The day Tom Riddle meets Harry Potter is miserable and cold.
In the distance are indeterminable figures wandering in the fog, as if the streets were filled with ghosts tonight. Something swells in the humidity like lament or regret.
No one spares a glance towards the little orphan crouched low upon the store stoop. He is very hungry, but the meager change he has scrounged together from thieving and scavenging are not enough for even a loaf of bread. The thought of having to return to the orphanage is ominous; they will not be pleased once they inevitably discover his disappearance, and worse still he has nothing to show for it.
"Care to share?"
He looks up quite suddenly, caught unawares.
An almost unremarkable girl leans over him, holding out a large and overflowing sandwich. He's never seen anything quite like it, but it smells like everything he's ever wanted to taste.
He draws closer, before recoiling, fixating his narrowed gaze on the girl in front of him.
She is a ways older than him, but not old enough to be considered an adult. She wears a small and sad smile, and it clings to her soft lips like it's been there for some time. He was perhaps remiss in his prior observation, as the muted gray cap atop her head as slid to the side, revealing the most magnificent, luminous hair he's ever seen. It glows like fire in an otherwise indistinct world, as do her eyes, which are a very striking color of green he can't quite categorize.
His gaze flitters back to the sandwich, hesitant.
When her expression doesn't change, he moves for it tentatively.
The paper wrapping is soft and crinkles in his hands as he stares down. It is the both the biggest piece of bread and the most condiments he's ever seen. The food at the orphanage is bland and tasteless, with neither significant color nor texture.
She sits next to him as he devours his food; his hands are clasped tightly against the bread, as if unwilling to ever let it go. She does not make any move to take it back from him, not even as he polishes it off—she stares off into the murky distance as if something of great interest lies across the fog; her umbrella sways listlessly above them both.
"I'm Harry, by the way," She whispers, soft and secretive.
Tom blinks at her, cautious once more.
"I'm Tom," He says, at great length. "Tom Riddle." He adds, almost impulsively. As if he wants everyone in the world to know that he does, indeed, have a surname.
Something grows regretful in her eyes. She smiles anyway. "Well, it's very nice to meet you, Tom Riddle."
He waits impatiently by the gates, grasping at the rusting iron with a restless unease. The metal is cool and smooth against his cheek when he leans upon it, fissiparous attention fixated wholly on the world outside the orphanage. His grip tightens intermittently, loosening at equally arbitrary moments.
As if lying in wait.
Tom Riddle does this everyday, much to the congruent confusion of his caretakers; for there never appears to be any reason for him to stand at the entrance so enthusiastically, when almost everyday no one passes through. Alas, perhaps it is not all that strange. He is an orphan: perhaps he waits for a father, a mother, some far flung relative that will never come. The orphanage staff know that there is little hope for a boy his age; both in adoption and in parental guidance. That boy's parents are long gone.
Tom Riddle ignores them, even though he can feel their eyes upon his back.
The street beyond the orphanage is devoid of life; a still image of cropped bushes and withering trees.
He turns around slightly, looking over towards the narrow, saturnine entrance. The foolish bats are gone.
He turns back around:
The wind rushes past him, all at once, and when he opens his eyes Harry is there, staring down upon him contemplatively. It is as if she wanders in and out of the ether, appearing out of thin air and always departing just as quietly. He never bothers to wonder how that is; his excitement overwhelms him at the sight of her.
"Harry," he says, stupidly, suddenly unable to remember all he wanted to tell the girl, all the words and thoughts he had carefully constructed in his head, in the still moments of the night.
"Tom," Harry returns, smiling indulgently. "How are you?"
"Fine," replies Tom, fast and excited, as if he's been waiting to see her all day, or all month, as it were. "Harry, Harry, I have to show you something!"
"Show me what?" Her voice is warm and delighted; he likes the fondness that sifts between her words—a fondness for him.
He takes her by the hand and drags her into the orphanage's yard, compelled by an incipient urge to keep her close, refuse to let her go.
They kneel in the shade of a large oak, far from the wandering eyes of the caretakers. Tom does not know what their reaction to Harry would be: he does not want to find out. He sits so that she is obscured from sight by the width of the tree, and then he calls to the bushes beyond.
"Come to me," He says, directing his gaze to the forest outside of the orphanage's yard.
Heading his command a young snake obligingly shifts through the grass, maundering towards them.
Tom lifts it without any hesitation, even though he's fairly sure it's a poisonous breed.
"Look!" He cries, as if she could possibly have missed the spectacle. "It's a snake! It came to me!"
"It did," Harry surmises, the advent of a tumultuous expression migrating onto her face.
His enthusiasm dwindles at the sight. It is gone just as quickly as it came; the viridity in her eyes lights up once more—an unending effervescence he's sure he'll never tire of.
"That's amazing," She whispers, and holds her hand out to the snake. It flicks its tongue into the space between her fingers, before it winds itself around her hand.
"Can she speak the language of the snakes?" The serpent directs towards Tom.
But before Tom can answer: "I do," Harry replies, holding the serpent at eye's length. "My name is Harry—how do you do?"
"I am well, thanks." And then it wraps down her arm, to her shoulder, and then onto the ground once more.
Tom gapes at her. "You can speak to snakes too?" His eyes are large and excited.
"How?" He presses, leaning closer. "Why can we speak to snakes, when no one else can? What does it mean?"
This is the day everything changes.
The leaves drift elaborate patterns over her face, separating the parts from the whole. The flutter of her lashes, a long swoop of glowing chrome hair, the slight tilt to her mouth and the consuming green of her eyes. She leans close; her long hair falls upon his shoulder. He is looking up at her with big, wide eyes. The snake lays almost forgotten.
Harry takes a breath. "Well, that's the thing, Tom," lithe fingers move to brush stray hair from his eyes; a movement so caring and affectionate it startles him, "Me and you, we're—different."
"Different," he repeats, something anticipatory rising in his chest.
"You're a wizard, Tom." She says, taking the very breath out of his lungs, the beating of his heart, the thoughts from his head.
"It's magic," she whispers, low and quiet, like a secret, "what we do… all the strange things that happen around you, it's—
"Magic," he sucks in a breath, a wide, splitting grin overtaking his face; perhaps the most risible expression he's ever had.
That's what it is.
Tom is eight, mutinous, and staring determinably out into the monochrome of London. He was seven just yesterday, and eight doesn't really feel all that different.
The orphanage staff hasn't found him yet, though he doesn't think they're looking very hard, if at all. It is bitter cold on the roof, even huddled against a jutting alcove. At least there isn't snow.
It's the only place he has that no one else can take from him. He is very careful to never let anyone see him come and go—to find the secret passageways out the window and across the ledge. He likes his solitude, normally. He prefers it over the incessant and insipid children that reside in this building with him. But that's not true any longer. He prefers his solitude—but there is something else that he prefers even more.
He is not disappointed.
A cold brush of gelid wind tingles against his nose, and he huddles closer into his jacket, wishing for a pair of gloves.
They fall into his lap. He stares down at them in unadulterated surprise.
He jolts as something slides next to him.
"Hello," Harry is so very warm as she settles in beside him, staring sweetly off into the distance, as if she can see something breath-taking that he cannot.
She brings her full attention towards him, and his heart skips a beat in excitement. He never wants her to look at anyone like this—he doesn't want anyone else to have the complete consideration of her bright, green glass eyes. She drapes a thick, soft wool blanket over his shoulders, and he cups the gloves in his hands.
She frowns decidedly at him. "You need a hat too. Perhaps a scarf."
He doesn't like anyone telling him what to do, mollycoddling even less, but Harry's concern only elicits a pleasant thrill in his chest.
"I'm fine," he disagrees. And he is. Right now, in this moment, everything is fine.
She gives him a disbelieving look, before shaking her head. With more warmth than he could ever imagine, she draws close to him, touching his cheek lightly as she presses a kiss into his hair.
"Happy birthday," she smiles, and though he cannot see it he can feel it, just at his temple.
No one has ever told him this. No one has ever celebrated this day, and he never saw the reason to do so. What was the point, when there was nothing to celebrate and no one to celebrate with?
He clings tighter to her, refusing to let her go just yet. He is a collector of fine things, and she is the finest thing he has ever laid eyes upon. Far better than the trinkets and toys that he so easily swipes from the other orphans.
"Thank you," he says, but it is almost lost in the wind.
She makes a move to pull away, but he doesn't let her. He doesn't look up, fixated upon the scarf tucked into her strange jacket; gold and red. Mistral wind licks at the ends of her hair; a diffluence drifting around them, ethereal.
She stills for a moment, beneath his shivering fingers, before she pulls him even closer. He shifts, and suddenly he's curled up in her lap, and everything is warm and lovely and wonderful, and when he tucks his nose into the crook of her neck it's as if there is not a world outside of this; smell, sight, sound—they are all swallowed by her presence.
"Oh, Tom," she murmurs, and it so sorrowful, so full of regret.
A wounded noise escapes his lips, and he feels a burn in the back of his nose.
Has he not dreamt of this for so long? The gentle, soothing touch of comfort when he needed it most, the quiet reassurance of a hand smoothing down his hair, the murmur of warm breath to drift him off to sleep. His fingers grasp ineffectually at her scarf. Don't leave, he wants to say. Don't leave me.
Harry is not his mother, and he doesn't think of her as one. She is his friend, his one and only, the indubitable center of gravity to his universe. But he sleeps in her arms that day as if she was, lulled into ambulant dreams by the soft beating of her heart.
"One more year," he thinks he hears her say. "Just one more year, Tom."
He perhaps could have imagined it. He fears greatly in putting hope into a fallacy, and he cannot think of anything more painful than this. Hope is such a fickle, cruel thing. It tugs at his heart when he determinably refuses to let it; he reaches desperately for it when the world is dark and somber. He holds the blanket closer to him, breathing deeply, as if he could still find the lingering scent of her hair in the soft wool.
In the quiet hours of gloaming he picks at the edges of it, brushing imaginary lint off the checkered fabric.
He is mistrustful by nature and incidence; yet he holds such unwavering faith. She'll come back. It's been months—but she'll come back.
When he needs her most, she'll be there.
His faith is not misplaced.
He sits, huddled by the wall in the cold dank of the attic, nothing but cobwebs to keep him company. The wind moves about the room ominously, a prowling groan elicits from the floorboards. He scrunches in on himself even more, tucked away into the corner. He has no food and no light, and he doesn't know when he will have either of those again. Will they lock him up here forever? The other boys deserved their lot, anyhow. They taunt him, call him a baby for clinging so fiercely to his blanket, tell him he's imagining things, that he's worthless and no one will ever come for him. They're wrong, he wants to shout. Someone will come for him.
He has to believe in that, because he has nothing else to believe in.
Another gust of air; it is an unusually cold March. Spring seems an eternity away, and the bitter embrace of winter holds fast upon the land, the orphanage, the corners of the room. He shivers, and is suddenly seized with a violent need for his blanket. He always looked down upon the other orphans who adhered to an object of comfort; a stuffed doll, bunny rabbit, pillow. But he knows now it's not so much the object as what the object represents.
There is a loud and horrible bang as the wind slams shut a door, far on the other side of the abyss. He jumps, crawling until he is pressed completely into the corner, hiding with the spiders. It howls, suddenly, and the whole orphanage seems to creak and groan at the force. He wants to be anywhere but here.
"If you're scared," her voice is a breath of warmth against him, "close your eyes."
When he opens them there is a little light suspended in the air before him. With wide, enchanted eyes he reaches a hand out to touch it. His fingertips meet no resistance, yet the ball of brightness continues to cast a soft glow about the room. He doesn't need to see her to know she's there. As if a part of him intrinsically feels her presence when it shimmers in the air; matter and energy emerging from time and space.
"Harry," he gasps, disbelieving, looking up and catching the quiet green of her eyes.
"Harry," he cries again, tearing out of his hiding place and ignoring the light for a greater source of comfort.
Her hands rest upon his shaking form; he wants to live forever in the small spaces beneath her neck, the little dips of her collar, the hollow of her throat.
"It's okay," she murmurs into his hair. "Everything's okay."
Nothing is okay, but the feeling of her around him is enough for him to forget that.
Something soft unfurls beneath them, and then Harry is pulling him down onto a downy blanket, until they lay upon it, face to face. He nudges closer, nosing back into her. Her breath is soft against his temple, and he feels the trembling leave him, the fear leaving him in one fell swoop, one shaky exhale. Her hand plays with the ends of his hair; the absent petting is perhaps what he enjoys the most, because it is so thoughtless. As if the touch is so natural that Harry does not even think upon it.
"Go to sleep, Tom," she whispers. "There's nothing to be afraid of."
Not anymore. All his cloying fears have dispersed into the quiet spaces of his mind; they will wander their way out, he knows, but for now there is nothing that scares him. Not with Harry beside him, protecting him from the world.
Well, not quite all his fears.
"Harry," he stirs, peering up at her with frightened eyes. "Will you stay?" His hands fist into the material of her shirt.
She smiles down upon him, brushing stray bangs out of his eyes. "I'll be here when you wake up," she promises, without really answering.
But it's enough.
True to her word, Harry is still beside him when he finally stirs from his peaceful sleep. He is still tightly curled against her, nestled in under the cloth of her jacket, warm and unwilling to face a world outside of this diminutive little universe. He feels so comfortable, despite the fact they are sleeping on the unforgiving wood floor, nothing but a thin blanket separating them from the ground. The watery morning light casts upon her with great affection, gold bleeding down her face and the curve of her neck. Her hair is lit like golden fire. Her hand draws up to his cheek, as if rubbing a smudge of dirt away. He leans into it, so starved for a soft touch.
He yawns, pawing sleepily at his eyes. Her hand drifts away, and even though he is tucked against her he feels cold with the loss.
They are silent for some time, as night wanders into day, and Tom wanders out of his dreams. He fiddles with a lock of her burning hair, emerging back into the world.
"I didn't mean to hurt him," he says, sudden and abrupt. "I—he… I was just so angry, I don't know what happened. I just wanted him to hurt just as bad and then—" he swallows, unable to continue his confession. He doesn't want Harry to turn away from him too; for Harry to think he's abnormal, just like everyone else.
She hums in understanding.
"It's perfectly normal," she replies, to his complete surprise. Normal? "It happens to all of us, when we're young. Accidental magic."
And then, leaning in close with a mischievous smile, "Once, I blew my Aunt up."
His eyes widen in utter fascination. "No way," he marvels.
Harry nods. "She made me so angry—I made her swell up like a balloon, and then she flew out the window! They had to rope her down so she wouldn't float away."
Tom snickers, and then, as if uncontrollable, he begins to laugh in earnest.
"But what happened to her?" He asks, breathless, one he's wiped the laughter out of his eyes.
"Oh, they got her down eventually." Harry smirks. "But she never bothered me again."
"Wicked," he smiles back, utterly charmed at the idea. Just what kind of things can be done with magic?
The possibilities seem endless. He can talk to snakes, make things move when he's very angry, make things hurt when he's angry. And Harry—wanders in and out of space and time as a transient, peregrine existence. She conjures blankets and gloves and little bright lights without any apparent effort at all.
The hand in his hair stills for a moment, and then she's pulling him even closer, until she can brush a kiss to his forehead.
"They're coming for you," she informs, and he feels like someone poured ice water down his back.
He sits up wildly, "No!" Grasping her hand wildly, as if to keep her here forever.
As Harry predicted, he can hear the shuffling of people just below the attic, lumbering up the stairs. He is seized by a violent terror he has never felt before; suddenly the idea of Harry leaving once more is utterly unbearable. He has always prided himself in being far more mature than his peers, but right now he wants to throw a temper tantrum at the very thought. She can't leave.
"Don't leave me," he turns stricken eyes towards her, feeling a horrible burn in the back of his throat.
Her eyes are beautiful and bright and full of remorse. "Tom," she murmurs, sitting up as well.
He still shakes his head wildly, holding her tightly. "You can't!" He cries, refusing to even think of it.
"Tom, I have to," she sighs, lament and regret forlorn upon her face.
"But why?" He croaks out. "Why can't you stay with me?"
Harry looks upon him with such unguarded affection it's almost enough to quell his terror. "I can't, Tom," she says. "Just wait a little longer."
The words still his hysteria; in it's place is an unforgiving swell of hope. "But soon?" He presses.
"Soon," She agrees.
A door bangs open.
"Tom?" It's one of the caretakes, plodding up from the trap door. "Tom! I do hope you've learned your lesson, young man."
When he turns back around, Harry is gone, taking with her the blanket, the light, and all the warmth in the world.
It's nearing his birthday again, but the idea of turning nine is far overshadowed by the idea of Harry coming to visit. She wouldn't miss his birthday. She has to be coming soon.
This is what he tells himself when he waits out at the front gates, wearing a meager coat and the gloves she gave for him, wrapped in her blanket. When it's too cold, he lingers by the front windows, looking for her phosphorescent hair, her blinding, beautiful presence. She is the only thing worth thinking about in the vacant, hollowed world inside the orphanage gates.
It's so cold that he thinks his hands will stick to the iron wrought bars if he touched them; so cold that his breath freezes in his throat, his eyes burning with the wind. He should probably head back inside before he catches a cold, but he wants to stay out a little longer. He doesn't want to have to return, seeing the sympathetic but exasperated looks of the caretakers as he once more comes in with nothing to show for his constnat vigilance.
"You really do need ahat,"
His breath holds fast in his lungs as he sucks in an excited breath. Warm hands tug something over his hair, and when he looks up he sees Harry's captivating eyes.
"Harry!" He cries, throwing himself at her.
She laughs a bit at his enthusiasm, but her arms find their way around him and then she's picking him up, propping him on her hip as if he's a small child. Well, he supposes he is a small child—perhaps not quite in age anymore but certainly in size.
"Hello there, my little Tomcat," she grins, as he wraps his arms around her neck.
"You're here, Harry," he mumbles into her neck, feeling such relief and delight when he curls his hands around her and feels her tangible presence. She's really here; he's not dreaming this up once again.
"I am," she agrees, quiet. "I'm so sorry it took me so long, Tom."
He shakes his head. "It's okay," he replies. "You're here now."
And then, with a naked fear tremulous in his voice; "Are... are you going to stay?"
Harry gently pulls his face away from its hiding spot in her neck, a tender expression drifting over her features as she says; "No, Tom."
He casts wide, stricken eyes upon her. His hands clench agianst her, involuntarily.
"This time, you're coming with me."
He looks at her with wonder and disbelief, wondering if perhaps he really is dreaming. It certianly seems like it; all his dreams follow this pattern in some way or another. Harry comes and stays, and then she whisks him away with her to live with her forever. But that's just a dream—Harry is barely an adult herself, and he doesn't know anything about her aside from the fact that she is the indomitable center of his world.
"...really?" He asks, in a small voice.
She frowns slightly. "That is, if you want to."
This is enough to break his shock—he throws his arms around her again, so abruptly that she stumbles a bit to keep her balance. "Yes," he cries, into her hair. "Yes, yes, yes—
He looks up int that moment, and sees the surprised and alarmed expressions of the orphaange staff over the curve of her shoulder. He grips her tighter, feeling a certain vindication in their surprise. One hand holds him fast against her, the other cradling his head. Harry turns around to catch his gaze, turning a pensive, unreadble look to the oprhanag and its inhabitants. She turns away then, dismmisive.
"Did you need anything else?" She asks, quiet, pivoting back to the street outside the gates.
He shakes his head fervently. There is nothing he holds in legitimate regard in that horrid place; except, perhaps for the blanket wrapped around him, but even that has lost its value in the face of its original owner.
"Okay then," she breathes, walking down the street.
He can hear the shouts and furious movement from the caretakes, no doubt coming to drag him back. He doesn't look up, resting his head against her shoulder.
She turns, pausig behind a tree.
And then, murmuring into his ear, "Close your eyes, Tom."
All the breath has left him in the face of this new and wondrous world, shimmering in an opalescent light as if from another universe entirely. Harry puts him down and they walk together up a charming brick front entranceway, leading up to an elegant brownstone of fine white embellishments and graceful silver. It sits shoulder to shoulder with more houses, each as pavonine as the next; they are all neatly lined upon a street split by a mall of grass—a small park where men in strange clothes jog along with their dogs, and women push strollers with small children, in bright colors and eye-catching patterns. The street itself is lined with automobiles like he's never seen before; sleek and geometric, glimmering in the morning sun.
Harry unlocks the door, beckoning him inside.
Tom forgets about the outside once he enters the house; it is by far the most beautiful place he's ever seen. He doesn't think his imagination could ever make something so beautiful; dark wood floors, long breadths of glass that filter in a diffusive glow, graceful furniture of white and steel. It's not particularly large, but it is far more spacious than it looked from the outside, and elicits a sense of tranquil equanimity in him.
"Tom?" Harry crouches down to his level, frowning concernedly at him as one hand reaches up to feel his forehead. "Are you alright? Do you feel sick?"
"No," he answers faintly—but he does feel overwhelmed.
Harry does not look convinced. "Why don't we sit you down for a bit," she suggests, leading him to a very comfortable looking alcove tucked against the curtains and bay windows. He sits himself on the white pillows, resting his head against the cool glass. The scenery outside has changed; a horse and buggy passes by them on a dirt path; there are no people out in the park in the lifeless winter, no dogs and strollers.
He wonders if he had imagined all of that.
He feels very out of sorts.
"Harry," he mumbles, as she watches him attentively. "I feel... funny."
"Funny how?" She presses.
He shakes his head, unable to explain it. "Strange," he attempts, feeble and dizzy. "And... fuzzy."
"Tom?" He hears her call out to him, worry prevalent in her lovely voice. But his eyes are slipping closed, and he cannot remember where he is after that, falling into darkness.
He feels like he's floating on something very soft. He's unwillng to wake; he knowns intrinsicaly that Harry is nearby, and her soothing presence holds him in a maundering sense of belonging and content. His bed has never felt so inviting and comfortable—his blanket, never so soft and his pillows never so fluffy. And when he cracks open his eyes ever so slightly to turn and roll over, he sees that his room is grand and opulent, isabelline and ivory and long panels of dark wood flooring.
He sits up suddenly, blinking into a retrogade, flavescent light.
He looks down; his checkered blanket is strewn over him, but everyting else is foreign and new. The bed must be twice the size of his old one, and far more comfortable. The room is enormous, palatial but understated. It makes him feel like he's in some kind of fairytale. The whole house does, really, even though it's unlike any fairytale castle he's ever seen in the picture books. It might be a normal house, but it is far grander than any castle could ever be.
He leaps out of the bed, grabbing his blanket as he bolts out of the room. The hallway is somehow oddly majestic, despite the fact it's nothing new to him, long walls, carpeted flooring; still, the whole thing is far too luxurious for someone like him—is he really going to live here? He finds the stairs and tumbles down them, searching for the owner of this fascinting place. He finds her by the open, steel kitchen. He's never seen such clean, glimmering metal before, and he takes a moment to look longingly at the shine of them before he darts over towards the real object of his fascination.
Harry is perched on a chair at a long table, poised and balletic, just like the rest of the house; she slides in to this tranquil universe as if she was meant to be here. Her attention is engaged on a little metal square that sits upright. As he nears, he sees with curious eyes that one side is metal, but the other is bright and full of lights and letters.
Harry closes the little box, turning towards him with an indulgent smile.
"Hey Tomcat," she greets, airy and light. "Are you hungry?"
He hadn't thought he was, but now faced with the proposition, he finds himself nodding fervently.
She gestures towards one of the chairs, as she rises and moves towards the kitchen. "I'll warn you now," she cautions as she wanders around the great silver appliances, "I'm certainly no chef: I can make about five things."
He clamors onto one of the chairs, blinking wide eyes around his new world. "That's alright," he finds himself saying.
And then, returning his attention to the girl ferreting about for a pan; "Harry..." but he has to pause, swallowing thickly.
"Hmm?" Is her absent reply—she finds the pan, and shuts the cabinet with one of her feet as she leans up to grab something else from the cupboards.
"Am I really..." his voice is small and fragile. "Going to stay with you?"
Harry pauses, leaning up to grab a little bottle and then falling back onto the balls of her feet, a curious expression on her face. "Yes."
This stirs up some modicum of courage within him. "For—for forever?"
She smiles at that. "Well forever is a very long time," she points out, wryly, "but yes, for forever, if you want to."
He nods quickly.
It stills feels as if this is all a dream; he cannot remember a time when he hadn't wished for this, ever since he'd met this strange girl, who always wandered in and out of his life. But he couldn't have imagined everything before him—the wonderful, most amazing house (and only house) he'd ever seen, and his Harry, puttering about the kitchen, humming under her breath.
As he waits and looks around, a mouth-watering smell wafts in from the kitchen. He wants to get a better look at what she's doing—he's never seen anyone cook before, at least, not something of a strange soup-like substance that didn't come out of a large pot—but is equally as curious at the table in front of him. It's full of papers full of text he doesn't undestand, though it is in English. He looks longingly at the little metal square, wondering what would happen if he unfolded it. Would it light up in bright colors, like it did for Harry? Was it magic?
His attention snaps away when something is set in front of him with a soft thud. It's a toasted, lop-sided sandwich, looking out of place on the elegant cream-colored plate.
"What is it?" He asks, hesitant.
"A grilled cheese sandwich," Harry answers, taking a bite of her own. She blinks, and then turns around.
Two tall glasses of milk trot diligently towards her raised hand, much to his utter disbelief. They place themselves on the table, one near him and the other near her.
It's the best thing he's ever taste—like butter and cheese and heaven. He tells her this, and an amused smile grows on her face. She says it's super simple to make—she'll show him, some time.
"How do you feel about going out today?" She asks, after they've both polished off their sandwiches. And then, to his hesitant look she adds; "We don't have to; we could stay here today, too."
He bites his lip, debating. "Could we stay here?" He asks, at length.
Harry returns this with an indulgent smile. "Of course."
So they do not leave the house, but Tom finds an adventure awaiting him anyway. Harry insists there isn't much to see, but she is very much so wrong. He's never seen anything like this—it is all so far removed from the orphanage he was used to. Everything looked regal and clean and... expensive. He wonders just how much money Harry has; she never talks about it, but the things in here alone probably cost a fortune, and that's nothing to say of the house itself. There's a small little yard in the back, parted by tall wooden fences of the other houses; there's a deck with chairs, and a pond and fountain, though no water.
Harry called it small, but he can't imagine how she could think that in any sense of the word. It wasn't huge, but it was the perfect size for both of them. He had his very own room, and his own bathroom, and Harry assured him that he could pick out his own furniture. He still couldn't imagine that; the idea of having things. Lots of things. Things to call his own, not borrowed furniture and hand-me-downs. He couldn't see Harry's room, for the door was closed, but the only other room on the second floor looked to be some kind of office, with great bookshelves full of texts he'd never seen before.
He trots back down to the kitchen when she calls for him, and she's pulling things out of boxes and putting them on plates. Amazing things—food he couldn't ever have imagined.
"What is it?" He asks, excited, climbing onto one of the stools around the counter for a better look.
She throws him a bemused look, "Oh, it's just takeout." She says, finishing up both plates and throwing the boxes and paper bag away.
Again, glasses and silverware and napkins all glide their way to the table, folding and placing themselves until the whole thing looks fit for kings. It's some kind of fish on green leaves. He doesn't like fish and he doesn't like any kind of vegetable but it tastes so delicious he eats it all anyway. His favorite part though, is after they'd both finished, and Harry pulls something out of the fridge—his breath catches in his throat and his eyes grow wide. Ice cream.
She laughs at his expression. "I knew it," she smirks, slyly, putting the bowl down for him to devour it. "Every kid likes ice cream."
He doesn't like being called a kid, but he cannot find a reason to complain when he takes his first bite; he's never had ice cream before. It's just as amazing as everyone says it is.
"What flavor is it?" He looks down; he can't tell from it's pink color.
"Strawberry," she replies, smiling, as she scoops up some from her own bowl. "There's a lot of different flavors; we'll have to try them all until we find your favorite."
This sounds like the best idea he's ever heard.
It's growing dark when he settles in for bed, tucked underneath a soft, downy comforter. He keeps rubbing the material between his fingers, as if to remind himself that this bed, this room, this house—is real. Harry makes sure he's comfortable and settled, even tucking the blankets around him. No one's ever tucked him in before, ever, not even when he was a little baby; and certainly not with such fondness as Harry, who brushes wayward hair from his face, and leans down to kiss his nose.
"Are you sure you don't want a light?" She asks, when she straightens up.
Tom shakes his head mutinously; he is far too old for night lights.
"Alright then," Harry frowns, but doesn't press the matter. "Well, I'm just down the hall if you need anything, okay?"
"Okay," he affirms, quiet, comfortable and warm in his sea of pillows and blankets.
She smoothes a hand over his forehead, again. "Goodnight then, Tom."
"Night, Harry," he mumbles, already feeling his eyes slip closed. It's been a long and exhausting day. Not a bad one by any means, but the excitement has left him very sleepy.
He drifts off then, lulled into alluring dreams.
But even with his exhaustion, he stirs at some time in the night. The sleep leaves him as shadows dance over his bed, the floor, the walls. They're just trees, he reminds himself. Just trees and wind. It's not working all that well. This is Harry's house, and Harry would never let anything happen to him. But this doesn't disregard the fact that this bed is new and this room is new and everything feels foreign to him; in a way that's mildly unsettling in the blackness of the night. He feels wary and out of sorts—and can't find his way back to sleep. He pulls his blanket up to his nose, as if to comfort himself. He liked holding it; it reminded him of Harry, even when it'd been months since he'd last seen her, and the thought of her always gave him comfort.
But as he lies there and breathes in the familiar scent of the fabric, he remembers that the person in question is here. Not in some far flung region his imagination can't even conjure. She's here—just down the hall.
This is how he finds his feet dragging himself quietly down the hallway; blanket in both hands. The hallway seems infinitely longer than it had looked during the daytime; every small sound makes him jump.
He runs quickly to her door, opening it hesitantly.
When he peaks his head in he can't see much of anything through the darkness; just small shifting parts illuminated by the speckled moonlight.
"Harry?" He calls, fearful and unsteady.
There's a rustle of sheets and fabric. "Mmm?" And then he can see her form rising up off the bed, rubbing blearily at one eye. "Tom, is that you?"
"Yes," he replies in a small voice, shy and suddenly feeling very foolish.
"What's wrong, Tomcat?"
He shifts nervously, unwilling to admit to being scared of the dark. It seems so silly when he thinks of it like that—he's far too old to be scared of monsters under his bed. "I—" he fidgets, "I just... "
She must read something in the silence between his words. "Did you have a bad dream?"
He nods, even though that's not quite true. He can't remember whatever he dreamed, only what happened after.
She makes a motion, beckoning him in. "Do you want to sleep with me tonight?"
He nods again, before tearing away from the door and towards her voice. Her hands catch him as he nears the bed, lifting him up onto it.
It's far too easy to relax into her embrace; all his fears seem foolish and flimsy when her arms are wrapped around him, all slipping away like water in his hands. She makes an indecipherable murmur, rolling to the side and pulling him with her. If he thought his new bed was comfortable, he clearly had never been in Harry's. He's not sure if it's really just that much softer, or that it's just that she's so close to him. And when he noses into the sheets, he can smell the soft scent of her hair in the fabric; so very familiar and comforting.
He's out in a matter of moments.