and glared up at Riddle who predictably smirked. He didn’t say anything, just kept her hair in his grasp, flirting with the idea of pulling at it again.
It seemed a bit juvenile, the hairpulling.
‘What?’ she finally asked, unnerved, as she reached out to slap his hand away from her hair.
‘You didn’t answer my question,’ he said, and he actually sounded offended as he rubbed the back of his hand.
She groaned inwardly. If she continued to antagonize him, she’d probably pay for it later. He already knew that she didn’t plan on ratting him out because of her little stunt with the closet.
‘I’m looking for a potion,’ she improvised instead, and Riddle tugged on her hair again, much sharper this time.
She didn’t react to it, just kept reading her book, when she heard his with derision drenched voice behind her.
‘What kind of book?’ he sounded like he was already losing his patience, which was impressive considering she hadn’t really done much to rile him up. She was going to have to evaluate if riling him up was really worth it. She knew that Tom Riddle will have killed someone by this time next year, and it would certainly mess up the timeline up, if that someone ended up being her.
‘The kind that’s none of your business,’ Harry murmured. She’d never excelled at impulse control.
She reached for one of the books that was situated on a higher shelf and was promptly shoved into the bookcase. Harry pushed back against him and away from the bookshelf to grasp at his arms as he gripped her by her hips. Her nails were scratching and biting into Riddle’s skin as the books pressed painfully into her front.
When she heard footsteps, she tried to wiggle away, but he wouldn’t let up.
‘Ageing Potion,’ she answered hurriedly, nails clawing helplessly at Riddle’s arms, not wanting to get caught like that by anyone. His fingers tightened once more around her hips before letting her go, and she knew that that would leave some ugly colored bruises behind.
When he finally stepped away, Harry immediately pushed herself away from the bookshelf, pulled out a book, and pretended to look through it as the owner of the footsteps, an old witch, looked around the corner, both eyebrows pulled up.
‘Can I help you?’ she asked, watching them critically.
‘No, thank you,’ Tom said, smiling charmingly while Harry looked up from the book index.
‘I was just looking for a book about the ageing potion?’ she said, ignoring the way Tom’s grin tightened.
The older witch watched her closely. ‘There’s a reference in the book Moste Potente Potions, but we don’t have it in stock at the moment.’
Harry was about to ask another question when Tom cut in, ‘Thank you for your help, we’ll be taking our leave now.’
We’ll be taking our leave now? Harry inwardly scoffed. Well aware that it would look very weird if she tried to struggle against him, she smiled at the elderly woman and let Tom pull her out of the shop.
He didn’t stop in front of it though. He kept pulling her into one of the empty corners along the alley.
‘What kind of Harpy are you?’ he asked her bitingly while he rolled up his sleeves to look at the deep crescent marks and scratches along his arms.
‘I’m not going to pull my skirt down to show you the bruises you left, but you can rest assured, we’re even.’ She grumbled as she pointed her wand at her hips and cast a quick Episkey.
Tom’s eyes whipped back up to her, but, before he could say whatever insult he was about to say, she cast a quick Episkey on his arms, turned around, and stalked back to the main street.
He didn’t follow her this time.
It had been a total lie, a distraction, but the ageing potion, might very well hold the secret ingredient she’d been searching for.
It wasn’t a huge leap to make to think that the very essence that aged the cells in your body might be able to transcend the concept of time and bring her back. Alright, so she was reaching, but she needed to start somewhere.
As she walked to Flourish and Blott’s, she noticed the group of young men. They were about her age and two of them seemed eerily similar. A Malfoy and a Black, probably, she surmised before she ducked into the old bookshop and out of their line of sight.
She needed money, she thought sadly. It wasn’t optional. It wasn’t something she could put off any longer. She really needed money.
‘Are you looking for help?’ she asked the stressed looking man behind the counter, and he turned towards her in surprise.
He examined her. ‘Only for the summer. We were just about to put up a sign,’ he nodded towards what he was penning, and she followed the movement.
It said Help Wanted, in big loopy letters. Two galleons a week didn’t sound bad at all. The man cleared his throat, pulling her attention back from the sign. ‘We just need someone to help with getting everything ready for the customers, organizing books, that sort of thing. You need to be able to cast Accio and you should be aware that anyone we take on, will have to stay through the hustle of back to school season,’ he explained while pulling out a little piece of parchment before mustering her sharply.
‘That would be perfect actually,’ she said, feeling more and more confident as she stepped closer to the counter.
‘What’s your name?’ the older man asked.
‘Harry Evans,’ she said, a bit reluctant, not knowing if he’d be bothered by it being a muggle surname.
‘Alright,’ he nodded, penning it down. ‘How old are you?’
‘I turn fifteen in July,’ she said as she pushed an errant strand of her back behind her ear. Technically, she already was fifteen, but she wouldn’t turn sixteen for eight more months, so making herself older seemed less realistic.
The man didn’t seem to mind her name or her age. ‘Well then, Harry, I’ll show this to the owner. He’ll be here later tonight. Come by tomorrow and I’ll let you know,’ he dismissed, and she nodded.
That hadn’t been too bad. If it didn’t work out here, she could always try the Quidditch shop. They’d also need help with all of the students flooding it each year.
She smiled to herself as she walked out of the crowded shop. Her little endeavor had taken a bit longer than she’d hoped it would, but she still had enough time to research Kent before having to go back.
Taking a book out of Mary’s book, she strolled around the streets and looked for old newspapers. Knowing the Daily Prophet, she was well aware that they’d milk a tragedy like that for weeks, if it really had happened. Tom could have been baiting her after all.
Mindful of the people around her, she carefully started collecting strewn about pages, and, after another hour had passed, she’d gotten enough to turn back. She’d been thrifty about it, not wanting to risk someone noticing her.
There had been three articles on the attack on Kent from everything she’d gathered. The attack had hit muggles and wizards alike. They were talking about twelve small communities who’d been completely eradicated. Apparently, it had been so bad that people who were still burning had apparated directly into St. Mungos begging and pleading for help. The perversely specific description and documentation of wounds and curses left her shuddering.
She knew danger.
But she didn’t know war and that was becoming increasingly clear.
Tom came back later than her and ignored her for the rest of the night, but he still accompanied her to Diagon Alley the next morning. She didn’t talk much, but Tom did.
Tom had a habit of watching others and commenting on what kind of life they must lead and how undeserving they were of it. It was more of an incessant monologue than anything else. He was well aware that Harry didn’t agree with him and tried to ignore him, which he took as an incentive to get a reaction out of her.
They parted ways as soon as they reached Diagon, which was a relief.
To her delight, the man from the other day and smiled at her when she went to visit Flourish and Blott’s bright and early. She’d gotten the job. After briefly discussing the conditions with her, he introduced himself as Daniel Kettleburn.
‘You can take your lunch break at noon, but you’ll have to stay ‘til five,’ he reminded her.
‘You get paid daily, that’s 5 sickles and 15 knuts, a day,’ he explained. She was glad that she’d get the money daily, because she knew that she would have to skip meals at the orphanage, and that she couldn’t afford to eat something in her lunch break otherwise. It was also enough to purchase a book or two.
‘This,’ he gestured towards the back of the office where a few thousand books were stapled so high up, they almost reached the ceiling. ‘Is your new office,’ he said.
‘Those,’ he nodded towards the rolled-up string and the scissors that were lying on the desk that filled up the center of it,‘Are your two new best friends. You’ll be organizing and sorting through packets of books for the next school year. Starting with the first years is highly recommended,’ Daniel turned around to her, and Harry nodded.
After casting the Accio charm a hell of a lot more than she’d ever needed to before, she managed to bind her first few packets before lunch. You also had to fill out two cards for each and every packet, detailing what books it held for the customer, and in what condition they were in for the bookstore.
‘We do secondhand packets, too. It’s required of you to fill these out, because we need to make sure our inventory is correct, by the end of it,’ he’d explained, curtly.
‘If you need help just, come get me,’ Daniel called, hurrying back to the counter as a customer rung the bell for him.
All in all, Harry was really happy with herself when she bypassed the Leaky during her lunch break, ignoring her empty stomach in favor of the book shop she’d been forced to leave the day before. She’d eat something great for lunch tomorrow. Hopefully.
The rest of the day was all right, she was proud to say that she didn’t need to ask for help once.
Harry met Riddle again as she was leaving Diagon. They were both in a hurry, and he looked at her for a moment before his eyes narrowed. ‘You got a job?’ he asked eyebrows pulled up.
She examined him, taking in his disarrayed robes and the exhaustion he was trying to hide. ‘You do, too.’
‘Yeah,’ he nodded. ‘At Burgin’s and Borke,’ he said, weirdly proud of his job, as if that place wasn’t sketchy at best. To be fair, it probably wasn’t in this time, she could only imagine how many dark and rich customers frequented the place.
‘Sounds dark and unpleasant,’ she remarked as they took a sharp turn.
‘Well, where do you work?’ he asked, sounding offended.
‘Flourish and Blott’s.’
‘I can’t imagine that they pay well,’ Riddle remarked scathingly, side-eyeing her.
Harry laughed. ‘It’s only two galleons per week, but—’ she was abruptly stopped by a hand on her arm.
‘What?’ Riddle asked, looking pale and honestly shocked from his position towering over her.
Harry eyed him in irritation. ‘What are you going to do, Riddle?’ she asked, mockingly. ‘Steal my lunch money?’
Tom just stared at her. ‘They give it to you daily?’ he asked and turned visibly angrier. Her eyes widened, as she nodded.
‘How much do you get paid?’ she asked, already aware that it was probably a lot less then he deserved. That seemed to spur him into action again. He ignored her and stalked forward.
‘Tom, I’m serious. How much do you get paid?’ she repeated, catching up to him, and he seemed to startle at her use of his first name.
‘Two galleons a month,’ he pressed out between his teeth and Harry stared at him.
‘What?’ she asked, and to her surprise, she sounded honestly angry.
‘I’m going to kill Malfoy when I get back,’ he seethed, not even trying to hide his anger anymore. His handsome face was contorted in a horrific grimace of pure unadulterated rage as he kept stalking down the street.
‘Is that the one who got you the job?’ she asked, knowing the answer already. God fucking damnit, Malfoys were just the worst.
‘He pulled me away at the end third year and told me about it,’ he said. ‘It’s a prestigious and well-known shop that pulls in a lot of rich customers,’ he imitated mockingly and as glad as she was, that he didn’t direct all of his anger at her, she knew that he couldn’t show up at the orphanage like that.
‘Tom, stop!’ She finally caught up enough to pull at his arm again and was promptly shoved against a wall, this time with her back chafing against the bricks behind her, and his hands securely placed over her upper arms as he pressed her back into it and menaced over her.
‘Make fun of me for this and you won’t live to tell the tale,’ he threatened darkly, and Harry pulled and pushed against him to get to her wand. But every time she thought she managed to gain a bit of ground on him, he shoved her back into the brick wall again.
‘I’m not going to make fun of you,’ she ground out. ‘You just can’t show up at the orphanage like that, you’ll get into so much fucking trouble, it’s just going to make everything worse,’ she pressed out through ground teeth while simultaneously trying to force him back.
He blinked at her, thrown off. ‘Why do you care?’ he asked eyes narrowed again.
Harry rolled her eyes. ‘I don’t have an ulterior motive here. You’re angry and I’m telling you the smart thing to do would be to take a fucking step back,’ she said, struggling against him for emphasis. She’d probably scratched his arms up again, too. Good. ‘And calm the fuck down, before Mrs. Cole throws you out.’ She heaved a deep breath, already feeling the pressure against her arms disappear.
He was still fuming, and she looked at him calculating. This was probably a bad idea. But she could kind of relate to him, and it wasn’t like anything she could do would change his view on the world anyway.
‘Do you want to eat at the Leaky?’ she asked, tiredly. She had wanted to do that anyway if she was being honest. They had advertised a hearty goulash as their dish of the day, and she’d been craving it ever since she saw it.
He looked angry again, and she realized what the issue was. ‘It’s on me,’ she said, hating herself a little for it because god fucking damnit, she needed the money.
He watched her for a bit longer. ‘Why are you doing this?’ he asked looking suspicious again.
‘Because we’re in a really shitty situation and if it’s a toss-up between you and Mrs. Cole, I’d rather have you on my team,’ she said shrugging.
Riddle frowned at her before he gave her a knowing look.
‘Billy Stubbs,’ he said slowly.
Harry stared at her hands, feeling the hot blush of shame on her face. ‘I can handle him,’ she said easily. She knew she could handle him with her magic and she already promised herself that she’d use it before the boy got any wrong ideas. He’d been staring a lot lately, and she was starting to get a bad feeling about sleeping so far away from everyone else.
‘Until he snaps,’ Tom said, before watching her again. ‘You’d be in Slytherin, you know,’ he said and now it was Harry’s turn to look offended.
Tom stared at her in exasperation as if she was being difficult or something. ‘That’s a good thing. It means you’re a clever witch,’ he said, and Harry looked at him in shock.
‘I didn’t think about it like that when I asked you,’ she said honestly, and he side-eyed her.
‘Maybe not clever, then, just opportunistic,’ he finished as he walked back to the direction they’d come from to get to the Leaky.
They sat at a corner table and both ordered a butterbeer and the goulash. She paid the two sickles for their order upfront and just watched the people around them. They were mostly ignoring them, which was nice. Wizarding fashion hadn’t changed a whole lot over the years. The women’s dresses seemed a bit more elaborate and colorful than Harry had seen in her own time.
There were also a lot more families around with smaller kids. She’d rarely seen them roam Diagon Alley before. Granted, she hadn’t spent a lot of time there, except for the time she accidentally blew aunt Marge up, but still. It had a different feeling about it. Weirdly, it seemed freer and more constricted at once. People seemed a bit colder. She was pulled from her thoughts by the arrival of the food.
Riddle didn’t say much during their meal. He seemed to relish the taste of the food as much as she did.
‘Why are you sleeping in the nursery?’ he asked after his first few bites.
‘The alternative was the attic.’
‘It’s not really safe,’ he remarked casually.
‘If something happens, I have my wand,’ she waved away.
‘Yeah, you do, but you’ve held back on my account multiple times, now. Will you really use it, when you’re in trouble?’ He eyed her curiously and she snorted derisively.
‘If Billy Stubbs shows up in my bedroom and tries to touch me while I’m sleeping, you best believe that I’m going to curse him, without even wasting a thought about you.’
Tom’s eyes widened, and he looked surprised, now. ‘Stubbs generally just beats people up or rats them out, what makes you think he’d want to do that?’ He sounded almost casual, when he asked her that.
Harry grabbed a piece of bread before she answered. ‘Just a feeling. He stares a lot.’
Tom frowned, ‘He’s always staring at girls.’
She looked up from her food and smirked at him. ‘That’s a weird thing to notice, Tom,’ she said dryly.
‘He’s been slapped so often for it, it’s not really all that surprising anymore.’
‘He’s been taunting me a lot before you came back. It just felt like he singled me out,’ she shrugged.
‘You’re fun to rile up,’ Tom admitted, for whatever reason. Seriously? Who said something like that to someone? She sighed.
‘So, I shouldn’t be worried?’
Tom paused for a moment before he watched her again. ‘You should keep an eye on it, but you don’t need to worry,’ he finally said, and something about the way he phrased that last part gave her pause.
‘You’re not going to hurt him, are you?’ she asked, watching him over her butterbeer.
‘Not, if he doesn’t give me a reason,’ Tom shrugged.
She eyed him warily but didn’t give it too much thought. This was baby Voldemort. He was bound to stir up some kind of trouble, sooner or later.
After they were done eating, they went back to the muggle street and hurried along to be back in time for curfew.
Once they arrived at the street that led up to the orphanage, it was already seven-fifteen, which meant they’d be cutting it close, but, when Harry turned the corner, she noticed that Tom stayed back. Their eyes met, and she realized that he didn’t want them showing up at the same time, implying that they’d come back together.
She quickly nodded at him and ran half of the remaining way. When she arrived, Mrs. Cole was already waiting for her.
‘Where were you?’ she asked, sternly.
‘I found the book shop,’ Harry explained. ‘They’re giving me a job,’ she mumbled, and Mrs. Cole’s eyes widened and then she smiled.
‘Where is it? Did you eat anything there?’ she asked, worriedly.
‘Down by Leadenhall Market and yes, one of the girls there shared their lunch with me.’ She nodded.
‘That’s good,’ Mrs. Cole nodded. ‘If you work, you can actually save up. God knows, where most of my girls end up,’ she said quietly and Harry did a doubletake at that.
Yeah, she had to come up with a contingency plan and soon because this was not a situation, she wanted to end up in.
When Tom showed up a few minutes later, he wasn’t asked where he’d been. He wasn’t reprimanded either. He just got a scathing look and that was it.
Harry knew that feeling of accomplishment, all too well. She always felt like she won when she managed to do something and walk away unscathed, but from this perspective, it looked a bit pathetic.
The wonderful wulcanbiology has been kind enough to beta read this chapter. <3
She’s also on ao3 and writes Tomarry, so if you want to go check her out, here’s a link to her profile:
Chapter 5: caught between holding on and letting go
A/N: I'm sorry you guys had to wait so long for this update, I'm going into exam season and it's been stressful. I hope you'll enjoy this chapter, it's a bit longer than usual. :) I wish all of you a merry christmas/ happy holidays and a happy new year ♥️🎄
"Now we're slipping near the edge
Holding something we don't need
Oh, this delusion in our heads
Is gonna bring us to our knees"
- Let It Go, James Bay
Tom walked with her to Diagon again the next day, too. However, this time they were having a serious conversation, and Harry didn’t know how to feel about it.
‘He’s treating you differently,’ Tom started completely out of context after they’d been already walking for a few minutes.
She sighed, knowing exactly what this was about. ‘I can handle myself.’
‘I saw that,’ Riddle answered dryly.
‘He bumped into me,’ as she said it she saw him smirk derisively out of the corner of her eyes.
‘He felt you up, Harry. There was nothing accidental about that.’
Harry stared ahead for a few more moments, contemplating the weird complicity she was building with baby Voldemort. This was not what she had envisioned for herself, but she didn’t feel worried about their interactions.
‘He won’t do it again,’ Harry finally answered, rolling her eyes at the thought of being a damsel in distress. She’d gone through a hell of a lot more than Tom could imagine, and she was more than capable of handling Billy freaking Stubbs.
‘Billy Stubbs is an uncultured swine. He’ll do it as often as he can manage to get away with it,’ Riddle stated, watching her with that signature pulled up eyebrow that seemed to mock her for her naivety.
‘I can’t very well punch him for stumbling. Mrs. Cole would immediately ground me and then I’d lose my job,’ Harry recounted.
‘She likes you. She’d probably listen to you if you try to tell her.’
Harry snorted derisively. ‘She might like me alright, but she adores Billy. I wouldn’t stand a chance.’
‘What is it about him?’ Riddle asked, sounding honestly annoyed. ‘He’s not good looking, he’s not smart, he’s just painfully average,’ He shook his head.
Harry examined him and saw that he was honestly confused by idea of Billy Stubbs holding any kind of appeal to anyone. Harry could relate to that, thinking back to Dudley. She’d never understood his appeal on strangers, either. But she’d never questioned why the Dursleys loved him.
‘You can’t evaluate why people love who they love and hate who they hate,’ she deducted after a few moments of silence.
Riddle stared at her surly as if he’d expected more of her. ‘If you really think that, then you’re naïve.’
Harry watched him for a long moment and couldn’t help but think that he really didn’t understand a damned thing if he thought that it was that easy. She could probably talk ‘till she was blue in the face, and it still wouldn’t stick. It would sound preachy and weird. She didn’t even know how to start explaining it.
Riddle raised an eyebrow at her silence and smirked, but she didn’t raise to the bait.
‘Are you going to quit your job?’ Harry asked instead.
‘Yes,’ Riddle said, looking angry again. ‘I plan on interviewing with the apothecary,’ he elaborated, eyeing her.
‘That makes sense they always have a lot to do around the start of the new school year as well. They’ll probably have you arranging packets, too.’
He nodded. ‘That was what I thought. Besides, they offer three galleons a week,’ he said looking away towards Diagon, and she could see that he was trying to hide a smirk.
Harry almost laughed at the idea that he thought he’d won some kind of imaginary pissing contest but then she stopped to think about what having an acquaintance in the apothecary would mean for her, and she started nodding enthusiastically. She’d probably be able to get her hands on all kinds of rare ingredients.
‘That’s amazing Riddle!’ she nodded enthusiastically as he watched her through narrowed eyes again but didn’t comment any further on it.
Harry had a nice day at Flourish and Blott’s. She spent most of it holed up in the back room and used her lunch break to look through the potion books assigned for each curriculum. She found the Ageing Potion and saw that the ground up Dementor eggshells are the most potent ingredient.
She shuddered to think about how anyone discovered that. They didn’t quite look like sand, but that was because they ground the shells finer for the potion.
After a few quick cross references into her research, Harry realized that everything she could do with this information had to be highly theoretical until she found a potion master that could help her because she’d probably end up killing herself if she tried to do it alone. The shells were highly potent and had to be prepared for weeks until they were ready to use.
She heaved a deep sigh and reminded herself that this was all about baby steps. She’d get there. Maybe this wasn’t the way, maybe this was just a steppingstone in the right direction, and maybe this was not going to lead to anything. The point was she’d get there, eventually.
She just knew it. She couldn’t bear the thought of never hearing Ron laugh again. Or Hermione gush about something that was so far out of the realm of things that Harry understood that the know-it-all might as well have danced her feelings.
Harry wasn’t in a good mood when she came out of work later that evening. She’d been trying to keep her spirits up, but she knew that she hadn’t gotten anywhere yet.
Thoughts of never seeing her loved ones were creeping up more often lately, and even if she believed she could, she still had to accept that the world told her that she couldn’t. That no one ever would be able to and that no one should even try to time travel in the future. And being confronted with that was the truly scary part because she could not afford to lose hope.
Harry knew not to believe it, after all she’d traveled further back than any documented witch or wizard ever had. Her world would have told her that that was impossible, but when she was faced with the facts of what was possible and what wasn’t it was still hard to believe in herself rather than the textbooks.
After a short moment of contemplating what she’d rather do, walk back alone with her thoughts or listen to Riddle, she sighed in defeat and made her way over to the apothecary. They always closed last because they had to write up how much of everything had been sold each day. The ministry kept track of a lot of rare potion ingredients. She still remembered her second-year trip when the elderly woman had ranted all about it while she’d regretted reaching out to her to ask if she’d seen a bunch of red heads. The answer had been a resounding no. She didn’t have time for that kind of nonsense.
Standing outside of the apothecary, she saw Riddle hurry along inside. He was looking through the inventory, making quick work of counting everything.
Her eyes travelled along the shockingly empty street until they landed on Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor. The prices were good, just 10 knuts for one scoop of ice cream. Quickly making up her mind, she walked over and contemplated her choices.
‘What can I do for you?’ asked a pudgy young woman with a beautiful face.
‘I’d like two cones, one with a scoop of strawberry and one with vanilla.’ Harry finally said, eyeing the display.
Just buying herself one seemed like an icky thing to do. She wasn’t used to that kind of thinking, never had been. Being friends with the Weasleys meant sharing, be it a precious map that was gifted to her or a book that was loaned or their family. They shared with her unconditionally. It was their mentality, and it made them much more endearing to her than anything else ever could.
Her parents would probably be turning over in their graves if they could see her now, buying ice cream for their murderer. She probably gave a younger version of herself a migraine doing that, but, Merlin, she needed this, needed a moment that didn’t suck.
‘Of course, anything else?’ the woman asked kindly as she distributed generous scoops into each of the cones.
‘That will be all.’ Harry said and tried to smile.
‘Alright, then that’ll be 20 knuts.’ she smiled back warmly as she handed her the cones.
Decision made, she walked back to the apothecary, keeping the vanilla ice under a stasis charm while she waited on a bench next to the shop. It was a bit cloudy, but, every time the sun peeked through, she felt the warmth of it and saw how the light was reflected in the windows.
Not even ten minutes later, Riddle stared at her and her two cones of ice cream in surprise.
‘Congratulations on getting the job!’ Harry said, feeling dumb as she held out the vanilla cone to him.
Tom eyed it warily. He looked a bit confused with the situation as if he hadn’t thought she’d wait, never mind celebrate with him.
‘I’ll eat it if you don’t want it,’ she offered while still nursing her strawberry ice.
‘No,’ Tom said a bit too quickly. ‘No, I’ll take it,’ he repeated before pulling out his wand and running a diagnosis charm on it, presumably checking for poison.
Harry couldn’t help herself. She laughed at that level of paranoia, and Riddle actually looked embarrassed when he finally bit into his ice cream like a crazy person.
They walked back together in relative silence.
‘Why did you wait for me?’ Tom asked, and Harry actually flinched when she was reminded of the reason why she had done it.
‘Bad memories,’ she explained, trying to control her breathing. It wasn’t a good idea to lie to Riddle when he was serious about something.
Tom just eyed her for a while.
‘Is it about what happened to you?’ he asked tersely.
‘No,’ Harry shrugged, thinking about what was really bothering her, ‘I guess it’s more about what it means,’ she finished lamely.
‘You could probably go to Hogwarts.’
‘I don’t have any school papers.’ Harry stepped through the brick wall, hiding her head by looking down.
‘So they’d have to test you. You wouldn’t be the first one they had to do that for,’ Tom shrugged as he brushed up next to her.
Harry paused for a moment.
Going to Hogwarts would mean influencing people. She wasn’t doing that now, at least not in a meaningful way. Tom was still a horrible person, and she was reasonably sure that whatever she did in their time together wouldn’t influence his hatred for muggles, at least not in a way that mattered, not enough to stop him from creating his diary, anyway.
Hell, a part of her didn’t even want him to. She wanted a place to return to, but, she had to admit that it got increasingly difficult to imagine him becoming a noseless snake creature in the future.
‘I’ll have to think on it,’ Harry answered belatedly, realizing he was waiting on her. ‘Generally speaking, I would like to finish my schooling,’ she said to no one in particular.
Riddle nodded, somewhat appeased. ‘And the ice cream?’ he asked, still hung up about her laughing at him.
‘I needed to do something fun,’ she shrugged, thinking back to ‘There’s so much bad stuff going on that it sometimes feels like it drowns out all the good. It felt good to celebrate stuff whenever you can.’
‘Did your guardians do that for you?’ he asked absentmindedly while he turned to walk closer to her as he stared along the street. When she followed his line of sight, she saw a group of drunkards yelling and laughing just on the corner of the street.
‘Merlin, no,’ she shook her head and almost laughed at the thought. ‘But my friends did, or they tried to do it for me,’ she smiled, remembering Hagrid’s cake and the years worth of Weasley sweaters that she held on to. Hermione’s care packages were admittedly the most useful ones because she actually thought about nutrition and pesky things like vitamins when she put them together.
He nodded thoughtfully. ‘Did you ever end up finding out what you need for your ageing potion? It seemed important,’ he said, sounding almost casual.
Harry groaned, not being able to hide her frustration, ‘I did, but it turned out to be absolutely useless.’
‘Why were you researching it?’ he stepped away from her as soon as they turned the corner and the men were out of their field of vision. He’d definitely done that on purpose, she noted.
‘You could say that it was my last homework,’ Harry murmured, sounding sad, and, yeah, Tom was definitely judging her. He looked a bit like he wanted to say something that would be insensitive to the highest degree, so she changed the topic as best as she could. ‘How did quitting your job work out for you?’
‘Brilliantly,’ Tom said, curtly, and Harry was half convinced that he’d burned the shop to the ground before she remembered that she definitely would have heard about that.
‘Is your old boss still alive?’ she asked warily.
‘Of course,’ Tom answered dryly and was about to say something else when the air raid siren droned over their heads.
Harry paled as she saw everyone stream out on to the streets and hurry to hide in the basements or run to the nearest bunker they could find.
Sprinting towards the orphanage seemed like her best bet, but, when she started in that direction, Riddle held her back.
‘They wouldn’t wait there for us. They are already on their way to the shelters. We should meet them there,’ he told her hurriedly.
Harry watched him in shock. ‘Harry eatch him in shock, saw the fear in his eyes, and, still, he hesitated, waiting for here. She nodded.‘ ‘Where would they go to hide?’
‘The old underground,’ he called back as he grabbed her arm and navigated them through the rubble.
‘If something comes down around us, I’m casting the biggest Protego, I can manage. Wizarding secrecy be damned!’ Harry screamed as Tom hurled her around another corner. The sirens were blaring, children were crying, and people were running around searching for shelter. It was bad.
Harry was fast, but she wasn’t exactly steady, not on rubble, Riddle, on the other hand, was used to it and guided them through expertly.
He looked back at her when she yelled that absolutely mindless of the muggles around them and smirked.
‘I feel safer already.’ He yelled breathlessly against the droning sound of the air raid sirens. And Harry couldn’t help it, she laughed.
They had been running for fifteen minutes when Riddle pushed her towards an old building.
After running down three ridiculously steep flights of stairs, they finally caught up to the others. Harry saw Mrs. Cole first and ducked through the crowd of people to let her know that they were there.
The old woman looked from her and Tom in surprise before she seemed to accept it and handed her one of the two toddlers that were clinging onto her skirt.
‘Can you carry him for a bit? He’s been struggling since we made it down the stairs,’ she asked, and Harry nodded before letting herself fall back so that she stood next to Riddle, again.
‘You should go to the others,’ Tom said, and when had Riddle become Tom in her mind? She seemed to keep slipping up with that. He was supposed to be Riddle, damnit.
Harry stared at him for a few moments. ‘I can go back if you want me to,’ she kept her tone as neutral as she could when she said it.
Tom didn’t tell her that he wanted her by his side. He didn’t tell her to leave either, which was probably as much of an invitation to stay as she was going to get from him.
By the time they all had found seats in the empty subway car, the boy she’d been carrying had fallen asleep in her arms. He felt heavy and warm, and he’d buried his face in the crook of her neck.
Mary sat on her other side. They were all somewhat huddled together, which wasn’t a surprise when it was the toddler that cuddled closer. It wasn’t unusual for Mary to seek her out either, the girl tried to include her in everything she did, but it was shocking coming from Tom. He’d scooted closer to her, too, and pressed his side against hers.
They sat hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder, and they both didn’t say a word about it.
They could hear the muffled sounds of faraway detonations and see the exhaustion and fear on the faces of the people all around them. A few of the kids were crying, and Mrs. Cole did her best to calm them down.
An old man was telling stories from his childhood. They weren’t anything particularly funny, horrible, or interesting but they were filled with memories of kind hands and mischief. He had a carefree childhood and he shared it with them. Most of his stories were centered around him stealing fruits from his neighbor’s apple tree, of which all of them ended with his mother pulling at his ears.
It helped because it distracted them. After an hour of soft snoring against her neck, Mary tipped her shoulder. ‘I can take him now,’ she said, smiling at Harry, who switched gratefully with her.
‘Are you okay?’ she asked Tom after a while.
‘Of course.’ He sounded angry when he said that.
‘Yeah, me neither,’ Harry murmured as she let her head fall back against the subway car.
The walk back felt a lot longer than it was, probably because she was carrying a toddler around for most of it, but so were most of the others. The fact that she’d sat with Tom had caught everyone’s attention, and people were staring, and she hated when they did that.
He didn’t touch her again, not in the casual way he did when they were alone.
She was used to Tom brushing up against her shoulder, grabbing her arm, pulling at her hair, pushing her into stuff. Okay, those were mostly horrible, but she noticed that he’d distanced himself, probably as a reaction to everyone’s attention.
So she turned to him and said loud and clear. ‘Thank you for showing me how to get there without you. I wouldn’t have found it.’
A lesser man would have rolled his eyes, but Tom’s mask was perfectly in place as he nodded at her rather impassively.
July 31st was spent with a sense of melancholy. Harry knew that her birthday wasn’t supposed to be for another seven months, but the date still felt significant. It served as a reminder of how misaligned with everything she was. She wasn’t even in a time that existed parallel to her own.
She’d just begun to develop a routine and that was already bad enough. Settling in was the last thing she should be doing. Her research on dementor eggshells had brought forth shockingly little information. That was troubling because it meant she’d either have to brew the Reditus potion and try mixing in the essence in abysmally small interims until it yielded some kind of reaction, or she’d have to start over again. That just meant that she needed to further her education on magical beasts and materials.
Of course, she was aware that her whole theory hinged on the fact that neither the metal nor the glass of the time turner had been magically manipulated to appear as they were. She also wasn’t sure if the Reditus potion would be able recognize her mental pain and take her back to where she came from.
It looked bleak, but she tried not to give into her frustrations. She’d keep going, that much was obvious.
Tom was still talking to her. She didn’t know why she just assumed he’d stop after he’d been vulnerable and shown her that he was nervous during the raid.
The first day after the evacuation he seemed wary as if he waited for her to comment on anything. It was true that she’d been surprised by his desire to stay near her when they were huddled together in the abandoned subway car. Harry had known that he found her tolerable, even if he didn’t trust her, but pressing his side against hers and actually guiding her to safety both were a bit different from that.
There had been four more raids since the first one in the beginning of July. They were always somewhat somber, but his behavior towards her didn’t change. He didn’t talk at all when they were with the others, and, during these raids, they always stayed with them, even if Tom despised them, and they hated Tom.
He just sat there, pressed against her side, not commenting on the usually wailing baby or toddler she’d been settled with until someone else took over.
Harry didn’t know what to say about that. She didn’t know what to feel about it, either. That much was clear. It certainly didn’t fit her image of a dark lord in diapers that didn’t need anyone. On the other hand, she also had to remind herself that she would just be a part of a few weeks of his life before he returned to Hogwarts.
He would have killed when he returned to the orphanage for the next summer. There was an eternity between who he was now and who she thought of when she heard the name Voldemort. The differences between them were far reaching, and she had to keep reminding herself of the fact that Tom wasn’t just Tom when they spent time together.
It was hard, especially since he started preaching. Tom wanted her to attend Hogwarts. He kept reminding her that she needed to finish her magical education if she wanted to amount to anything.
And then he had examples, people who’d been pulled out to get married or take over different jobs and responsibilities and how everyone knew about it, and no one ever let them forget that they’d dropped out without finishing their education.
‘That doesn’t even make sense,’ Harry said, exasperated.
‘We’re living in the magical world. It doesn’t have to make sense. They’ll judge you, and you won’t get opportunities to learn if you don’t go,’ Tom answered condescendingly.
He wasn’t wrong, but, at the moment, she had to think more practically. Hogwarts was a huge temptation in the sense that it held a lot of resources. She missed the familiarity of the castle, but returning would be dangerous; the familiarity could reveal that she knew more about it than she’d let on. She’d also be tempted to make friend and that could very well influence the timeline. The last year had been horrible, and yet she was still tempted to seek out Dumbledore. She wasn’t sure why she felt that way because she’d bet anything that he wouldn’t be looking out for her best interest in this.
Harry was still packaging packets. With the beginning of the new school year just around the corner, she didn’t want to think too much about all the ways she felt inadequate by going over her theories on time travel again. No, she needed to focus. These next few weeks were going to be tough if the last three days had been anything to go by. Students over students had swamped the store, desperate to be get their shopping done quickly.
Daniel was increasingly stressed, and, eventually, she was forced to help out up front. A few students looked slightly familiar. She encountered the unnaturally blonde hair of the Malfoy’s as well as the startling grey eyes of the Blacks, but she kept her head up, and the transaction simple.
Except for the Malfoy, everyone seemed to take that as a hint not to talk to her, but then again she’d never quite gotten rid of the Malfoy of her time either.
‘I’ve never seen you around before,’ he said examining her. ‘The youngest Banks usually helps out around here,’ he added when she didn’t react to him.
‘That seems about right,’ Harry nodded before turning around to help the next customer.
‘What’s your name?’ he asked, examining her as she brought one of the packets up for the family and cashed up.
‘Evans,’ she said, not bothering with a first name because she hoped that the muggle name alone would deter him.
‘Evans?’ he asked, frowning as she bid the customer who chuckled about Malfoy’s insistence to talk to her farewell.
‘Yes,’ she said, nodding. ‘Evans,’ she repeated for good measure while greeting the next one in line, wondering when the Malfoy heir would take the hint.
‘I think the Rosier know an Evans family near West Sussex,’ he remarked, watching her.
Harry groaned inwardly, but it took real effort to keep the exasperation out of her face. ‘Interesting,’ she commented when she looked over the next book list. A second-year girl with pig tails stood in front of her.
Her mother was clothed in simple muggle attire, and Harry could see Malfoy wrinkle his nose at her from the corner of her eyes.
‘I was wondering,’ the woman started, watching her carefully as if she was insecure, ‘if there were any books on the wizarding world? Dorothy is going for her second year and I know very little about the world she’ll be living in,’ the woman said shaking her head sadly.
‘Of course,’ Harry smiled eagerly as she accioed three of the books that came to mind to the register.
Hermione’s books on wizarding culture had all been written around this time and sooner. During Voldemort’s reign no one thought to publish anything like it, and, afterwards, the books seemed a bit lackluster and edited, missing key information about the war and the racism. At least that was what Hermione used to say.
‘We have A World Of Its Own by Johnathan Morgan, Wizarding Britain, A History by Ruth McCloud, and A Life Between Two Tiers by William Sarafin,’ she finished, showing her the books.
The older woman nodded. ‘How much would that add up to?’
‘With the school shopping?’ Harry followed up, and the woman nodded.
Harry looked through the books. ‘We’re looking at 2 galleons and 10 sickles,’ she said, as she punched the numbers into the till.
The woman’s gaze wavered.
‘I wouldn’t recommend A World Of Its Own,’ Malfoy spoke up, and he actually sneered. ‘That author does little to show any of our culture. He concentrates on making everything relatable.’
The woman laughed. ‘Relatable?’ she asked in disbelief, staring at Harry who’d absentmindedly accioed another stack of books from the back and started to sort through it. ‘Nothing about this world is relatable to mine. That’s why I need to educate myself,’ she said sadly as she watched her young daughter.
Harry nodded. ‘We have a used version of A Life Between Two Tiers. If you skip out on A World Of Its Own but keep Wizarding Britain, A History, you’d be down to 1 galleon, twelve sickles, and six knuts,’ she finished, stacking up the books.
‘I’ll take them,’ the woman nodded. ‘Thank you, young man,’ she said to a Malfoy that looked torn between feeling good about getting praised and recognizing that he was receiving praise from someone he considered to be worthless.
By the time Harry was done with her customer, there was no trace left of the Malfoy heir. The day followed a similar pattern; she helped customers, went through packages, and inhaled a quick lunch.
Her eyes widened when she was done and saw Tom was already waiting for her out front. ‘I didn’t realize it was already this late,’ she said, surprised as she cast a quick tempus to check the time.
‘It’s not,’ Tom answered, sounding bored. ‘He let me go early because I brewed him two fresh batches of Memory Potion.’
Harry nodded, ‘That’s fair.’
‘It isn’t, which is why he allowed me to keep 5% of the revenue of the potions,’ Tom smirked.
‘Hmm,’ Harry said, watching him carefully from the corner of her eyes. ‘Was he drunk when he promised you that?’ she finally asked knowingly.
‘He might have been,’ Tom said as he evaded a small ball that the kids who’d been playing with it on the street had accidently kicked over to them.
Naturally, he didn’t even move to kick it back. ‘At least he has enough memory potion now to actually remember that he made the deal,’ Harry murmured dryly as she kicked it back to the kids, who were waving at her.
Tom rolled his eyes at her. ‘Did you meet anyone interesting today?’ he asked a bit too knowingly.
‘I wouldn’t describe him that way,’ she said, shaking her head, and Tom paused.
‘Who was it?’ he asked, and Harry thought back to the meeting.
‘He didn’t tell me his name,’ she remembered, ‘but that didn’t stop him from asking for mine.’
‘Describe him to me. I know most of your customers,’ Tom said, sounding curious.
‘Blonde, blue eyed, kind of a snob, very ugly sneer. Thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread.’ Harry recounted as she tried not to mix up the eerily similar looking Malfoys.
‘That’s Abraxas,’ Tom said, and his mood darkened. ‘He talked to you?’ There was quite a bit of surprise in his tone.
‘Yes, didn’t even run for the hills when he heard that my last name was Evans,’ Harry said shaking her head. ‘But me encouraging a muggle mom who wanted to read up on the wizarding world must have done him in,’ she nodded.
Tom stared at her. ‘Why would you do that?’
‘Do what?’ she asked, confused.
‘I didn’t set out to do that, but I knew he wasn’t going to accept me for who I am, and I’m not going to lie about it because that would feel like I was agreeing with him.’
‘But you don’t know if you’re muggleborn or not,’ Tom frowned at her.
‘You’re right. It’s possible that I might be a half blood, but, to a guy like that, that wouldn’t make a difference, and I’m not denouncing myself for an opportunity that he might never provide.’ She watched the street, with something like trepidation.
‘I really don’t want to deal with kids right now,’ she said, shaking her head, changing the topic because she realized that she sounded preachy. ‘I don’t mind watching them now and again, and I’d rather wake up twice a night then sleep in the attic, but Mrs. Cole is getting a bit weird about it,’ she said, shaking her head.
‘I think she noticed that we get along,’ Tom shrugged at her when she watched him, uncomprehending.
‘We wouldn’t get up to anything untoward with a baby around, would we?’ he asked, grinning at her crookedly, and her eyes widened. That smile reminded her of Ron. It was his I’m-fond-of-you-but-you-are-missing-something-obvious smile. And yes, that existed. Hermione had a different variation of it. It was her I’m-shocked-at-your-disturbing-lack-of-knowledge-and-I’m-going-to-need-a-second scowl. Hermione’s version was a lot less endearing, but Harry missed it anyway.
Future racist supreme and super villain Tom Marvolo Riddle was smiling at her, and it looked almost fond, almost like he meant it.
‘Are you serious?’ she asked in abstract horror, and he laughed at her apprehension.
‘Oh, Mrs. Cole thinks I’m the devil. She absolutely does it because she wants you away from me and would rather see you with Mary and the others, but she knows that you actually like me.’
Harry scoffed at that, and Tom’s eyes narrowed.
‘She know that you like me,’ he repeated, and Harry huffed again.
‘Repeating it doesn’t make it true,’ she laughed lightly, and Tom’s arm sneaked around her as he pulled her against his shoulder in a weird head lock gesture while lightly pressing his hand over her mouth.
‘As I was saying,’ he sighed, unnerved, while she grumbled against his hand. ‘She knows that you like me. And she’s trying to keep you occupied.’
Harry kicked her leg out and into his shin and was promptly pulled in closer as he tensed up and hissed before he released her.
He always did that, exert that tiny bit of dominance over her, to remind her that he could hold longer onto her, if he wanted. Tom wasn’t letting go of her unless he wanted to. And he paused to make sure she knew that, too.
He was incredibly controlling that way.
‘How are you handling getting up early?’ she asked, already dreading how early they’d have to start going back tomorrow morning, well aware of Riddle’s apathetic behavior in the mornings.
Tom stared at her for a moment. ‘I’m not.’
He was always surprised when she didn’t react to his roughhousing if it could even be called that. She’d grown up with Dudley and spent most of her time with Ron. She knew roughhousing, and his attempts at it were a bit weird. He held himself back a lot. She didn’t know what to expect from him. She knew that he was capable of cruelty, and, yet, she didn’t fear him, not, yet, anyway.
She’d never shied away from being casual physical contact, which meant that she really couldn’t relate to him that way, not in this, anyway but at least he seemed to respect her for standing up to him.
They didn’t arrive separately anymore but she spent almost no time with him at the orphanage. It was a bit disappointing that Mrs. Cole put that amount of effort into keeping Tom away from her when Billy freaking Stubbs got creepier by the second.
These past few days she’d used Mary more often as a human shield than she cared to admit. He wasn’t just getting handsy, though. No, he was getting angry, and Harry was getting antsy. She’d never been in a situation like this before, and she wanted to do nothing more than to put Billy in his place, remind him that she was more than capable of defending herself and that it was a horrible idea to be testing her like this.
But she kept her mouth shut and her threats to herself because Billy had gotten away with so much in his life that he had this ignorant fearlessness about him, a firm belief that he would get away with anything. She knew he’d escalate sooner or later, but she wasn’t about to provoke it, at least not intentionally.
Harry heaved a deep sigh as she climbed up the two flights of stairs to deposit one of the babbling toddlers she shared her room with in the playroom. John couldn’t climb the stairs alone yet. Upstairs, she poked her head into the girl’s dormitory to the far right to let Betty know that he was there before heading back down.
Today she had to help Claire in the kitchen. Thankfully, it wasn’t anything too difficult. Harry just needed to peel a few potatoes and carrots. It took her a bit longer than usually. The exhausting day at work combined with the limited amount of sleep and time to herself was starting to take its toll on her. Dumb as it may sound, she missed her tiny, shitty room at the Dursley’s in moments like this. Where she’d been tucked away from all the unpredictability, the expectations, and the uncertainty. Where she could hide out alone in her room with a book and an insane amount of care packages and the knowledge that no one would disturb her.
After dinner, she immediately made her way back to her room, bypassing Mary and a determined looking Mrs. Cole, who was already looking from Harry to the four year old clinging to her skirt in favor of her bed.
Once she was inside the quiet nursery, she knew she was beyond exhausted. Harry quickly changed out of her clothes, threw the oversized dress shirt on, and climbed under the covers. Sleep claimed her within a few peaceful silent moments.
When she woke up again, it was still dark out, and the room felt a bit colder than it had when she turned in for the night. The others were fast asleep, by now. She wasn’t sure what had woken her but she felt dehydrated when she groggily sat up and reached for the glass of water.
Edna had probably put it out for her before she went to bed. Before she was able to grip the glass, she felt that listless, unnerving feeling that indicated that she was being watched.
Calming her breath, she cautiously reached for the glass while her other arm sneaked under her pillow in an attempt to try and feel for her wand. She’d been incredibly tired yesterday evening, but she wouldn’t have forgotten her wand. She was sure of it, and, yet, she couldn’t find it. Lurching forward quickly— she pulled the glass close to her, anything could be a weapon if you tried hard enough, and hurled around, expecting to see Billy only to find Tom Marvolo Riddle sitting on her bedroom floor.
He was wearing his sleep clothes, too, his hair was in disarray, and he held his wand easily in his right hand. She felt a shiver run down her spine as she took in the scene before her.
‘What are you doing here?’ she whispered, unhappy with how scared she sounded.
Tom didn’t smirk at her, neither did he look particularly angry, ‘I’m waiting,’ he said, calmly.
‘Are you looking for this?’ He held his left hand up slowly while he twirled her wand around his fingers.
The wonderful wulcanbiology has been kind enough to beta read this chapter. <3
She’s also on ao3 and writes Tomarry, so if you want to go check her out, here’s a link to her profile: