Being back at home was, well, no different from usual really. Sirius and Remus were pretty much the same (‘we tell you not to kill people, and what do you do? You kill people) and Blaise was still living with them over the term break. He even helped decorate the house with them and took great pleasure in covering Eliza from head to toe in tinsel and glitter.
Sometimes Eliza wondered why she put up with them all.
And then she remembered that Sirius was teaching her how to drive the motorbike and she accepted the glitter being tossed over her with a quiet dignity.
It would be worth it in the end.
Eliza trotted down the staircase, she usually gave in too the childish urge to slide down the bannister which always gave poor Kreacher a heart attack but she was afraid if she gave into that urge tonight she would ruin her dress for the Malfoy Yule Ball.
She wished she could duck at least once but knowing Narcissa came with a heavy price, she would never be allowed to miss a Malfoy Yule Ball for as long as she lived.
“Merlin Eliza” Blaise breathed as she finally joined him in the parlour “You’re going to give people heart attack’s”
Eliza smirked and smoothed out her dress, it was a grey backless dress that flared out about her because merlin forbid the wizarding world accepted anything form fitting. It was covered in rhinestones and had a long slit in the side revealing her legs and the red heels she had stolen off Daphne.
She planned to cause quite a stir tonight.
“Nope” Sirius said as he walked into the room “You can’t go out in that”
“Why not?” Eliza replied innocently to which Remus, who had only just walked into room, let out a long sigh at.
“It’s too revealing” Sirius squawked and Blaise let out a loud laugh beside her.
“I never took you for a prude Sirius” Eliza drawled and started edging towards the fireplace as Sirius started spluttering indignantly.
“I’ll have you know-
“Oh would you look at that” Blaise said cheerily, pushing Eliza into the floo “It’s time to go”
“Don’t you dare-
“Malfoy Manor” Eliza spoke with barely muffled laughter and disappeared into the floo, tripping out the other side. She dusted her dress off as she waited for Blaise to appear. No-one was waiting for them in the foyer this time, Narcissa would already be in the main hall greeting guests with Lucius as she and Blaise were running late. Intentionally, of course.
Technically Eliza wasn’t meant to be at the ball tonight at all. Narcissa was expecting her but everyone else was under the impression that Eliza wouldn’t be attending this Yule Ball, especially considering Lord Gaunt would be attending as well. Dumbledore had no idea she planned to cause a scene and at this time neither did Tom. She was considering it payback for not letting her know about the whole Sanguini thing.
Would it have killed him to send a message? A ‘hello darling, the vampires know about you and one especially creepy one will be at your party tonight – have fun’
But he hadn’t done that, so, payback.
“Shall we, Heir Zabini?” Eliza asked as Blaise finally stepped out of the floo. Blaise smirked in response and linked their arms together
“Why I believe we shall Heir Potter”
Together she and Blaise made their way into the main ballroom, shimmering with icicles and crystals and Eliza smiled at the sight.
“I’ve found Theo” Blaise said with something like shock in his voice and Eliza followed to where his dark eyes were looking.
Theo was talking to someone. The boy had shockingly bright blue hair that stood out in the crowd and both she and Blaise watched as the boy burst into bright ringing laughter, Theo listening with an indulgent smile.
“Who is that?” Eliza asked and Blaise narrowed his eyes.
“You know” he said “I have no bloody clue”
She and Blaise were just about to walk over when they were interrupted by Daphne “They’ve been talking to each other for twenty minutes now – that’s practically a years’ worth of socialising in Theo’s world” she said excitedly.
“Oh my Merlin” Blaise breathed, gripping onto Daphne’s arm when Theo allowed himself to be dragged to join the other couples dancing “Who is this boy?”
“That” Draco said, popping up out of the crowd to throw his arm over Blaise’s shoulder “Is Elijah Sinclair, a cousin of mine on my father’s side who dropped by for the ball”
“Well” Eliza started, watching as Theo and Sinclair left the dance floor and started making their way towards a secluded corner “It seems unfair that we know Sinclair’s name and he doesn’t know ours”
“You’re right Eliza” Daphne said with vehemence “we really should go over there and introduce ourselves to him”
“Would be rude of us not to, really” Blaise added in.
Together they started to try and discretely make their way over to the pair in the corner, making their way through the crowd.
“Ah cousin Elijah” Draco exclaimed dramatically as they neared “I see you’ve met our Theo”
Instead of looking abashed the blue-haired boy grinned brightly “Cousin Draco! You didn’t say your friend was this attractive”
Eliza gawped when Theo actually blushed.
She didn’t know he could do that.
“Can you blame me?” Draco joked “I didn’t want you stealing away my best friend”
“He’s my best friend actually” Eliza butted in and Theo chuckled softly at their antics. Turning to face Sinclair Eliza held out her hand.
“I’m Eliza Potter, pleasure to meet you” she said and shook Sinclair’s hand “This is Blaise Zabini, and that’s Daphne Greengrass” she introduced everyone else and Sinclair smiled back at them happily, but before he could say anything Theo interrupted
“They’re also known as my irritating best friends” he said drily, and Blaise let out a dramatic gasp.
“I’m hurt Theo – all we wanted to do was meet your new friend” he defended himself with a pout and Theo sighed. Sinclair laughed, entertained by their antics.
“I’m Elijah Sinclair, a cousin of Draco’s”
“And why haven’t we seen you around before?” Daphne casually interrogated and Eliza snickered slightly when Theo face-palmed. Sinclair smiled good-naturedly before replying.
“I find wizarding Britain a tad too stuffy but there’s only so long one can avoid Narcissa Black” he joked and Eliza laughed slightly.
“Too true” she muttered and the pair of them shared commiserating looks before Sinclair moved on again
“But it seems this year the company has far exceeded my expectations” he tacked on and winked at Theo who glanced away shyly. Eliza wanted to grab him and shake him about. Theo was never shy, he was witty and amazing and if he didn’t start flirting back with the cute French boy soon Eliza would kill him.
“Well you’ll just have to stick with us” Daphne said breezily “We wouldn’t want you growing bored, although if you want to avoid politics it would be best to ignore Eliza”
“Hey” Eliza protested half-heartedly “I’m not that bad”
“If you’re not that bad then who’s the angry stranger striding towards us” Sinclair questioned with a playful smile.
“Two galleons on it being Severus” Draco said without missing a beat and Theo rolled his eyes.
“You have a betting problem – also three galleons on it being Rowle who’s angry about the Umbridge disappearance”
“Oh damn” Blaise whined “I was going to say Rowle, no actually, five galleons on Roman Selwyn over the whole department of mysteries thing”
“Why do I feel like meeting all of you has been the worst mistake of my life?” Sinclair muttered to himself and they all laughed quietly.
“I did warn you not to ask me to dance” Theo said quietly with a smirk – Eliza was just about to tease him more when they all heard a voice behind them.
“Eliza bloody Potter”
Eliza whirled around to be faced with a very angry Gemma Farley, multiple grumbled complaints rose behind her.
“And just what have you been up to lately?” Gemma said, arms flailing as she jabbed an accusatory finger at her “No letters, no news, no just suspicious disappearances and even more suspicious murders”
“Murders?” she heard Sinclair squeak behind her and muffled a laugh when Draco glibly replied
“That was a while back now – don’t worry about it”
“You know” Eliza spoke merrily, greatly enjoying the tired look that appeared in Gemma’s eyes when she heard her tone of voice “Speaking of murders, I’ve been dying to speak with miss Skeeter all night and it seems she’s finally free”
“Eliza, I swear on Salazar’s grave-
“We should catch up later Gemma” Eliza tossed over her shoulder and then disappeared into the crowd.
She spent the next couple of hours flitting from conversation to conversation. The ball was decidedly more boring now that she couldn’t openly be seen enjoying herself around Tom who was probably charming another politician somewhere. He intended to make a bid to join the school governor’s soon, using his Slytherin ancestry to help out at Hogwarts. They definitely bloody needed.
Bidding goodbye to Rita, Eliza slipped back into the crowd finally tracking down Narcissa.
“Aunt Cissa” Eliza greeted happily and allowed the woman to bring her in for a hug “It’s been far too long” she continued and Narcissa nodded.
“Is Cousin Sirius still happy to have us round tomorrow?”
Eliza nodded with a smile “Remus should be able to join us as well – Kreacher is ecstatic”
“I look forward to it sweetheart” Narcissa said gently “It’s been too long since we’ve had a catch up”
It was then that the two were interrupted.
“Speaking of catching up” Tom drawled and Eliza turned to face him, dress swishing with the movement and Eliza smirked in satisfaction when Tom’s eyes darkened “You don’t mind if I steal the little star for a bit Narcissa?”
“Not at all” Narcissa said easily, a flash of amusement in her eyes as Tom led Eliza away.
“And what exactly are you doing here Little Star?” Tom demanded as he led her around the room.
“I thought we could put on a bit of a show” Eliza said with a half smile and Tom instantly snapped to attention, glamoured hazel eyes meeting hers “Currently there are three journalists in this room, practically slavering for a chance to report on Lord Gaunt and Eliza Potter”
A smirk grew on Tom’s face “And I can taunt Dumbledore in the process”
The pair of them exchanged two, no doubt matching, devilish smirks before Tom led her to join the other dancers.
“Do you think Narcissa would kill me if I convinced the band to play some swing?”
“I think ‘convince’ is a poor synonym for ‘imperius’ and that no-one would ever find your body”
Tom practically pouted as they took their positions on the floor “I get so bored of waltzes”
“Oh yeah?” Eliza questioned as Tom pulled her closer, a hand resting on her waist “And what would you have us do instead?”
They began to move, stepping in the time with the other dancers “The paso doble? The salsa?”
Tom twirled her and brought her back in, smirking as she looked into his bright eyes.
“I was thinking more of a tango but I doubt you could keep up” Tom teased and Eliza grinned
“I promise at the next ball we attend I’ll dance a tango with you, how about that?”
“I’ll hold you to it” Tom said with a wink and Eliza almost blushed before she gathered herself together. She wasn’t losing this fight.
“Although” she drawled and moved her hands so one was resting on the nape of his neck, the other drifting towards his hand “If you’re that bored I don’t think a simple fox-trot would offend anyone’s noble sensibilities”
“My, my, Little Star” Tom said, slipping into their new position with ease “You really do intend to cause quite a stir, don’t you?”
Eliza watched as Tom lazily flicked his wand in the direction of the band, causing the music to alter slightly before they started moving. The other dancers fumbled around them, but she and Tom continued on as the floor emptied.
“Well there is no such thing as bad publicity” Eliza murmured as Tom led them quickly around the ballroom, their steps matching perfectly as they danced.
“I see you’re still wearing my necklace, little star” Tom said and then span her around sharply, Eliza twirled before joining Tom again, smiling as they moved about the room “Aren’t we supposed to be on the out’s?”
“What can I say?” she said and then gasped when Tom twisted her around so her back was pressed flushed against him “I guess I’ve become quite attached”
“It is quite a beautiful necklace” Tom murmured into her ear and Eliza shivered before spinning around so she could face him again.
“I wasn’t talking about the necklace”
She heard Tom’s breath hitch and smiled in satisfaction as he almost tripped over his own feet. Tom tried to stutter out a reply as they finished their dance, Tom dipping her and Eliza smirked quirking an eyebrow
“Who can’t keep up now?”
Tom looked away, almost flustered before frowning lightly as the music returned to a simple waltz.
“I still prefer swing” he muttered almost petulantly, and Eliza let out a laugh.
“That’s because you’re an old man”
Tom’s nose scrunched in disgust as they retreated to a corner of the room “Merlin don’t – I’m still a teenager-
“Who listens to old swing music” Eliza interrupted, and Tom smirked lazily giving an elegant shrug.
“I’m a relic from another time darling” he quipped before a devious expression settled over his face.
“But, on the topic of old men, I have a message you can give to Dumbledore when he asks about all this when it no doubt ends up in the papers. It should help speed along the whole horcrux hunt”
Eliza rose an eyebrow, intrigued.
“Just tell him I said he’s getting slow in his old age”
“And that’s supposed to spur him into actions?” Eliza asked dubiously and Tom smirked.
“Well that’s not the first message I’ll have delivered to him. I left a little, greeting card, in the Gaunt shack for him a few months back”
“You’re so dramatic” Eliza said, far more fondly than she would have liked. Tom shrugged un-apologetically before a heavy sigh left his lips.
“I’m afraid this is were we must part ways Little Star – lest we raise some suspicion”
“I suppose it is”
Tom went to say something and seemed to debate with himself for a few moments, but he hesitated for far too long.
“Goodbye Tom” Eliza said gently and then slipped into the crowd, leaving Tom behind her.
Sirius was going to kill her when this hit the papers tomorrow.
She and Tom did actually make the headlines, at least they did for Witch Weekly, although they did get a page in the Prophet dedicated to them. It was a photo from the ridiculous fox trot they had done – Tom was murmuring something in her ear, Eliza pressed against him. She smirked and span around and then the picture reset.
Eliza was sure such an intimate scene would have caught her lovely headmasters’ attention but he seemed to be staying oddly quiet. She just assumed he would be calling her up to his office when she returned to Hogwarts. The joy.
Sirius had been less than impressed but instead of listening to his lecture Eliza had simply shifted into her fox form. That led to Sirius shifting into Padfoot and then chased her round and round the house. Remus had found them twenty minutes later and smacked Sirius on the nose with a rolled up Daily Prophet.
Sirius poured salt into her coffee the next morning but Eliza still maintained the outlook that it had been worth it.
By now Yule had been and gone. Blaise had joined their Yule celebration this year, along with the Malfoy’s, and they had all passed out in the living room much to Kreacher’s chagrin. Since then Eliza had taken a few forays into the muggle world looking for any inspiration for her rune projects, and before she knew it New Year’s Eve was just a day away.
And she had no idea what she was doing for Tom’s birthday. It was his fault, really, for being such a bastard, but Eliza still wanted to do something for him. It wasn’t everyday you turned nineteen- or was it twenty?
She was sure they were the only two people in the world who couldn’t even be sure how old they bloody were.
But that was besides the point, the point was that he never failed to go above and beyond for her and though she probably wouldn’t be able to pull off another Royal Albert Hall but she wanted to do something.
Which is why she was here, now, in Tom’s favourite restaurant on New Year’s Eve trying to charm the manager into giving her a take-away bag of his favourite food. Eliza was honestly surprised over how easy it was but then she remembered how much Tom must pay every time he came here and carried on smiling.
Tom was such a snob.
Taking the bag into her hand Eliza grinned merrily, wishing the probably underpaid staff a happy new year before she walked out of the restaurant. The streets were ridiculously busy, full of drunk muggles and tone deaf carolling, it was also snowing which made the night that much more miserable.
Tom best appreciate all the effort she went too.
Dashing back to Grimmauld Eliza threw her jacket on top of a softly dozing Blaise who let out an annoyed groan when her jacket smacked him in the face.
Eliza had stepped into the floo before the cushion Blaise threw even reached her.
Stumbling out of the other side Eliza smiled when Barty caught her so she wouldn’t fall on her arse.
“You’re one of the scariest people I’ve ever met” Barty said idly as Eliza dusted herself off “and yet you still can’t use the floo”
“The floo network is hell incarnate”
“Of course Eliza”
“It can’t be trusted”
She grinned and took her bag off food back from Barty, patting his arm in thanks “You’re free to go out and celebrate now – thanks for letting me in”
Barty waved a hand distractedly “Don’t thank me, he’s always in a better mood after seeing you”
Eliza tried not to preen at that but judging by Barty’s knowing smirk she was largely unsuccessful. Laughing Barty ruffled her hair before grabbing a handful of floo powder for himself.
“Have fun kiddo, go and pretend you cooked that food yourself”
Eliza had been planning on doing that, actually. She doubted she’d get away with it though.
Waving goodbye to Barty Eliza headed to the kitchen. She would track Tom down later, right now she had a meal to pretend to cook.
It didn’t take too long to find Tom but Eliza was disappointed to find him holed up in his office. Nagini was slumped on top of his desk, hissing angrily when Tom reached over for what looked like another Wizengamot bill.
“Please tell me you’re not actually doing politics on your birthday”
Tom didn’t even move, slumped over his desk as he was, and Eliza smiled slightly at the obvious pout on his face. Letting out a tired sigh he shuffled more papers in front of him.
“Well there’s no time like the present little star”
Eliza watched as Tom’s brain finally caught up with him, blinking heavily before he jolted up.
“Little star? What are you doing here?”
Eliza rolled her eyes “It’s your birthday idiot – I’m here to celebrate”
“I thought you’d be with your family this year” Tom murmured, pushing his hair out of his eyes as he tried to discreetly fix himself up.
“Well I was going to invite you to join us but that would probably end in a homicide and in all honestly it probably wouldn’t even be your fault” Eliza joked “so I decided to just come here instead”
Walking over Eliza grabbed Tom’s hand and dragged him out of his desk chair “I’m sure you can take you’re mind of world domination for one night, dinner’s waiting for us”
“Dinner?” Tom questioned and Eliza felt quite smug knowing that Tom was the one deeply confused this time when it was usually her “But I don’t have-
“No you don’t have house-elves because you’re a paranoid pick. I was going to pretend that I cooked a meal but I actually just went to you’re favourite restaurant” Eliza rambled, leading Tom into the dining room where she had set up the table “They were surprisingly easy to bribe”
“I- Tom stuttered out, red eyes wide as he took in the sight of the table “Thank you, Eliza”
“It was my pleasure” Eliza replied softly, and it really was.
Eliza would do almost anything to see him smile.
Eliza took another sip of her butterbeer as the clock slowly ticked down towards midnight, she and Tom had spent hours chatting with one another, the food long since finished. Eliza smiled when Tom swirled the wine around his glass looking perfectly content.
“Any new year resolutions?” Eliza jokingly asked and Tom let out a small huff.
“Such a muggle concept” he scoffed and Eliza grinned teasingly.
“Well if you would have just joined my family for Yule” she drawled out and Tom levelled her with a dry look.
“Ah yes, dark lords and family gatherings – what could go wrong?”
“You’re not just a dark lord” Eliza pointed out and Tom fell oddly silent. Feeling uncomfortable with the strange silence Eliza grinned when an idea hit her. Leaping up from her feet she started dashing around the room, opening cupboards until she finally found some sheets of parchment and an inkpot and quill. Skipping back to the table Eliza plonked them in the middle with a mischievous smile.
“Just what are you up to Little Star?”
“New years resolutions, with a magical twist” she said proudly and glared at her chair that she had left on the other side of the table. Tom let out a snort when he realised she now had nowhere to sit and with a flick of his wand he transfigured his chair into a large loveseat so they could both reach the parchment and the candles.
“Write down one thing you want to leave behind from this year and one thing you want to achieve next year” Eliza explained picking up the quill “And we’ll burn the parchment with the candle, sealing the message”
It was childish and simple and yet for some reason Eliza felt like it was the right move – and she was usually always right. Tom was staring at her intensely, as if he was trying to dissect her words and put them back together in a way that made sense to him. Taking pity on him Eliza ripped of a piece of parchment.
“For example, I had a conversation with Severus this year” Eliza explained as she wrote out her messages “and he showed me that I’m too impatient. I want revenge and I want to win the war and in the process, I forgot what life was outside all of that”
“Now there’s no way I’m giving up revenge” Eliza quipped drawing a small smile from Tom “but I’m leaving my impatience behind”
Eliza dropped the quill on the table and burned her first message in the flame of the candle “so I can appreciate what I have with me right now, and appreciate what’s in front of me” she finished, feeding her second promise into the flame.
Once the last bit of parchment had burned up Eliza turned to face Tom, sliding the quill and parchment so it rested by his hands.
“So Tom Riddle” she said with a teasing grin “What do you want?”
A beat passed and then Tom’s lips crashed against hers. Eliza let out a soft surprise sound before responding back eagerly. Eliza’s hand raised of its own accord, burying itself in Tom’s hair as she tried to pull him impossibly closer. Tom’s lips were insistent against hers and Eliza let out a squeak when Tom pulled her onto his lap. His hands stayed on her waist, pulling her closer and Eliza thought her heart was going to burst out of her chest.
Eliza broke away, panting heavily as she met Tom’s eyes.
“You didn’t answer my question” she said breathlessly but made no move to pull away when Tom went back to kissing her, slowly now, and some part of Eliza distantly recognised that this was a bad idea but fuck she didn’t want it to end.
Because in this moment there wasn’t a war, and Tom wasn’t a dark lord and there was no bullshit they had to deal with. In this moment it was just Tom, Tom’s hands on her waist and his lips against hers and Tom was just a boy and she was just a girl.
But they could never be just anything.
Eliza pulled away, resting her hands against Tom’s chest as she met his eyes.
“What do you want Tom?”
Eliza didn’t even know what she wanted him to say. World domination, Dumbledore dead, good wine and great gifts and power and-
That’s what she wanted him to say really.
But instead Tom stayed silent, crimson eyes betraying nothing and Eliza felt something hollow settle in her chest when she nodded to herself. Eliza treasured Tom, more than she could say.
But she wasn’t willing to wait and wait and wait for someone who didn’t want anything more than bittersweet kisses.
“Eliza I- Tom began when Eliza stood, running a hand through her now horribly messy hair but Eliza cut him off, tapping the parchment that lay forgotten on the table.
“You’ll figure it out” she said with a soft smile “I know you will”
Glancing at the clock Eliza let out a heavy sigh “I should be heading home”
Tom said nothing in response and Eliza sighed again “I’ll let you know when Lovegood get’s back to me yeah?”
Eliza started walking towards the floo and refused to turn back around. Tom was a dark lord but he was also a boy – and Eliza refused to let her heart be broken. Tom thought he was a monster, incapable of love, and as much as Eliza cared for him there was nothing else she could do. She would do almost anything to make him smile, but she wouldn’t put herself through this.
“Happy birthday Tom” Eliza wished sincerely despite the circumstances and stepped into the floo.
“Grimmauld Place” Eliza murmured and disappeared with the roaring flames.
But not before she noticed the room behind her darken when Tom blew out the candle.
Eliza could only hope that this too would turn out fine in the end, just as Theo had promised. And Theo had never been wrong before.
Maybe she should place a bet on it.