Harry had been with the Riddles for a few weeks now, and in that time, he had come to many conclusions.
Merope and Mr. Riddle were very nice to him, especially Mr. Riddle. Harry knew it was wrong to like someone who put a knife to your throat, but he’s dealt with much worse before.
Besides, Riddle gave him his first ever hug, and that had to mean something, didn’t it?
Harry was sure that all of the meat they ate was not from animals, but this was the first time he’s ever had consistent meals, so he forced down his questions and ate it. (It also didn’t taste bad like he thought, but he never had much meat before this, so he wasn’t sure).
Harry also thought that Riddle’s son, Tom, didn’t hate him as much as he did before. When the older boy passed him by while doing house chores, he always curtly grunted in greeting before continuing on his way. Tom also talked to him sometimes, when he had nothing better to do.
“What’s with your accent?”
They never really had any substance, but Harry was more than happy to talk with him! He’s never spoken with kids besides Dudley, but Tom didn’t bully him, so it was great.
Harry got his own room too! It was so big and spacious that he had no idea how to really act in it. Sometimes he’d miss his cupboard. In there, he could curl up against the walls and feel like he was being embraced. He felt terrible, though, because he didn’t want Riddle to think he was rude. The man had seemed really upset when Harry asked where their cupboard was so he could sleep. But then he had gently pet his head, so Harry didn’t think he was all too mad at him, to his relief.
Harry spent his days helping Merope cook in the kitchen and clean the house, but he knew that eventually, he’d have to work . Riddle had made it clear that he would have to lure in people to kill if he was to stay, or else he would have to go back to his family. Harry knew that would mean his parents, who he had always dreamed of meeting - and now they were in the same country, same state - but that also meant whoever survived the car crash. And… and if it was Uncle Vernon…
“Harry, dear, could you clean up the table for supper, please?”
Harry flinched, looking up at Merope. The woman pursed her lips and reached out, a finger lifting his chin. “Darling,” she said gently, “You feeling down?”
Harry bit his lip, hesitantly nodding. He had no idea how to deal with the Riddles, Merope, and Riddle mostly. They were so friendly and open, as if they weren’t murderers, as if they didn’t have a cellar deep down under their house where they kept frozen bodies.
Merope paused, holding him in place with a stare. Slowly, she leaned down, and Harry let out a small gasp as he clenched his eyes-
But no slap came, and she gently kissed his forehead before leaning back. Harry blinked open his eyes, staring at her in awe and shock. “Why don’t you go clean the table for supper, darling?” She asked gently.
Harry hurriedly nodded and scrambled out the kitchen, shaking off the sinking feeling in his chest as he went about his tasks. Discreetly, he brushed his forehead where Merope had kissed him and squirmed around with a wobbly smile.
Soon enough, Merope came out with supper, not-beef stew and mashed potatoes. It wasn’t much, but Harry was always assured later that night when Riddle and Tom came home that they would have an even bigger meal. Harry thought it was really odd because the Dursley’s always had big meals, but he was happy enough to be allowed to eat anything at all.
Harry nibbled on his spoon, staring down at his reflection in the broth. He peered from his black locks and watched Merope writing in her journal while eating at the same time. She caught his eyes and quirked a brow, swallowing before setting her pen down, “What is it, sweetheart?”
Harry flushed and leaned back in his chair, shuffling around in it. “U-uhm...Why doesn’t J-Joya eat wi-ith us…?” He hesitantly asked, sinking into the chair with humiliation. No matter how many times he tried to say certain words, they just wouldn’t come out.
Merope looked confused before she laughed, “Junior don’t eat with us ‘cause he’s always wandering about, wild boy he is. Don’t worry tho, I always make sure to sneak lunch in his travel bag.”
Harry frowned but nodded. He hurried himself to talk before he lost his chance, “W-where does Mis-mister Riddle go?”
Merope smiled a little, amused with him. “He manages a gas station and a store. He’s usually at the gas station coz’ he don’t like loud noises.”
Harry scrunched up his nose. But cars were loud?
The woman somehow knew what he was thinking, nodding her head as she plucked up some mashed potatoes with her fork, “S’the noises people make that makes him so bothered. He ain’t never been good with children coz’ of that. It’s a small blessing Junior ain’t like his siblins.”
“Y-you have mo-more chil-,” he stumbled around his lisp, “Chilween?"
“Yes! Five o’ em’! All older than Junior.” Merope sighed out blissfully, “You’ll meet them someday; they visit sometimes.” But her smile got a little sharp, “They don’t know about the cellar or killin’ tho, darling.”
Harry gulped, unnerved by Merope’s bright scarlet eyes. So unlike Riddle’s soft amber, but somehow similar when they got that glint inside them. “Y-yes, ma’am,” he stuttered out.
Merope hummed and smiled at him before biting into her fork.
Harry was on the lookout for Riddle. It was around 5, meaning the man would return home soon! As the weeks turned into months, Harry had become more and more needy for the gentle brush of the man’s hands or his hugs. Soon Harry came to love it so much he was sure he’d do anything to keep it-including that . If Riddle realized, then he never said anything.
Harry flinched as the screen door opened, looking over, expecting Riddle. Instead, it was Junior, or Tom.
The boy clambered into the house, a dirty mess as he looked for something. Harry watched him as he perched on the stair’s railing, blanket wrapped around him. Finally, the frail boy got the nerve to speak up, “Uhm, w-what are y-you doing?”
Tom paused his search and let out an angry sigh, raising his eyes only to do a retake. He slowly raised a brow, “Ain’t that unsafe?”
Harry frowned, “I-I won’t get hurt.”
“I could snap your wrists like a twig,” Tom rebuked as he crossed his arms. If Harry weren’t so interested in what Tom was looking for, he would have been aghast by how motherly the older child was being.
“W-what are you lo-looking for?” He repeated, shuffling his way off the railing with wary carefulness before proudly landing on a step.
Tom looked bemused by the entire action. “My book.”
The auburn-haired boy nodded tersely, “Yeah. S’got a funky lookin’ spine on it.”
Harry stilled, squinting at Tom.
Tom rubbed his face with his hand. “Not a real spine, you brat.”
Harry shuffled his bare feet, and after a moment, he looked back up at Tom, “S-so...what do-does the sp-” he stumbled on the word, twitching. “S-spine mean?”
“S’the long part of a book that holds all the pages together,” Tom explained as calmly as he could. To be fair, he was doing decently for a child who never had to deal with another one before.
Harry narrowed his eyes in thought, head tilting to the side, “I c-can help you fi-find the book!”
The boy looked more than displeased. “Don’t you gotta do somethin’ for Ma?”
“I alr-ready did all my ch-chores!”
“Fine. You can help me,” Tom grit out.
Harry brightened, his green eyes lighting up like a Christmas tree. “T-thank you, J-Jouya!”
Harry huffed, wrapping the blanket around himself more securely before he followed the boy around the house.
With an hour’s search done and still no book, Tom was frazzled and angry. Harry trailed behind him cautiously, not too bothered about the boy’s anger. He wasn’t nearly as bad as Uncle Vernon.
“Where the fuck is it,” the older boy muttered, biting on his nail.
Harry looked up from rummaging around a sofa, head tilting feline-like. “M-mama said you ex-explore,” he started slowly, “Maybe y-you dropped it.”
Tom sighed and crashed onto the sofa, “Guess I did. That’s so frustrating. I had filled so much of it.”
Harry hesitantly sat next to him, “W-what was inside of it?”
The older boy hummed and thrummed his fingers on the hand rest, “I dunno, information, good spots to scout and nap, some recipes,” he shrugged. “Just normal stuff, I guess.”
The small thing huffed, and Tom let out a laugh, “Did you expect something else?”
“You’re a killer,” he muttered.
Tom rolled his eyes. “So? Not everything I do is about killing people.”
Harry nodded slightly, frowning as he messed with the hemming on his shirt, one of Tom’s cast-offs.
“Why do y-you kill peo-people?” He asked quietly.
There was no reply so Harry glanced up. Tom was holding him with an even stare, eyes blank. Harry felt a little spike of fear that he was going to be hurt.
But then Tom looked away.
“You’re normal, so you don’t get it,” Tom mumbled. He slipped his knees close to his chest, resting his chin on them.
Harry felt words fizzle off his tongue.
He had no idea how to respond.
“I guess it’s...It’s just how I grew up,” Tom admitted in a soft sort of tone, “I’ve always liked to-,” he faltered. “Hurt people.”
“Even if they’re really nice?” Harry whispered cautiously.
Tom’s eyes fogged up.
“Yeah,” he whispered back.
The door opened and both children raised their heads, a sullen air hanging low around them. Harry looked at Tom, whose face was fighting off a frown. He hesitantly reached out and tugged on Tom’s sleeve, leading him downstairs to greet Riddle. Tom carefully curled his fingers around Harry’s wrist in gratitude.
Maybe the Riddles were more normal than Harry thought. Or, at least Tom.
“Harry, Harry, wake up .”
Harry flinched and curled up tighter around his blanket, eyes forcing themselves open to blink painfully at a Tom. The older boy slapped him around a bit, “C’mon.”
Harry groaned and tried not to snap his jaws at Tom’s hand. “No,” he grumbled stubbornly. Then confusion settled in and he raised his head, squinting at Tom. “What do you need?”
Tom hummed unsurely, eyeing Harry, but gave in and forced the tiny thing into a sitting position, “We have to go scout.”
Harry stilled. “Now..?” He whispered.
Tom sighed through his nose and crossed his arms, “Yes, now. It’s been four months. It’ll be easy since I already have someone picked for you.”
Harry swallowed and raised his head. “Y-you ch-chose someone?”
Tom nodded as he shuffled over to the boy’s drawer, picking out clothes. “Yes, I did. 40-year-old Terry Baskin. She lives with her husband in a trailer and takes a walk every morning at 5,” he recited in a drone, and set down the boy’s clothes for the day.
Blue eyes leveled with his.
“You can do this, can’t you?”
Harry shrunk under the stare and fiddled with his blanket.
He forced himself to nod.