Happy Thanksgiving! :)


ooo

"Tom, are you aw-"

"No," said Tom, resisting the urge to open his eyes. No reason to give Potter any encouragement.

"...Asleep? Great!" Potter said brightly, dropping into Tom's bed and bouncing the mattress. He opened his eyes, because even if the boy was far too love-struck to attack him, it just wasn't natural to assume that.

"Go to bed, Pot- Harry," Tom said, not ready to have the argument about names. Again.

"I am in bed," Potter said cheekily. Tom idly contemplated a bloody murder, but he didn't want to mess up his sheets. The house elves wouldn't come until morning, and they were probably obligated to report dismembered students to the headmaster.

"Go to your bed, Harry," he said, not knowing why he bothered. The boy wouldn't go unless he used magical means.

True to form, Potter only burrowed further under the blankets. At least he'd brought over his own pillow. Tom reached for his wand so that he could levitate the boy out, and maybe give him a few boils as well.

Potter caught his wrist before he reached his wand, and Tom glared at him. He resisted the urge to pull; Potter was stronger than his scrawny form would suggest, and Tom refused to do anything so undignified as wrestle like a muggle.

Potter hesitated, and then Tom did start to struggle when the boy pulled out his own wand. The boy only cast a quick silencing charm, hastily putting away his wand before the struggle could escalate. Tom fell still.

He placed his lips right at Tom's ear, and whispered skin against skin, "My mother was a muggleborn."

Tom jerked away and looked at him with wide eyes.

"You shouldn't be so careless with that knowledge," he said in a carefully measured tone.

While Potter having a muggleborn parent failed to surprise him, the fact that it was the mother did surprise him. This implied that Harry was born out of wedlock; a scandal, especially given Charlus's engagement to Dorea Black.

"You won't tell," Potter said. "Your father was a muggle."

Tom froze. Although he had expected it, he disliked someone knowing so much; the boy had already shown that he'd done a fair amount of research on the Gaunt side of the family, so it simply meant that Potter hadn't skimped his research halfway. He let himself breathe, reminding himself that he had him under oath to never share his secrets.

"How much do you know?" he asked.

Potter looked uncertain, so Tom reached out a deliberate hand, stroking down his cheekbone. Only a few centimeters separated their faces, and to enhance the effect, Tom trailed his thumb across his lips, oddly gratified when the boy's breath stuttered.

"It's about me, isn't it?" he whispered with poisonous allure. "Tell me. What do you know?"

"Your father was a muggle," Potter repeated dazedly, enraptured. "Um. I know...your mother had him under a love potion."

Silence.

"What?" Tom asked abruptly, his voice too loud and harsh, causing the boy to wince. He jerked his hand away. "What do you mean?"

"You didn't know?" he asked, bewildered. "But...didn't you hear that your mother had taken him? That's why he ran away."

"My father," Tom spat viciously. "Abandoned her when he found out she was a witch!"

"No," Potter denied with alarm. "He left her when she stopped feeding him the love potion."

"Lies," he hissed. This was wrong; Potter lied, how would this stranger, this outsider, know more than him, anyway? "You're lying. Muggles are afraid of our power, of our superiority, and he was just the same!"

"Well, he was a bit of an arse, yeah," Potter agreed. "But he was under a love potion the whole time. He should've stuck around for you, but your mother shouldn't have done that. It wasn't about the magic, it was about how she used it."

Tom shook with rage, because how dare this boy pretend to know any of this, to make up such twisted lies.

...But if it contained even a drop of truth, he had to know.

"Where did you hear this?" Tom managed an almost civil tone, speaking through his teeth.

Potter hesitated. "I saw...Morfin."

No, that was impossible. He'd killed his parents over the summer, and framed Morfin just after. Potter had come to Hogwarts at the start of this fall term. Besides that, his uncle had never mentioned anything about a love potion to him. Yet, there was no other way that the boy could know as much as he did, and Tom didn't sense that Potter lied.

"Why would you speak to him?" Tom demanded. "We had yet to meet."

"I just...saw him," Potter said, looking nervous.

But the parseltongue. Morfin might have kept information from him, given that he'd immediately recognized Tom's similar appearance to 'that Muggle'. Maybe he would've spoken to the boy, quiet Harry Potter, who shared their gift for speaking to snakes. Maybe he'd been ranting to himself, thinking that nobody who overheard would be able to understand.

"Did you see him at his trial?" Tom asked, and Potter looked surprised that he'd guessed, but nodded. Perhaps his reticence had been because of his reluctance to speak ill of Tom's relatives.

It made sense. It would explain Potter's initial interest in him, and then the boy's fascination had likely turned into infatuation at some point...and then he'd spilled the love potion, and brought himself to Tom's attention. The story pieced itself together; Potter just happened to be at the right place, at the right time, speaking the right language.

Of course, he still didn't know how the boy had inherited the trait. And he didn't know anything about Potter's parents, either; he'd obviously tried to research him when the boy had attached himself to him, but the House of Potter had covered up the scandal well.

He swallowed his inner unrest, suppressing his thirst to cast dark magic and spill blood, and he asked, because he recognized the opportunity as too perfect to ignore.

And so he heard the tale of a little boy in the cupboard under the stairs. Potter refused to give many details, seemingly more out of shame than distrust, but Tom managed to coax out a few secrets, just barely drawn out in sleepy mumbles. A madman had murdered his parents, his relatives were muggles of the worst sort, and they'd never told him about the Wizarding World even after his most powerful bouts of accidental magic.

Tom picked out a murmur, saying that the rants over his cursed freakishness had almost been worth it, because Tom should have seen it when he set a giant snake on Dudley at the zoo.

Tom's lips twitched.

His anger faded into a vague simmering, more thoughtful than wrathful by the time Potter dozed off completely. It didn't stop him from levitating the boy to the floor in the early morning, but feeling magnanimous, he let Potter drag one of the blankets with him.

ooo

The next morning he put his scheming to good use.

In the end, it was far too easy. He didn't even need an alibi. Who would expect the Head Boy to sabotage his own House's Quidditch team? He'd never even expressed any interest in the sport.

A short, harmless conversation about Quidditch remained the only evidence of his crime, and he doubted that Crockett would admit to eavesdropping in the first place. Not exceptionally adept, he doubted that the captain would even make the connection at all.

And if Potter won, Crockett would probably thank Tom for his manipulations.

After the match, that was. In an hour he'd be far too busy panicking.

Tom allowed himself a small, terrifying smile, stowing his wand away as he abandoned the body to the fifth floor corridor. Slytherin's reserve seeker already laid on the seventh floor bathroom, damningly close to the entrance of Gryffindor tower. He wondered vaguely if Dumbledore might know to suspect him, but he had no clear motivation for this. Regardless, the old man could never prove his guilt.

Tom briskly walked back to the common room, dropping his Disillusionment charm and slipping in unnoticed. He would have attracted more attention if he'd maintained it; nothing sparked a Slytherin's curiosity quite like secrecy. As it was, the lounge buzzed with genteel excitement and tension, the upcoming match against Gryffindor on everyone's minds, even more so than usual with the recent strain on the House relations.

Slipping upstairs, he found Potter where he had left him, put out with a light Sleeping Drought. Someone truly determined to wake the boy could have done so, but Potter would have been far too drowsy to hunt down Tom. He'd learned better than to underestimate the other student, especially when it came to Potter's determination to spend every waking moment in his presence. It was the relatively harmless part of Tom's scheme; the drought should wear off within the next half-hour or so, plenty of time before the Slytherin-Gryffindor match.

So Tom pulled out his book and waited.

It was obvious when they found the bodies. He could hear voices, not quite shouting, but sharp enough to carry through the stone hallways. He'd left the door partly open, so he'd have warning. Potter twitched at the sound, blinking sleepily awake and shivering a bit, his sheets having slipped off, providing no protection from the dungeon's cool air.

It was quite cold in the dungeons if unaccustomed to it. The thought brought to mind Potter's dementors, and his continued curiosity of when Potter had encountered them. He said the cold reminded him of them, and the specificity implied a physical memory of the creatures. Perhaps he'd encountered them at the same time he'd run into Morfin, at his trial.

Three and a half seconds, Tom mused absently. Potter truly did make the oddest comments.

"-hospital wing," he made out from the faint echoes. "Gryffindor...Fifth floor...Can't play..."

"Tom?" mumbled Potter, reaching up to rub his eyes, displacing his glasses as he did so. Tom made the unpleasant realization that he'd grown far too accustomed to Potter's waking face for his tastes.

"Hmm," he responded inattentively.

He pretended to focus on his book, when in reality focusing on the voices down the hall, trying to make out the words. Either way, he ignored Potter. The voices grew louder, more agitated.

The Quidditch match started after lunch, and the meal began in fifteen minutes. It would not be suspicious at all to head downstairs right now, and perhaps Potter's appearance would help prompt Crockett into realizing the possible solution to his dilemma.

"It's half past eleven," Tom said, flicking his wand to mark the page of his book and sliding it closed. "Shall we head down to the Hall?"

"It's that late already?" Harry mumbled into his pillow. It wouldn't do for him to look too drowsy to play. Tom sent a mild Aguamenti charm at his face.

"Hey," the boy spluttered indignantly, wiping his face with his palm. With a huff, he took off his glasses, wiping the lenses on his sleeve.

"Come along, Harry," he said lightly, opening the door and holding it open with mocking courtliness, offering a winning smile.

With a casual flick of the wand, he deflected Potter's retaliatory jet of water. He didn't bother reciprocating, being in a rather good mood. He'd had the chance to practice some particularly vicious curses against the Slytherin seekers.

Really, Potter should be grateful, since as long as he played well, this would help him as well.

Slytherin had been watching him warily since his standoff against Tom in Defense Against the Dark Arts. He'd have to find an opportunity to have a public rematch against the boy, so he could win and reclaim his status. Still, at Potter's level, no other student would steal the title any time soon, and upon reconsideration, Tom decided he could make use of his defeat. The boy was clearly skilled, so when Tom fought him, he could take the opportunity to show off his own abilities. He had few chances to demonstrate the extent of his talent.

And if Potter was a competent Quidditch player, his esteem would rise even more, and his association with Tom might actually prove beneficial instead of a disgrace.

No sooner had they reached the bottom of the stairs, that the others bombarded them with questions.

"Tom, you're a decent flier, aren't you?" Andrew Snowyowl, one of the team's Chasers, asked with poorly concealed desperation.

He was only a second-year, less aware of Tom's infamous indifference towards the sport. He tended to lose himself in Transfiguration textbooks, too engrossed with the subject to pay much mind to anything aside from his reading, except for Quidditch.

"Tom wouldn't," Neil Lament, the other Chaser, waved away the foolishness. "He probably doesn't care enough about the game to know basic strategy, anyway."

"Who cares about strategy?" Mulciber demanded, the beater of the team, his Quidditch status his one saving grace, given the atrocity of his grades. "At this point, we'll be lucky to find someone who can stay on a broom."

The rest of Slytherin whispered in aggravated hisses, their planned vengeance against Gryffindor growing more and more ruthless. The heated discussion of possible candidates and bloody revenge intensified.

Tom didn't want to have to point out Potter, since that would, however subtly, tie him to the incident. Fortunately, although not the sharpest of students, Crockett remembered the idle conversation by the fire from the day before last.

"Potter! You play Quidditch, don't you?" Crockett demanded, forgetting that he'd eavesdropped on the conversation and shouldn't know as much. One could only expect his brief moment of acuity to stretch so far, Tom supposed.

"Er," Potter said, startled at being drawn into the conversation so suddenly. He'd been left at the outskirts of the conversation until then. "Yeah, a bit."

"That doesn't mean he's any good," Lament said snidely.

"We're using him," Crockett announced without further ado, to several startled and indignant squawks. Tom stepped back, observing the crowd and listening to the cacophony with impassive poise. He could appreciate Crockett's obstinacy as he held firm under the barrage.

"You can't be serious!"

"Potter will watch Riddle more than the Snitch!"

"Why not use Prince? He can stay on a broom, and he's of the right sort."

Tom eyed Potter curiously as he flushed at the insult, full of indignant and righteous rage. Tempted to watch the impending outburst, he acknowledged it probably for the best that Malfoy spoke up before the boy could insult the entirety of Slytherin so rashly that even Tom couldn't save him from the fall out. While he'd hardly bemoan the loss for long, it would mean that he'd have to cut ties with him, and now that he'd invested in Potter, the lost time would irk him.

"Well, we shouldn't be too hasty," Abraxas drawled lazily, cutting through the chatter. "The House of Potter is an old line. As a Slytherin, illegitimate son or not, he's at least half of our kind...I say, let him prove he can overcome his dirty blood, and if he turns out to be nothing more than an impotent spawn trying to lay claim to an old name, we take care of him then. We are a generous lot, are we not? We can provide chances to those beneath us."

Abraxas tolerated half-bloods, so long as they were useful to him, and so long as they didn't marry into old blood and pollute the pure lines. Still, it was unusual for him to voice any form of 'moderacy' in public, and Tom eyed him shrewdly, wondering what the blond had to gain.

He received his answer when Malfoy gave him a subtle nod after his speech; he had noticed Tom's intention to collect Potter, it seemed. He'd have to check that the memory charm still held.

"I'm not 'beneath' you," Potter's growl snapped him out of his musings. "Any of you. But if you want me to prove myself, fine. I'll do it, just so you know that I can outfly any of you, which makes me wonder about your so-called 'pure' superiority."

The retort received angry hisses, but Tom didn't intervene; if Potter couldn't back up his words, he'd suffer the wrath of Slytherin House no matter what proclamations he made now.

"Go change, Potter," Crockett snapped, when the protests started up again, although more reserved now that the Malfoy heir had spoken. Instead they whined at Potter's 'ungratefulness' in the face of Abraxas's 'generosity'.

Potter looked mutinous, fists clenched, but after a moment spun on his heel, heading back to their dorm room.

Tom watched from a distance, smiling at the malevolent tidings that whispered through the corridors.

ooo


Thanks for reading! I'd love to hear whatever you're thinking, including critiques.

MY REQUEST FOR HELP:

I have the next 9 chapters already written. The problem is, even though I have a very vague guideline for after Harry's potion wears off, and I've already written some- I lack any motivation.

So if you have anything you want to see- feel free to mention it in the comments. Maybe it'll give me some inspiration. I'm just bored with my own ideas.

I'm also watching Yuuri On Ice if you want to prompt me for that. Or any of my fandoms. I just need new ideas, I've bored myself. Basically.

Be warned: I like writing angst more than fluff. But I will take either.

I'd credit you if I did use your suggestion, of course.