Disclaimer: I do not own the thing. JK owns the thing. All of them.

This is betaed by the amazing rhead-a-holyc!

Tom Riddle had just been settling down to a delicious meal of roasted venison at the Slytherin table, when he was interrupted.

"Uh, Tom? Mr Riddle, sir?" Olive Hornby, a third year Ravenclaw with an irritatingly scratchy voice, hovered anxiously at his shoulder. She was a vapid, silly girl with plain features, a head of curly hair, and an excruciatingly annoying habit of giggling after every sentence.

"Yes, Hornby?" Tom's patented fake smile slid over his features like ice, freezing the muscles into an image of perpetual charm.

Hornby tittered. "Professor Dumbledore asked if he could see you in his office. He, um, said it was urgent."

"Did he specify why?"

"No. Sorry, Tom. I could, uh, ask if you want?" Hornby offered quickly, eager to please.

"That's quite alright, Hornby. I'm sure I'll find out soon enough," Tom assured her, not wanted to deal with another interaction.

"Oh, of course." Hornby hesitated and sunk into a jerky sort of curtsy.

Atticus Avery snorted cruelly.

Hornby opened her mouth like she wanted to say something else but turned bright red and closed it again. She let out a strangled squeak.

"You can leave now, Hornby," Tom reminded her smoothly.

Hornby nodded and turned to leave, shuffling back towards the Ravenclaw table. Her walk grew more and more confident with every step she got further away until, finally, she was greeted enthusiastically: the leader amongst her gaggle of Ravenclaw sycophants.

"Mudblood." Montgomery Lestrange spat, running his teeth over his tongue as if to remove a foul taste.

"Her mother is actually a leading Unspeakable," Cassius Rosier corrected softly, eyes never leaving the page in front of him.

"I'm sure she's quite proud," Tom said drolly, and revelled in the laughter that followed.

"Father's worked with Unspeakable Hornby on something before, I think," Orion Black piped up, wiping his mouth with a napkin. "The Veil of Death, I believe."

"Of death?" Tom asked.

"Ominous name," Rupert Dolohov chuckled, and Orion laughed with him. A swift glare from Tom silenced them both.

"Continue?" Tom prompted, attention caught. He didn't lean forward in his seat- it would be quite unbecoming- but he might have, had he been anyone else.

"Oh. Yes," Orion said hesitantly. "I don't think they know much about it yet, but apparently you can hear loved ones whispering if you get too close to it. Only if they're dead, of course, but Father said it's almost like they're standing at your shoulder."

"Didn't one of the Unspeakables kill themselves over it last year?" Atticus said, sneering. "A recent widow, or something?"

Rupert leaned back on the bench, taking a swig of pumpkin juice. "Maybe one black veil wasn't enough for her." He laughed.

Tom felt a surge of disgust at the idea of killing yourself over love. Pathetic. His interest was caught by the idea of a door between the living and the dead – perhaps this was something he could explore in a future venture.

"Do they know how it works?"

Orion perked up at Tom's interest. "Oh, no. Father didn't say. But, apparently it's like nothing they've ever seen before. Made from the same stuff as Dementor cloaks, they reckon."

Dementors – now there was something Tom had never considered. Surely creatures with such a close relationship to death might have a way to avoid it?

"Tommy, don't you have to go see Dumbledore?"

The slimy voice of Caspar Grahams was unwelcome to Tom. Grahams was a fellow Slytherin sixth year, but certainly not one of Tom's closest. He was weak and needy – two things Tom had never been able to abide. He had little to offer appearance-wise, and his magic was, at best, average. Tom kept him at arms-length. And then there was that word.

"Tommy?" His voice was glacial and accompanied by a scalding glare. Tom wouldn't have been surprised if Grahams melted into his seat.

"S-sorry, Tom," Grahams muttered, his skin whitening with terror. Perhaps he was recalling the incident last year, where he 'accidentally' fell into a cauldron containing an overpowered Draught of Living Death and remained in a coma until Christmas. Coincidentally, he had been working with Tom.

The rest of the group ignored the casual threat.

"What did you think the old goat-fucker wants now?" Rupert sniggered.

"No, Rupert, the goat-fucker's his brother," Atticus said snidely, and Rupert dissolved into hysterics.

"Now, don't be vulgar."

Both stilled at Tom's words and seemed to draw into themselves. Tom both bathed in the movement, and felt a strange frustration. He brushed off the feeling.

"I should go and visit our Deputy Headmaster. I will be back shortly. Save my plate."

And so he bid a swift, cold, farewell to his companions and made his way up to Dumbledore's small office.

The Transfigurations classroom had always been Tom's least favourite space, filled with Dumbledore's odds and ends as it was. The pokey office hidden through a door at the back was even worse. Cluttered, colourful and disorganised – it was everything Tom hated. Dumbledore, predictably, seemed to thrive in it.

The Deputy Headmaster perched on his chair: an elaborate, wooden thing, various magical creatures and scenes carved into the rich grain. Tom resisted the urge to set it on fire.

"Ah, Tom," Dumbledore said, his glasses twinkling. "Just the fellow I wanted to see. I have a task for you."

"You called me out of the feast, sir?" Tom asked, a false smile playing on his lips.

Conversations with Dumbledore were never one of Tom's favourite activities, and – from the figure hovering just behind Dumbledore's shoulder – Tom assumed the task would be both interaction-based and menial.

"This is Mr Riddle, one of our Slytherin prefects. I'm sure he'll make you feel right at home. Mr Riddle, this is Harrison Peters. He's just been sorted into Slytherin and will be joining you in sixth year." Dumbledore announced jovially, though Tom could see that sliver of constant suspicion in his gaze that had never quite faded.

"Harry," the boy hurried to correct. "Just Harry," and he stuck his hand out. How… plebeian, Tom noticed with delight. Walburga would probably faint.

Tom Riddle inspected the newest addition to Slytherin with idle curiosity. Harrison "Harry" Peters was an interesting mix of contradictions. He was a combination of Mudblood manners, Pureblood features, youth, yet Tom knew that there was more experience behind those green eyes than there should've been.

And then, there were the peculiar scars. Almost every inch of his skin was traced with thin, golden lines. They spread: vein-like patterns, running along his arms and creeping over his cheeks. They were almost unnoticeable, until they caught the light and then how they shined. He lit up.

Combined with the slow, lengthy movements the boy was fond of taking, and that rather familiar-feeling wand – why, it all created quite the interesting, suspicious package.

He was sure Abraxas would be able to find out more about the boy, should Tom ask.

"And what brings you to Hogwarts so late, Harrison? Sixth year is quite the starting point." Tom enquired politely, taking the boy's offered hand and shaking it firmly. He couldn't help but discern a faint shudder from the contact.

Excellent. Maybe this one would be fun.

"Stuff," Harrison mumbled, and Tom raised one eyebrow.

"I can't help but want to know more. Surely you can expand?"

"Harry has been previously pursuing a home-based education, but extenuating circumstances have forced our company upon him," Dumbledore said, in his usual vague, waffling way.

"My parents are dead," the boy spoke bluntly, meeting Tom's gaze head-on, in a peculiarly confrontational manner.

Tom took note of the curl of delight that rose in the pit of his own stomach.

"These are dangerous times we live in," Dumbledore reflected mournfully.

Harrison 'hmm'ed noncommittally. Tom's suspicion wasn't sated. For someone whose parents had supposedly died, Harrison wasn't exhibiting any of the usual signs of grief. The scab – to coin a muggle phrase – seemed to have already healed over.

"Well, I can only hope," Tom murmured silkily, "that Hogwarts can offer a safe shelter during these turbulent years."

"I'm sure," Harrison grunted, and Tom narrowed his eyes at the short answer.

"I trust you'll lead Harry back to the Slytherin table?" Dumbledore interrupted. "The feast is already underway, and I imagine Harry is feeling quite deprived of the sumptuous cuisine we so value here at Hogwarts."

"I'm sure he's quite hungry," Tom murmured, a note of challenge hidden in his words. The faint frown on Dumbledore's features told him it had not gone unnoticed.

Tom turned back to Harrison and gestured. "Come, I'll lead you back to the feast."

Harry was not pleased with his situation.

He'd been right in the middle of a bloody important fight, when - boom! - the Department of Mysteries had chosen that opportune moment to blow up. Bloody Unspeakables didn't know when to pick the moment to build new Time Turners. Why yes, do it while a fierce battle between the Order of the Phoenix and Voldemort's forces is happening next door. Good job.

Thank Merlin, Dumbledore and Dippet had swallowed his half-arsed story about a 'poor home-schooled half-blood' and 'unfortunate parental death' and 'please, sir, Hogwarts is the only place left to go. I promise I won't cause any trouble'.

Bollocks - when had Harry Potter ever caused anything but trouble?

Harry was perfectly aware that Dumbledore hadn't believed a word: he'd gotten that same scheming, manipulative look that he always got whenever Harry made a mistake in their games of chess, but Harry would just have to take his suspicion on the chin. Tom Riddle had dealt with it for 7 years - it couldn't be that hard.

Speaking of Tom Riddle, the boy was almost exactly as he'd remembered. Smooth, manipulative, a complete arse - but handsome. Perfect cheekbones, perfect smile, perfect eyes - Harry hated every inch of him. He hated every perfect dark hair on his perfect head. He hated the sharp swoop of his jawline and the rich, intelligent hazel eyes and that flawless white skin.

Harry just had to remind himself that this wasn't Voldemort - for Merlin's sake, he hadn't even found the Chamber of Secrets yet! But that didn't stop Harry from trembling with the urge to wrap his hands around Riddle's neck and just squeeze.

Think of all the lives he could save.

Think of all the lives he could doom.

Harry had considered this. To be honest, his first thought when he'd realised he had arrived in August, 1943 was to kill Riddle. He could save his parents, Cedric, Quirrel, Sirius, all before they were even born.

But Harry was almost sorted into Slytherin, and that quiet voice, the one that sounded disturbingly like Hermione, had talked some sense into him. Bad things happening to wizards who messed with time… and he admitted that perhaps Hermione's accusations of recklessness weren't always inaccurate. If he killed Riddle, who knew what could happen? Without Riddle's influence, would his parents even be born? What if Riddle's exact presence at one moment in time saved the Wizarding World? Harry could be murdering everyone he'd ever known, all because he couldn't control himself.

So Riddle had to live. That didn't mean Harry had to be nice to him.

Money had been an issue. He was unable to get to his trust fund here- seeing as it hadn't even been set up yet- but luckily, he was able to get both a loan from Gringotts, and the Hogwarts orphan fund paid for his books, equipment and uniform. He didn't need anything else, really. Harry tried not to wonder if the fund had still been a thing in his time, or if there had simply been too many orphans to pay for them.

Harry had initially considered avoiding Hogwarts - and therefore Tom Riddle - altogether, and sneaking away to Albania, or something. But Britain was his home, and there was a part of Harry that shrunk at the idea of abandoning Hogwarts' halls for a strange land. He was stranded in a new era, alone and so, so scared. He could allow himself this little piece of familiarity, could he not? He could get a false name, avoid Riddle - Harry could be what he always wanted: just another unimportant face in the crowd.

'Harrison Peters' would have to keep a reasonably low profile. He didn't want to become too memorable. And fuck, if he hadn't bollocksed that one up by being sorted into Slytherin. Great job, Harry. Pat on the back.

The Sorting Hat had always been difficult and was less easily persuaded second time round. What a dick.

Which was how Harry came to be trailing after Riddle, hands clenched in the folds of his robes. Riddle strode quickly, long legs covering twice the distance that Harry ever could. The sound of his polished shoes, and Harry's muffled trainers, echoed through the empty corridors.

"So how far along were you with the curriculum with your parents?" Riddle asked, his voice just as smooth and musical as Harry knew it would be. It was a far cry from the hissing creature that had risen in the graveyard just last year.

"Far enough," Harry said shortly.

Riddle's jaw twitched, and Harry took twisted joy in irritating his fellow Slytherin (and wasn't that a weird thought?).

"What's your favourite subject?" Riddle tried again, and Harry wondered why he was trying so hard. Probably attempting to bring Harry over to the Dark Side. Well a few quotes from '50 Conversation Starters for Murderous Sociopaths' wasn't going to do that.

"Defence." There wasn't much danger giving him that much, was there?

Harry regretted it when he saw the smug look on Riddle's face.

"Me too," the future dark lord said slowly, and Harry wondered how Riddle could make just two words so slimy and unpleasant.

"I'm sorry about your parents," Riddle said suddenly, his voice full of false sympathy. Harry wondered viciously whether Riddle had just remembered how to be a human being.

"Me too." Even Harry could hear how dull his voice was. He was emotionally exhausted. To be civilly discussing his dead parents with their murderer! Well, that wasn't something he had ever seen coming.

"My parents are dead, too," Riddle tried.

Oh. Well this… this was unexpected. Harry had known that Riddle was an orphan from his time with the diary, but that had been a detached acknowledgement. To have the real, breathing orphan in front of him… Harry knew what it was like to grow up without a family, alone and abused. He could stop a twinge of empathy.

But think of how many people he killed!

The righteous Gryffindor within him roared.

What would you have done without Ron or Hermione, if all you had were the Dursleys…?

Replied the Slytherin voice, which still bore a disturbing resemblance to his bookworm friend.

Deciding that these empathetic feelings he was sharing with Voldemort, of all people (not Voldemort yet, Hermione reminded him), were too weird to continue with, Harry shook his head. And realised that Riddle was still waiting for a response.

"Sorry," Harry blurted out uncomfortably.

"When did they pass?" Riddle spoke smoothly, seeming to skim over the awkwardness. Harry doubted that it had gone unnoticed.

'When I was a baby' was the automatic answer, and Harry had to bite his tongue to catch it. "A few weeks ago," he said quickly.

"Recently, then." Riddle remarked, eyes boring into Harry's skull. "I imagine you're still grieving, then."

"Oh, er, yes." What a rubbish answer. Harry wondered why he was finding this so difficult. It hadn't been difficult to conjure up a few tears for Dumbledore and Dippet. Perhaps it was his distrust: that fear of showing weakness in front of Riddle that held him back.

"Who was it?" Riddle pressed, and Harry balled up his fists.

"Could you stop?!" he snapped loudly. It was the first time Harry had raised his voice above a low murmur, and the shout of 'you!' in his head was almost as loud.

"I apologise. I appear to have stirred unfortunate memories."

The baby Dark Lord seemed genuinely sorry. Harry didn't believe a second of it.

"They're dead, and that's the end of it," Harry spat, and he held back his fury. It was fine: he was just imagining the haze around him, the taste of copper and electricity on his tongue, the way his wand twitched in his pocket. He could believe that. However, he didn't think it was his imagination that caused the hairs on the back of his arms to raise. The air around him seemed to crackle.

Okay. So this was a new development.

Before Harry could reflect too much on his sudden loss of control, they drew to a stop in front of a familiar door. Harry frowned at it, remembering how he had stumbled, terrified, out of this door last year. It seemed a lifetime away, before the tournament, before Umbridge and the DA, before Voldemort, before-

"This is the Great Hall. We take breakfast here every morning at eight. Classes begin at nine, each an hour long, until twelve; where we have lunch until one thirty. Dinner is at six."

Harry didn't even bother to respond as he drank in the welcome scene, abuzz with energy and light. Even the floating candles seemed especially bright, dancing in the sky. The ceiling glistened with a thousand stars: every colour of an early evening mixed into just one palette. The hall echoed with voices, and Harry could catch bits of countless conversations.

It was so happy and light. He hadn't realised how much he'd missed this. Harry's fifth year had been dark, full of suspicion and mistrust, every meal shrouded in shadow. Whether the students believed Harry's claims or not, no one had been in the mood to excitedly pour over various stuffings.

Despite the immediate familiarity, Harry could still spot differences: extra gargoyles, which were probably lost or decommissioned over time; dishes that had lost popularity; and evidence of wartime rationing. There were even changes in the way the students wore their hair.

"It's beautiful," he breathed. Hogwarts was home.

"I agree."

Harry had, honestly, forgotten Tom Riddle even existed for a moment. Turning his attention back to him, Harry's breath caught in his throat. Riddle's face was alight, sharp lines softening in the flickering candlelight. He surveyed the hall with a warm pride and boundless hunger, but there was something protective in his gaze. Everything was softer and more open: he smiled.

Harry wondering if this was the face that launched a Wizarding war. Suddenly, everything made a lot more sense. Everything also became a whole lot more terrifying, because if this had been the man that greeting him in front of the Mirror of Erised… Harry wasn't sure he would have said no.

Riddle seemed to regain himself, growing colder and more professional. "I'll bring you to the Slytherin table. You can meet my friends."

Voldemort doesn't have friends. The lion again.

Not Voldemort, yet, you moron. A hiss.

Harry dutifully followed his future arch-rival and imagined what Ron and Hermione would say about this. It would probably sound remarkably like the conversation happening in his head.

The Slytherin table had not, to Harry's knowledge, changed much. It still seemed to be the same mix of upper-class Purebloods, and the occasional ambitious Muggleborn, in distinct divides. Harry's opinion very swiftly changed when Tom approached them.

Almost immediately, every Slytherin at that table seemed more alert, more anxious, and more reverent. A seat in the midst of a group was cleared instantly, sixth year boys shuffling along to make room. In fact, the effect was not limited to the students in green. Quite a few students from other houses seemed to quieten, girls and boys alike regarding Riddle with awe, and not a small amount of lust. Harry noticed one Hufflepuff in particular, giggling with her friends as she twirled a dark plait around her finger and eyed Tom. Harry wondered if she would be screaming over a dead body in years to come.

Harry's thoughts, as usual, were remarkably positive.

"Over here." Riddle spoke softly and sat down without bothering to check if Harry followed. The group of boys closed ranks, crowding around Riddle as if he were a saint. There was nowhere for Harry to sit (and he certainly didn't want to be in the middle of Death Eater central), so he decided to go next to the first years. At least they probably wouldn't know enough magic yet to seriously injure him. But he had barely stepped in their direction, when:

"Not going to sit?" A snide, whiny voice that reminded Harry distinctly of Peter Pettigrew. The association was not pleasant. Harry tracked down the source of the voice to a tall boy, lanky and thin. He had close-cut red hair and a short, wide nose with small, narrowed eyes. His lips were twisted into a smile that was probably meant to be mocking but just looked slightly constipated.

"Not if it means sitting next to you," Harry said plainly.

A few people laughed, the most noticeable of them an attractive blond-haired boy with high eyebrows and a long nose.

"Well, why don't you take a seat next to Avery, then? Don't worry, we all like to avoid Grahams." Riddle smirked, gestured to the seat next to the blond boy and- oh, what a surprise- the young Dark Lord himself.

"I think I'll just go and branch-"

"Sit." Tom spoke firmly over Harry's protestations.

"Loving the choice," Harry commented as he reluctantly joined Riddle on the bench. "Really feels like a democracy."

Apparently Riddle elected to ignore him, as he simply smiled blithely and waved at his companions. "I think introductions are in order. This is Atticus Avery."

"Nice to meet you," the blond boy said slyly, pointedly not offering his hand. "I'm sure you'll be quite fascinating."

Harry got the impression that Atticus would stab him in the back if he got half a chance. He nodded emptily.

"Orion Black."

"From the noble and ancient house of Black," the one with boyish good looks and dark hair tied back said, taking Harry's hand and shaking it enthusiastically.

Well, fuck. The wound was too shallow. He had but a few days ago seen Sirius' body fall backwards through the veil, crumpling like a sheet of old parchment as he was ripped away from Harry. To be confronted by Sirius' father so soon afterwards… well, it was like being punched in the gut. Angrily, Harry felt his eyes fill with tears and furiously blinked them away. This hurt.

Luckily, Orion was still taking a mile-an-hour, blabbering on about his father and- France? for some reason. Harry prayed to Merlin that his little moment had gone unnoticed. He would save his sobs for later that evening.

"Black," Tom said warningly, and Orion mercifully shut up.

"Sorry, Tom."

"This is Montgomery Lestrange."

And just Harry's luck - a relative to the woman who killed Sirius. Looking nothing alike, of course, but Montgomery still looked fucking insane, with a familiar dark light in his eyes and sandy hair. Perhaps craziness was a requirement of carrying the Lestrange name.

Harry took a deep breath. He just had to get through this hour, then he could break down. Maybe he could sneak away to the Room of Requirement and break something.

Montgomery Lestrange regarded Harry with unnatural interest, wearing a bloodthirsty grin that looked out of place on his fifteen year old face. "Mudblood," he said viciously, offering a curled and clawed hand.

"Halfblood, actually," Harry replied icily, taking the hand and stabbing his nails into the soft flesh. This Lestrange didn't have years of experience on him, and damn if he was going to be intimidated.

"Same thing," Montgomery spat, smiling all the while.

"Not really." Harry was so done with this conversation, so he turned back to Riddle, hoping for another introduction to distract him. To Harry's horror, Riddle was watched him hungrily, one eyebrow raised.

Fly under the radar, he told himself.

"Cassius Rosier," Riddle said, pointing to someone Harry hadn't even noticed. But he noticed him now. Ah- here were Bellatrix' features. Hooded, sensual eyes, a deep wood brown; and curled black locks the colour of panther fur, gleaming under the Hogwarts light. Next to Riddle, Cassius was easily the most attractive of the boys.

The reason Harry hadn't noticed him: he had his nose buried in a book.

"Cassius?" Riddle repeated, and the boy merely hummed in reply. How very Hermione-ish. (And now Harry was seeing both Hermione and Bellatrix layered over one another; what a horrifying image.)

The images: Bella, a triumphant smile on her face as she waved her wand and Sirius was sent sprawling-

Riddle rolled his eyes, and Harry blinked; shocked at that very human gesture.

"And me!" The last boy was a whirlwind of long hair and freckles, wide smiles and slightly terrifying energy. "King of the puns and teller of jokes!"

"Yeah," Atticus snorted. "Like your mother's marriage."

"Shut your mouth!" the boy hissed, turning on Atticus with a look of unexpected fury. "Or I'll bring up the Ministry ball-"

"At least I don't-"

"Gentlemen!" Riddle masterfully controlled them, cutting off their argument with a simple glare. Harry felt his dislike increase.

"Harrison, meet Rupert Dolohov."

Rupert gave him a tight smile, but his enthusiasm seemed to have dimmed.

"Nice to meet you all," Harry mumbled lowly, feeling incredibly uncomfortable. They all sat in silence, looking at him expectantly. Harry had no idea what they wanted and- quite frankly- would rather be in bed, even if it was in the dungeons.

"An introduction could be beneficial?" Atticus said slowly.

"But I've already met you all…?"

"This is Harrison Peters." Riddle corrected amusedly, adopting a faint smirk.

Harry turned bright red. "Oh, er, yes. And it's Harry, not Harrison. Just Harry."

"All right, 'just Harry'. What brings you to Hogwarts?" Rupert asked.

Shifting in his seat, Harry pondered how to answer. "The war." He finally settled upon. It was an honest, straightforward answer, and Harry knew that the others would assume he meant Grindelwald's war. Harry was rubbish at lies, so decided to try and keep his story as close to truth as possible.

"Could you be any more vague if you tried?" Atticus asked shiftily, narrowing his eyes at Harry. Atticus was becoming more and more unpleasant by the minute.

"Yes, he probably could," Cassius murmured. "He could tell complete untruths, and then we'd all be doomed."

Rupert laughed and slung an arm around Cassius' shoulder. "Crazy Cassius, don't ever change."

He finally looked up from his book and blinked. "I wasn't planning on it."

"So, how come you haven't come to Hogwarts before now?" Grahams sneered, leaning in and trying desperately to join the conversation. Harry tried to think sympathetically of the outcast - consider him another Neville Longbottom - but Harry couldn't erase the image of a rat-faced man cowering on the floor of the Shrieking Shack, admitting to his parents' betrayal.

"Well, my parents weren't dead, before." Harry said bluntly. He really was too tired for Slytherin machinations. Perhaps in the morning.

Grahams sat back, looking ashamed.

"Brilliant tact as always, Grahams," Riddle sneered.

"What are those gold lines on your body?" Orion asked innocently, leaning across the table to get a closer look.


Harry remembered the sight of Sirius falling, ripping himself out of Remus' arms and tearing through the doors, running through corridors and hallways in desperate pursuit of Bellatrix' high-pitched cackle when- boom! The shower of burning gold dust, as it searing to his skin. Harry remembered screaming. Harry remembered wizards and witches pouring out of the crack in the wall, babbling into his ear, but he hadn't been able to hear a word. Harry remembered pain. He remembered waking, his skin raised and raw, every movement agony. Harry remembered seeing the golden scars, burnt into his skin and thinking: at least they'll hide the one on my head. Harry remembered tears.

"I imagine Grindelwald's forces aren't kind," Atticus said, and coming from anyone else, it may have sounded concerned. But from Atticus' lips, it just sounded eager.

Montgomery started laughing: high shrieks of cold laughter. Bellatrix' laugh. Harry felt a cool rush of anger within him. Luckily, Montgomery was already tapering off, bubbles of amusement shaking his body occasionally.

Harry sighed, pulled a plate towards himself, and started piling food onto it. The others had apparently already finished eating, but Riddle still had a plate of some kind of meat, and Harry was hungry. He chewed a sprout thoughtfully as he considered his situation.

This was all so fucked up.

Harrison Peters was an interesting specimen, Tom reflected. He was certainly awkward and uncomfortable, and he seemed to hold an unprovoked animosity towards Tom- but Harrison was interesting. He'd been watching the boy's reactions to his new classmates, and there was really no explaining some of them.

Little to no reaction to Grahams, apart from dislike (but that was expected).

Suspicion towards Atticus, but that was just being sensible.

Conflict with Montgomery, but Tom got the impression that Harrison was just a confrontational person (he certainly hadn't gone out of his way to be polite), and he clearly shared little to no values with Lestrange. Perhaps it was a natural clash.

Some sort of attraction towards Cassius? Tom couldn't tell. Harrison was certainly interested in Cassius, but from what he could see it was a mixture of lust and… anger? But Tom couldn't see what Cassius had done to deserve that.

Dolohov provoked little reaction other than annoyance, but perhaps that was Tom's own bias.

Harrison seemed to hate Tom. He was doing little to hide it, and Tom found it… disquieting. What have I done to cause this, little snake? He wondered. What have you seen? This bore investigation.

But his response to Orion… now there was where the interest lay. Harrison had almost begun to cry. The others may have been caught up in Orion's usual babble, but Tom had seen those shockingly green eyes begin to water. Tom thought little of crying: he had used it himself before, but felt no emotional connection to the act. But Harrison… he'd been feeling pain.

Tom wanted to know what happened: why meeting a boy you'd never seen before in your life could cause such horror. Harrison recently experienced trauma, and perhaps that could explain it away… but it didn't explain why Orion provoked such a strong response. Orion: perhaps the most naive and unassuming of them all.

Harrison's story was expected and becoming more common day by day. Grindelwald tore more and more families apart the further he spread, and Harrison was not the first orphan to sit, close to tears in the Great Hall.

But still… something was off. Something was strange. Something wasn't right.

Tom had to speak to Abraxas, and he resolved to keep an eye of Harrison Peters. He was curious to see how this home-schooled student would perform at Hogwarts.

Tom spied movement from the corner of his eye, and turned to face the front of the hall. Ah, the festivities were drawing to a close. Professor Dippet got to his feet and gave a slight smile to his students. The hall quietened as people noticed him, and Dippet only had to lift his hands to achieve utter silence.

Tom quirked his lips slightly. Dippet may be an idiot, but that was impressive. He felt the ambition and longing rise within him. One day, Tom would be controlling entire legions with nothing but a nod. They would respect him.

"Hello students. And now we draw to the end of our first meal together but the beginning of a year. You all have hopes and goals which I'm sure you'll achieve, but remember: nothing comes without hard work and a bit of elbow grease." Dippet winked, and a few students laughed half-heartedly.

Dippet grew more serious. "These are trying times we live in, and I know there will be some among you suffering from losses too terrible to comprehend. I want to assure you that Hogwarts is behind you, and we will pull through this together. I also want to remind you that the practise of Dark Arts is being more strictly monitored this year and forbidden to students below third year. Let's keep our corridors safe."

Tom assumed he was referring to the incident last year, where a girl had been hospitalised after walking into the path of two Ravenclaw practising the disembowelment curse. Or so the story went. Tom found it difficult to believe it was just an accident. Frederik Lovegood had always been a bit strange.

"Now off to bed, and your schedules will be provided tomorrow morning."

Tom rose to his feet with the crowd and tapped Harrison, who was still poking at a treacle tart with his fork, on the shoulder.

"I have to lead the first years, but follow Atticus. He should get you settled in." Tom hoped Dumbledore saw how helpful he was being. Maybe he would stop throwing Tom that damnable frown.

Harrison looked up, glasses catching the light, and his skin glittered. Tom gave him his usual charming smile, and Harrison fixed him with a look of hatred- Tom was sure he wasn't just imagining it. Tom heard a sudden crack in his ear. Harrison started, and scrambled to his feet, knocking over a goblet of pumpkin juice with his sleeve. He cursed and began to mop at it with a napkin, only succeeding in spreading the sticky juice further.

"Leave it," Tom said. "The house elves will deal with it."

Harrison muttered something about vomit (strange boy) and surveyed the mess with an unhappy expression. Atticus rolled his eyes and began to pull Harrison away, giving Tom a pleading look.

Tom bared his teeth in response, and took petty joy in the cowing of Atticus. It may have been unbefitting of someone with Tom's ambitions but, Merlin, it felt good. As long as he could control his classmates, he was safe.

Tom watched Atticus lead Harrison away, until the messy head of black hair and the blonde gleam had disappeared into the crowds. Tom didn't miss the looks of confusion that were thrown Harrison's way (perhaps due to his unique scars). Tom noted delightedly that the boy looked thoroughly uncomfortable with the attention and stuck close to Atticus (admittedly, with ill temper).

"Now," Tom said, sweeping his gaze over the small, scared faces gazing up at him. "Welcome to Slytherin House."

Later, entering the sixth year dormitory in the dungeons, Tom Riddle saw an extra bed. Surprisingly, the curtains were already shut. Was Harrison so tired that he needed to go to bed at eight? If he had strange sleep patterns, it was going to disturb the rest of the dorm, and possibly Tom. Speaking of disturbance, Tom couldn't hear movement beyond the curtains- not even breathing. Strange: there was a light. Waving his wand at the bed, he realised there was a silencing charm over it, preventing any noise from escaping. Tom wondered why Harrison Peters would need to put up silencing charms. Presumably nightmares…

Tom decided he should probably cancel the charms at some point, just to see what happens. But not tonight.

Tom grabbed a jumper and left the dormitory. He would join his associates on the sofa downstairs.

Behind the curtains, Harry wrapping his arms around his knees and shook with sobs. He was thankful for the silencing charm- he'd grown accustomed to using them once Voldemort returned and the visions began. But Harry knew he was going to have a completely different kind of nightmare tonight.

Fuck. Sirius was dead.

His godfather; his connection to his parents and his last chance at a family- snatched away. And all because Harry was reckless and stupid. Charging into the Ministry: what was Harry thinking? He'd had no idea of what was going on. He'd been overly Gryffindor-ish and look where that got him. No- Harry was going to do better. He wasn't going to do anything without thinking; he wasn't going to get anyone else killed because he was overly impulsive.


He wanted to scream, and maybe break something.

Harry wrapped his hands in the sheet and gasped for breath. What would Hermione say about this?

Oh Merlin- Hermione. Ron.

He hadn't even thought about them.

He felt another wave of self-loathing as he realised he'd completely forgotten about his friends, who had followed him loyally into a snake trap. Ron, wrestling with that brain, gasping as it wrapping feelers around his throat. Hermione, pale and falling to the ground, crumpling like a marionette with her strings cut. Luna, Neville, Ginny-

He had no idea what had happened to them. He'd left them in the middle of a battle, left his friends helpless and alone to, yet again, be reckless. Why the fuck did he run after Bellatrix Lestrange? What the hell could Harry do to a witch three times his age and power?

Arrogant. Snape would be delighted that he was finally admitting it.

He didn't even know if they were alive.

He wanted to go home. He didn't know how.