Minister of Magic Tom Riddle is, for all intents and purposes, the perfect man: charming, intelligent, witty, and always so completely composed.
Truly, not a single thing ever seems to really faze or discourage him, no matter the situation. No one ever sees him rattled by unflattering stories about him in the Prophet and other press media. He takes his losses graciously, if not a little stiffly, like when he lost his first bid for Minister half a decade ago. Even his appearance is consistently impeccable, with perfectly pressed collars and smoothly slicked hair.
His dedication to this level of perfection as admirable as it is inhuman, something his political opponents certainly enjoy bringing up constantly.
Of course, he’s made it increasingly harder for any of them to play that card as of late. His platforms have shifted from the staunch extremism of his early days to something more moderate, agreeable for most sides. Associations with some of his less…savory peers are kept under wraps, so that he may hold their support from the shadows while claiming public endorsement from the Light.
It’s quite a stellar system, if he does say so himself, but that doesn’t mean it’s without cracks.
It’s not the first person to call out to him today, but Tom responds to the greet with the same level of immaculate poise as he did to the hundreds before. This time, it’s Madame Penelope Baybridge, nee Rosier, a starry-eyed young diplomat from France Tom is plenty familiar with.
She’s one of the many enraptured by the suave, young Minister, a fact Tom has no qualms about using to his advantage. Her position as an esteemed daughter within the French branch of the pureblood Rosier family, yet also as wife to a British muggleborn wizard, makes her crucial to keep within Tom’s circle.
It’s lucky for Tom, then, that she’s so darn easy to please.
“Penelope,” he greets, injecting warmth into his voice with ease and leaning in to press chaste kisses to her cheeks in greeting. “Please, my dear, call me Tom.”
“Oh my, you know as they say. Old habits do die hard.”
“But of course. I must say, you do look so stunning every time I see you.”
Perhaps a little too stunning, Tom thinks dryly as he takes in her choice of wardrobe.
The event was supposed to be little more than a leisurely Sunday luncheon—quite exclusive, yes, but far from formal—and yet Baybridge is dressed as though ready for an annual dinner gala. Jewels adorn her form, along with a form-fitted dark gown that is so obviously out of place it’s laughable.
“Always so sweet,” she croons, accepting and reciprocating Tom’s small kisses with her own. “If only Nicholas could be so charming… oh, how a woman may dream.”
“Now, now, no need to break poor Nick’s heart like that.” A practiced conspiratorial grin curls onto his lips. “We all know he can’t afford that, with a heart as weak as his.”
Baybridge’s giggles sound like nails on a chalkboard to Tom’s ears, but he doesn’t dare let his expression drop for even a millisecond. There are far too many reporters from far too many publications here, lurking around like Hellhounds, awaiting their next scoop. It’s a hassle, keeping up appearances for so long, but there’s a reason why he’s come out on top amongst all his peers.
“Oh yes, you know Tom, I did want to talk to you about that magical orphanage proposal you’ve made, it’s quite interesting…”
Good things come to those who work for it, after all.
As he speaks with Penelope, Tom’s careful with his presentation. He angles himself perfectly for any candid paparazzi shots that might be aimed his way. He speaks just loud enough for others in the nearby vicinity to hear, but not loud enough to be intrusive. He leads them around the luncheon with grace, looking nothing but natural even as he puts complete consideration into every step he takes.
First to the bar, to offer the young lady a drink. Something refreshing to match the weather, yet also simple—nothing terribly strong, suggestive, or symbolic, as that would just seem uncouth in the presence of a married woman.
After she accepts the drink with only the lightest flush dancing on her cheeks, they’ll take a short, aimless walk around the white-tented premises of the luncheon.
Or, rather, it’ll seem aimless to her, but Tom will very deliberately lead them so that they’ll just happen to collide with Head Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt for a pleasant conversation. Shacklebolt’s been particularly instrumental in Tom’s recent campaign to search for undiscovered magical children in muggle households, a cause Penelope will certainly be moved by.
And Shacklebolt will be more than obliged to share all the sob-stories he’s able to conjure up from his work. Children abandoned by the muggles for their “freakishness,” young adults trying and failing to blend in with the muggle world without knowing what’s so different about them— the whole shebang. His stories will even draw in others around them, because what else is there to do at a function like this but throw pity around like it’s extra Knuts in a millionaire’s satchel?
Only once Penelope’s had her fill will they bid Shacklebolt move again, though they’ll likely be roped in by many others before they truly go anywhere.
The Senior Agriculture Minister will probably cling to Tom to ask about those three proposals still sitting on his desk. The Secretary to the Treasurer might start vying for his attention, desperate to discuss the annual budgeting conference next week. Hell, Shacklebolt might stop him to ask about the next organized trainings for Junior Aurors.
When they finally do break away, however, Tom will lead them somewhere quieter, seemingly out of the way so Penelope feels like she can discuss her diplomacy concerns more intimately. Of course, it’ll still need to be in public eye, but away from the hubbub of the main tables. Perhaps this time, they’ll go to the budding orchids, where reporters can snap a particularly flattering shot of Tom from his right side—
Tom’s stopped in his tracks by a familiar flurry of bushy hair and indignant fervor.
Hermione Granger, his very own Senior Undersecretary.
…Who, if Tom recalls correctly, had very pointedly refused the invitation to this luncheon.
Narrowing his eyes only a fraction, he looks down at Hermione with as pleasant an expression as he can muster following such an abrupt interruption.
“Miss Granger,” he greets amiably.
However, he allows a little surprise to show on his face when she marches up to him with a sort of deranged panic in her eyes. Tom’s no stranger to her particular brand of wide-eyed frenzy, having known and worked with her for quite some time now, but even she knows better than to interrupt him at such occasions without cause.
So what is she doing here now?
“I’ll admit I hadn’t expected to see you here—”
“You have to come with me, now.”
“Miss Granger, I’m afraid such a demand is quite—”
Had Tom not had his incredibly well-honed reflexes, he’s sure his glass would have slipped from his fingers the very second the name spilled from her mouth.
“Tom?” Penelope asks, peering over his shoulder to take a good look at both him and Hermione.
The shock’s painted clear as day on Tom’s face, but he can’t even pretend to care about that, not when it feels like his whole world is collapsing on his shoulders.
“What?” he practically seethes, hissing through clenched teeth as his eyes narrow into glaring slits at his Senior Undersecretary.
Hermione doesn’t flinch, all too steeled against his limited range of emotions to care, but she’s the only one. Whispers and murmurs have started to fill the air, as the whole room takes in the sight of their usually passive, pleasant Minister grow enraged. The clicking sounds of camera shutters have already begun to make their appearance, and they only grow by the second.
“St. Mungo’s,” Hermione says simply in lieu of a response. “C’mon, we have to hurry, the Healers said it’s critical—”
Minister Riddle’s already Apparated away before she can finish.
There are few who can say no to Tom Riddle, for a variety of reasons.
First and foremost, his charm. He simply knows what to say and when exactly to say it, all the time, and practically no one is impervious to his appeal. Even some of his formerly worst enemies would admit to having the socks charmed off of them by him, and that certainly leaves little hope for his allies and admirers.
For the very, very few leftover, who managed to somehow, above all odds, resist his charms, he presented them with something even more persuasive: his rage.
“You will show me to where he’s staying,” Tom seethes, slamming a hand down onto the receptionists’ desk with unbridled force. “Now.”
By now, plenty of passerby’s, patients, and the like have stopped to stare the usually so-composed Minister boiling with fury. St. Mungo’s is a bustling hospital on any normal day, filled with patients famous and not, as the focal point of Magical Healthcare. Even then, a sight like this is certainly like no other, and even a fair bit of Healers can’t stop themselves from gawking.
“M-Minister Riddle!” one of the receptionist squeaks. “I-I, I’m afraid th-that that just isn’t, it isn’t possible! Y, you see, we, we can only allow visitors if they, uh, if they’re family, for privacy reasons—”
“I didn’t ask for your petty excuses,” Tom snaps, knowing very well his own magic is swirling around in him as an oppressive force.
“B-but sir! You must understand, it’s no—”
“You cannot stop me. I swear, I’ll find where he is myself, and I’ll have you barred from service for as long as I may live—”
Tom doesn’t get a chance to finish his threat, when a thin hand with surprising strength is tugging him backwards. He turns, and he’s only half surprised to see none other than Hermione before him.
“What are you doing?” she hisses.
“Not now, you—”
“Oh shut it, Tom.”
The many onlookers openly awe at the familiarity between the Minister and his Senior Undersecretary, as well as her stubbornness against his anger. They pay the crowd no attention, though, and Hermione turns to offer a shaky smile to the receptionists quivering in fear.
“I’m so, so sorry about that. Please, let me clear this up. If you look in Harry’s file, under his emergency contacts… yes, that’s it, right there, you see? It’s simply a misunderstanding…”
Tom stands and waits with unveiled impatience as Hermione sweettalks the useless desk staff and shows them reason. Certainly, he’ll need to add an entire overhaul of the St. Mungo’s staff to his agenda for this quarter, if this is the quality of care and service being provided with the Ministry’s generous funding—
Hermione’s voice is soft, unlike the sharp tug of her hand on his wrist as she nods her head to the side.
“Let’s go see him.”
Tom never moved any quicker.
Two broken ribs, three bruises ones, some minor bruising all around, a dislocated shoulder, and a fairly severe concussion.
Had he not been a stronger man, Tom might have fainted.
It’s at times like these where he can’t even begin to express how grateful he is for the Wizarding World, for magic and everything that comes with it. For revolting potions like Skele-Gro, for sustained consciousness spells, for all the small and large ways that living in a magical society changed their lives.
God, Tom can never stop his thoughts from wandering at times like these. His mind provides traitorous scenarios in which they never discovered their magic, with the both of them still stuck at an orphanage or with horrid muggle relatives, respectively.
Not to mention, they’d be stuck with archaic muggle medicine that’d do little to nothing to treat such intense injuries. Even if muggle medicine could help, healing would take weeks, maybe even months, compared to the few hours it dwindled down to with the use of magic.
Granted, Harry wouldn’t be getting these sorts of injuries in the muggle world, either.
“Now that’s not a very nice face.”
Tom wants to collapse as he steps into the hospital room. Hermione, as well as any attending nurses, have already stepped out to give them privacy, and he’s grateful for that. He’s shown enough vulnerability to the public today, with his outburst, and he can only imagine the nightmare awaiting him once his publicity team’s done some damage control.
But he doesn’t care about that. Not now, when he’s faced with the only one who matters more than all the newspapers, journals, and publications in the world. The only opinion Tom’s ever truly cared about besides his own, the only eyes he’s ever really wanted to impress, the only heart he’s ever wanted so dearly to capture.
He whispers as he staggers towards the hospital bed, the relief flooding in him as intense as his desperation as he sees that beaming smile he loves so much, directed at none other than him.
“C’mere, you’re so far away,” Harry coos, reaching out to him with outstretched arms and grabby arms.
Tom comes closer immediately, letting Harry cup his cheeks and squish them around as he likes. He’s swaying a bit, clearly still a little loopy from all the Pain-Relief Potions he’s been put on, but Tom can’t care less. Instead, he simply lays his hands over Harry’s, eyes shining in endearment.
“Stop frowning,” Harry orders, furrowing his eyebrows and jutting his lip out a little. He probably doesn’t even know he’s doing it, Tom thinks, and that somehow makes it all the more endearing. “Turn that frown upside down!”
“Love,” Tom finally says, tightening his grip on Harry’s hands a little. “A Bludger accident? Really?”
Perhaps this was Tom’s fault, for not discouraging Harry’s recklessness enough.
He’ll admit, he’s never been overtly fond of Harry’s love for Quidditch, even when they were just school boys. A terribly dangerous sport, it is, and one that’s far less regulated and managed than any muggle sport out there.
But Harry’s always had quite a propensity for Quidditch, making history as Hogwarts’s youngest Seeker ever and sticking with it ever since. He loves the sport, more than words can describe, and Tom knew even back then that it’d be cruel to ask him to give it up. So he never did, but occasionally, he has his regrets.
“Wasn’t ma fault,” Harry slurs a little in protest. “McMillan shoulda defended me better, and y’know, I was just so close, and I couldn’t give up then—”
“Yes, you could have,” Tom says dryly, before continuing in a gentler tone, “but you wouldn’t have, I know.”
Harry cracks a big old grin.
“I caught it, though. The Snitch. We won the game.”
“Yes, and you nearly lost your skull in the process, you imbecile.”
“But I didn’t.”
Really, Tom shouldn’t have expected much better from the man who nearly choked on a Snitch to win his very first Quidditch game, back in first year. Unfortunately for him, he chose this idiot, and now he’s left with nothing to do but deal with his choices no matter how close they lead him to heart attacks on a daily basis.
“Mark my words, I’ll make you regret this sort of idiocy once you recover,” he murmurs as he strokes Harry’s hair lovingly.
“Mhm, gonna hex the shit outta me, Riddle?”
“Only if you ask for it, Potter,” Tom says without missing a beat, parroting one of their first interactions in Hogwarts word for word. He pauses, though, before adding, “Though, I suppose soon it’ll be Riddle-Potter.”
“Whatever you say dear.”
Even drugged out of his mind, Harry’ll always find a way to curse Tom out, and it’s a lot more endearing than either of them will ever admit.
“Rest,” Tom says softly. “I’ll be here when you wake.”
“Noooo,” Harry protests, using his weak grip on Tom’s cheeks to try and pull him closer. Tom obliges, leaning over until he’s hovering right above Harry’s face. “I’ve slept so much—”
“It’s only been 3 hours since you’ve been admitted—”
“I don’t wanna sleep anymoooooo—”
“Alright, alright.” Tom shifts, conjuring a chair right beside him so he can sit comfortably. Harry lets go of his face, instead choosing to latch onto his hands that are resting on the bed. “Then what do you want?”
“Pleaseeee? All these damn potions are making me sick, and hospital food always sucks.”
Oh dear, and there’s Harry’s pout again, coming back with full vengeance and making Tom’s heart skip a beat. Vaguely, he wonders if he should cast a recording charm for later—it’ll be perfect blackmail against Harry, who so abhors acting cutesy normally, and, well, Tom certainly wouldn’t mind witnessing this a few more times.
Or a few hundred more.
“How about this? You get a little rest and be good for the next few hours, and I’ll convince the barmy old Healers to discharge you early.”
“And then,” Tom continues, “once we’re home, I’ll ask Pippy to a fresh treacle tart, just for you.”
Harry’s eyes shine at the prospect, and he’s suddenly so alert that it’s almost like the potions-induced brain fog had never been there in the first place. Tom’s not surprised at all. Their house elf’s cooking has always held a major sway over Harry’s heart, a fact that Tom has no qualms about using to his advantage.
“Of course.” He thumbs over the back of Harry’s hand, thinking. “After we have a proper dinner, though. I must admit, I’m fairly famished.”
“Hn, fine… wait, you haven’t eaten? But didn’t you have that charity luncheon today?”
Tom blinks, openly surprised that Harry remembered. Figures, the boy can hardly remember his own name half the time, yet somehow always manages to keep track of the events on Tom’s schedule.
“I did, but I’m afraid an emergency came up that forced me to leave before the appetizers were served.”
“What? What happened, an emerg—oh.”
It’s adorable, how quickly a flush comes to Harry’s face as he looks away abashedly.
“Tom, please tell me you didn’t rush out of your very important, very public luncheon to come here.”
“Then I won’t tell you.” The edge of Tom’s lips curl up. “Just like I won’t tell you of the absolute mayhem I caused when they wouldn’t let me come see you.”
Harry groans loudly, falling back onto his pillow exasperatedly as he moves his hands from Tom’s to cover his face instead.
“Why do you do this to Hermione? Her job’s hard enough as it is, you asshole.”
Tom doesn’t bother to correct Harry that technically, PR’s not Hermione’s job at all. Sure, she’ll likely get involved like she does with all the Ministry departments, since that’s just the type of person she is, but his point still stands.
Instead, he simply shrugs, “Granger’s more than capable of handling the situation.”
Harry pauses, before slowly removing his hands from his face and glancing at Tom.
“So…everyone’ll know, huh?”
Harry doesn’t specify what he means, and he doesn’t have to. There’s only one thing he could be talking about. After all, there’s no other reasonable explanation that Tom’s PR team will be able to give for his behavior, besides the truth.
That Minister of Magic Thomas Riddle Jr. had swept in to St. Mungo’s in a worried frenzy, just to see his poor, injured fiancé: Quidditch World Star, Harry James Potter.
(Soon to be Riddle-Potter).
“It was about time anyway, darling,” Tom says, reaching a hand out to stroke Harry’s unruly hair. “I kept telling you, waiting ‘til the wedding was over to go public would just incite chaos. It’s better this way.”
“We coulda at least waited ‘til the end of the season, you bastard,” Harry grumbles, but Tom knows he’s hardly upset. “The press runs are gonna be insufferable, and I don’t need Skeeter or any of the other B-rate tabloids popping up on my door mid-practice.”
“Might I remind you again, that this wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t gotten yourself injured like this?”
“And darling…” Tom’s voice lowers into a harsh growl, his grip on Harry’s hair tightening to an almost uncomfortable point. “Do you honestly think I’ll let you go back to playing after this?”
Harry gapes at him, and it takes all of Tom’s willpower to not look away.
“Wha—I, that doesn’t—”
“Don’t strain yourself,” Tom hisses as Harry jolts up, but he’s promptly ignored.
“You won’t—I can’t, I, but the World Cup—!”
“As if I care about that—”
“You can’t do this!”
Tom very much can, and they both know it.
After all, Quidditch is a nationally-backed sport. He could easily wheedle someone into getting him a meeting with the National Sports Bureau, perhaps under the guise of a marketing campaign or partnership. From there, it’d be all too easy to find whoever’s in charge of the rosters and make his friendly suggestion that Seeker Potter might need to step down for the duration of the season.
It’d only be safe, after all, after he’d suffered such dire injuries, ones that very well could have been life-threatening if he hadn’t been rushed to St. Mungo’s so promptly. If he’d reached the hospital even an hour later, national sweetheart player Harry Potter might have suffered such severe brain damage even magic wouldn’t be able to heal it.
And, amidst other things, that’d hardly do well for public image.
Snapping his gaze away from where it had fixated on some particularly worrisome gauzes, Tom sneers at the deep-set frown marring Harry’s face.
“Don’t you dare.”
Harry’s voice is soft, unassuming, and he doesn’t bother to expand further. He doesn’t need to, not when Tom understands perfectly what he means.
“You can’t stop me—”
“Oh no, we’re not doing this right now—”
“Quidditch is my life, Tom, you can’t just—”
“I won’t lose you!”
His shout echoes in the room, punching the breath out of both of them as they stare at each other wide-eyed, a complex flurry of emotions swirling in their eyes and hearts as they do.
And then Harry’s softening, the center of his eyebrows furrowing and curling up in a deeply understanding look that makes Tom want to bury himself alive.
“I’ve been injured in games before,” he says slowly, as though testing the waters.
“Not like this,” Tom bites back, unable to get anything else out of his grit teeth.
He wants to run, wants to hide away, wants to scream, but instead, he throws himself into Harry’s open, obliging arms. He wraps his whole body around Harry, trying to encompass him entirely with nothing but himself, and Harry allows it without a single complaint.
“It was a false alarm, though,” he points out, his voice muffled by Tom’s shoulder. “I’m fine.”
It’s true, Tom supposes as he buries his face in Harry’s hair. They’d gotten Harry into critical care as quickly as humanly and magically possible, so while his initial injuries were intense, they were nowhere near as bad as they could have been. Everything had been healed with a slew of potions and minor, minor surgery, and now Harry’s here, healthy and peachy as always.
“But you almost weren’t.”
Tom’s not quite sure if his voice is audible at this point, or if his words are nothing but echoes in his own head that he so desperately wants Harry to understand.
“You, you could’ve been—and I, I wouldn’t have even, wouldn’t have been able to—”
He slumps into Harry, defeated. It can hardly be comfortable, seeing as he’s pressing so much of his weight onto him despite that the fact that he’s only just recovered from injuries, but Harry doesn’t complain. Instead, he just nuzzles into the crook of Tom’s shoulder and thumbs small circles into the dip of his hips.
A moment of silence passes just like that, comfortable as quiet can be. Harry doesn’t try to pry into Tom’s thoughts, doesn’t push him as he comes to terms with the unsettling flood of conflicting emotions welling up in his chest. Tom tends to catastrophize, as Harry calls it, if left to his own devices, seeing nothing but the worst scenarios and doing everything in his power to stop them.
But he doesn’t have that power, that control, here, and it makes him sick to his stomach.
“I never wanted you to become Minister, y’know?”
Tom does know, vividly remembering all the fights they had leading up to his appointment, though he hardly sees how it’s relevant now.
He nods anyway.
“Do you remember why?”
Clenching his jaw to the point of discomfort, Tom forces himself to pull away just enough so he could look Harry in the eye. Harry responds in turn immediately, bringing his hand up to cup Tom’s cheek gently as he looks up at him with an earnestness he’d never shed since they were kids.
“Crouch was moderate, and he still got himself killed off in an instant.”
“I’m more powerful than Crouch was, I wouldn’t be so careless—”
“One time,” Harry interrupts him, lips downturned and eyes somber. “One mistake, one unlucky hit. That’s all it takes, Tom, and I’d lose you forever. And I know you can’t honestly tell me there haven’t been attempts.”
He can’t, and that’s perhaps the worst part. Since the war had ended years ago, marked by the fall of Dark Lord Gellert Grindelwald, the political sphere has continued to remain chaotic and uneasy. There were power vacuums left and right, with the loss of major figures on both sides, not excluding Grindelwald and his defeater, Albus Dumbledore. Anyone who had taken any sort of position of power was bound to be met with enemies galore, no matter their stance or support.
So really, Crouch’s assassination had been sudden, but took no one by surprise.
For many, Tom had been the obvious choice for next in line, and while the public vote certainly agreed with Tom’s ambitions, Harry had not. He’d known that the same vitriol had been thrown at Crouch would be redirected at him, perhaps even more intensely so. He was a fair bit more radical than Crouch, after all, something a still-healing magical Britain struggled to reconcile with.
He’s certainly had to take great care of his security detail since stepping up as Minister.
“I still hate it sometimes, especially when you go out of country, and I have to watch the news constantly just to make sure no one’s tried to—”
“But I’m here,” Tom protests softly. “I’m here, and I’m okay.”
Tom blinks, only responding belatedly when Harry presses their lips together gently.
“Your work is dangerous, and I don’t like that, but I can’t make you stop.” Another soft kiss. “Won’t. So why is it any different with mine?”
It just is, Tom wants to say. Tom’s work isn’t just running around playing a silly game. His job matters, affects the lives of so many people and the country as a whole, every single day he comes into his office. Compared to that, Quidditch is practically meaningless, and clearly not worth its imminent dangers.
Not like Tom would ever actually say that out loud, though. He quite likes his head intact and his bones unbroken, unsurprisingly enough.
“Rest,” he says instead, and Harry rolls his eyes and snorts at the obvious redirect.
“We’re not done talking about this,” Harry threatens, but he obligingly falls back onto the hospital bed with a small thump.
“I know we’re not,” Tom replies easily, “but you’re going to need all your energy if you’re doing to survive the reporters lurking outside.”
Tom allows himself a small grin when Harry groans loudly.
They’ll be okay.
EXCLUSIVE: Romance in Whitehall?
Spotted just hours ago, esteemed Minister Riddle stepping out of St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries accompanied by one Harry James Potter, national Quidditch star recently injured in a game against the Stonewall Stormers. Inside sources tell us our dear Minister was threatening hexes on anyone who wouldn’t let him in to see Potter. Onlookers report seeing the Minister in great distress before he was allowed in, and it was only until later that this reporter found out why.
Read more on page 7 to learn more about the most sordid, secretive romance of the century!
Pictured on the right: Seeker Potter exiting St. Mungo’s with Minister Riddle in tow, standing right outside of the hospital’s Anti-Apparition wards. The pair are holding hands, and an elegant gold ring with an inset black diamond is clear on Mister Potter’s ring finger. Both refused to give any comment when asked, and journalists were told to wait for Senior Undersecretary Granger’s press release in two days’ time. The couple Apparated away shortly afterwards.