He notices her the second she enters the lobby, how could he not when there were so many mundane, ordinary people already occupying his space? Of course, everyone around him is dressed in finery, how could they not be when present in such an important building?
But it's the personalities that he reads, not the fabrics they wear or the faces they present.
The inward curve of shoulders that indicate the man that had sat opposite him was in fact feeling rather downtrodden and hopeless with his life, how to elderly gentleman who just left was putting on a strong showing but his left shoulder has been throbbing in pain for the past twenty minutes; he'd twitched, reaching for it twice already even though he abandoned the movement before his palms could rise noticeably from his sides.
That's why he notices her, because among the boring, the ordinary that pass by, she stands out like spell fire in the dead of night. It's not her colouring, but that is certainly a help.
He had once compared Albus' hair to a refined auburn, it'd reminded him of the soft curling flames of a carefully controlled Incantation, a showcase of magical control that he'd always been fond of likening to his one time friend.
The woman though, was Fiendfyre in human form.
Her hair was wild, a tumbling landslide of half waves, luminous in its shades of oranges and reds. And the eyes. Killing curse green, he'd never seen any quite like it, and his lips thinned slightly in consideration. Surely if a noble had such a daughter then she'd have been the talk of the pureblood circle.
A Halfblood then? For he highly doubted a muggleborn would ever be able to work their way up to attend a meeting here of all places.
Turning his attention back to the paper, Gellert was intimately aware of the fact the female had settled across from him, only the low slung table standing between their respective armchairs.
She sits on the chair nothing like a lady, not to his trained eye. Her hand is never more than two feet away from where he suspects her wand rests, and her eyes are sharp as she takes in her surroundings.
She's a fighter, he can see it already, in the she angles her shoulders and her hips, how she sits and how her ribs expand and contract. Every movement is sharp, steady, she's been in her fights, and she's won them. Otherwise she wouldn't be here.
"The Prophet? Are you from England?"
Gaze flickering up, Gellert offered the woman a cheerful smile, cocking his head just so to allow the lighting of the room to fall across his hair and features in a favourable manner.
"Oh no, not at all. And thank Merlin for that."
"And yet you seem quite familiar with their colloquial terms, so you must not be from around here."
He snorts, even though he's privately admiring just how sharp the woman is. So quick to pick up on the phrase he'd adopted from Albus, so quick to note the discrepancies; clearly she wasn't one to trust on first meeting. How interesting. Someone had clearly been bitten before.
Her lips are tilted as she looks at him, unusual green eyes sharp. She's waiting for him to say something, to dig whatever hole she was expecting a little deeper. Time for a bit of manoeuvring then. My oh my, it had been so long since he'd had anyone to play against.
"Well, I'm certainly not a Yankee, if that's what you mean."
"No? Where are you from, then? If you don't mind me asking." She speaks with an English accent herself, despite being here in America. It's refined, with the slightest tint of a Scottish brogue.
A Hogwarts graduate then? Too young to have known Albus, that was for certain, and perhaps too old to have been taught by him. Though he wasn't quite sure why she was in America, unless the woman was here to chase after opportunities of new or old money. Perhaps both.
Still, to look outside of Europe was unusual for an English female. She must not have travelled enough to catch his accent, he wasn't even trying to conceal it.
"Germany." It's not exactly a lie. He was born in Hungary, but Germany was where he was raised, and he's always considered it more his home than his birth country.
She doesn't so much as twitch, so either she is pureblood without any connections to the muggle world -and thus, the muggle world war. Dear lord, near two decades had gone, surely they'd have let go of that grudge by now?- or she cared little for it. Unsurprising, given the muggles inferiority to them.
"Oh, that's lovely," she seems to hesitate slightly, only just, before she continues in an awkward manner, "I've always wanted to go. I've been meaning to go to Berlin for ages."
How very strange, to meet a woman who was so awkward in small talk. Were they all not trained from birth to be able to hold a conversation, to twist and play at words and make themselves seem better in every way? That's how it was with every woman he was introduced to, every dullard clinging to the arm of whatever male was being introduced to him, fluttering their eyelashes at every powerful and rich man they came into contact with. How very refreshing she was.
"You should! Lovely place. Personally, I enjoy Frankfurt over Berlin—more modern, I think. I've never been one for the sleepy countryside; I prefer to be in the heart of it all. Not that Berlin is much of the countryside, but it's far smaller than Frankfurt."
Best to tease her out. Why was she so very different from those he'd come across so far, and most importantly of all, would she be a threat? She was a fighter, he could see that much. It was painfully obvious, a survivor. The question was, would he be stepping on any toes, would she fight against his cause, or would she support it?
He passes the next few minutes engaging in small-talk with the woman, carefully thought of questions teasing more and more information out of her. She does taxes, not her husband's taxes, but her own.
For she is not married. She's certainly of marring age, that's for sure. Not to say that she looks old. Perhaps in her young twenties, though the serious look upon her face makes it difficult to tell.
But that just opens more questions.
Why would an unmarried woman's taxes bring her to a place as important as this? His interests grows as they continue to speak, for she works in financing, employing a strategy he knows well. Big risks, big rewards. You got nowhere in life if you didn't push the boundaries, all of the boundaries. Experimentation, going where none had dared to before.
"..maybe I'm just enjoying a life without the need of a husband."
Without the need of a husband.
She was right, she clearly didn't need one in any way, shape or form. He'd not had a fascination with a person as strong as this since Albus. He knew nothing of her magical ability, if it was mediocre or if she did indeed rival his old friend. But if her personality was any indication, he was looking forward to finding out.
Perhaps, after this little meeting, it would be time to do a little digging.
"You know, I don't think I've ever met a woman quite like you. And I mean that with the… highest compliments. You are quite the clever little creature."
She flushes. It lashes terribly with her hair, red cheeks against the fiery mane, but it makes him smirk regardless.
"Oh, well, thank you. That's very kind." The hesitation shows on her face, as if the fact she took more than a moment to respond wasn't a big enough give away.
"I apologize, I hadn't meant to make you uncomfortable."
"It's alright—it takes far more than that to unnerve me."
He bet it did.
Something about her face as she speaks in that moment, makes him believe she's faced worst things than the awkward situation of being complimented by a stranger. Whatever demons lay within the depths of her past -and most certainly there are some, he would know that look anywhere- they are far worse than any troubling feeling a uncomfortable conversation can create.
She seems just as startled when he muses on the fact she's endearing herself to him, as if he were that easy to get close to. He can see the thoughts spin in that brain behind those dangerous eyes, The way she uneasily tugs at the skin of her lip before speaking.
"Perhaps I should be the one apologizing then, that wasn't my intention."
"I know." Gellert smirked slightly, not quite able to keep his amusement off his face. He compromises with a wink in her direction as he stands, "that in and of itself is perhaps the most endearing thing at all."
She's a breath of fresh air, and he wants to know why.
"I don't think I caught your name," he murmurs, weighing the girl's reaction.
A swallow, heavy in the back of her throat. She really wasn't used to being in this position, why though, he wasn't sure. She was certainly physically attractive, more than enough for any sensible man to make a move on her. Smart too. Witty. Far too few women were.
"Um—it's Harry. Harry… Riddle." Liar.
Oh, she certainly goes by Harry, but Riddle? No, that's not her name at all. The name of someone close to her, maybe.
But not her name.
The hesitation, the significant pause between her given name and the surname she'd used; Riddle was not her last name.
And now, he wanted to know just why she'd felt the need to give a fake name.
She'd given no indication she recognised him, though few would at the moment. No indication she'd connected him to the rumours of a rising Dark Lord.
Pressing his lips to the back of her pale hand, Gellert offered her a smouldering look that has her cheeks clashing wonderfully against her hair once again.
"A beautiful name for a beautiful woman."
She straightens as the page boy announces his name, the slightest widening of her eyes. And he offers her another look, tossed over his shoulder as he follows after the boy.
"Well, it was a pleasure, Harry."
He refuses to address her by the fake name, so a personal goodbye it was. His last glimpse of the girl as he disappears from the waiting room is her wide green eyes and the worried tilt to her lips.
Yes, some research was most definitely in order.
It took him perhaps longer than it should have done to find Miss Harriet Potter and her ward, Tom Marvolo Riddle.
And it did take a surprising amount of digging. Seeing as it wasn't his top priority though, he'd not given it much attention.
Not until her maiden name had come through. Until her surname had come through.
The Potter family.
Descendants of Ignotus Peverell, the youngest of the three brothers and the very first owner of the invisibility cloak.
One of the Deathly Hallows.
By pure chance, he'd ran into her.
By pure chance he'd struck up a conversation with his first real lead on a Hallow since the Elder Wand.
And she'd slipped right through his fingers.
If only he'd known how important she was the moment they'd met, he'd never have left that building without teasing the promise of a second meeting from her lips. T
hat little nymph of a woman was his newest lead, she was the first one to pop up in years, seeing as the Potter family back in England were notoriously difficult to get a hold of whenever one came asking about the Hallows.
Here was a chance.
It hadn't been difficult to send out spies, to get them into the party that the duo -Harry Potter and Tom Riddle, at least he knew were the 'Riddle' came from- had attended. The information that'd come back was, promising.
Harry was clearly very determined to not settle down right now, raising her charge -why he was her charge, Gellert didn't know, there was no history or link between them prior to their sudden appearance in America- on her lonesome. And she was doing an admirable job; Riddle's schooling records sung him praises and gave glowing reviews of his abilities.
The boy hadn't known about the Hallows though, or at the very least, seemed to have no idea if his guardian had one.
If Harry Potter was indeed the owner of the invisibility cloak, of Death's Cloak, she kept that information tight to her chest.
Perhaps it was time to bump into the lovely Miss Harry Potter again…
So, I've been following slexenskee's work for a while now, and I was once again rereading Crawlersout and I just had to write a little something for it, Gellert's thoughts on Harry because I'm in deep with this fanfic.
If you haven't already read it, I highly recommend you do so,