"You take someone to the airport, it's clearly the beginning of the relationship. That's why I have never taken anyone to the airport at the beginning of a relationship."
"Because eventually things move on and you don't take someone to the airport and I never wanted anyone to say to me, 'How come you never take me to the airport anymore?"
"It's amazing. You look like a normal person, but actually you are the angel of death."
- When Harry Met Sally
As Halloween surely but steadily approached Harry contemplated to herself that usually it was Halloween when the year at Hogwarts would take a turn for the worst. Everything would be fine and dandy and then suddenly Quirrell was releasing a troll in the dungeons, the goblet of fire was vomiting out Harry's name, a petrified Mrs. Norris was found staring at the heir's ominous message on the wall written in blood, or else that iconic Halloween of 1981 where the infant Harry had defied death and lost her family.
Halloween, then, could be said to be the official unofficial date when shit would always hit the fan.
Halloween, Harry decided, had come a few weeks early in 1942.
It'd been Thursday night by the time Harry had been hauled out of the chamber of secrets by Tom Riddle. So, with only one day left of classes she hadn't noticed too much off that Friday. Sure, there was whispering and pity retraction of detentions and lost house points from her absences. She was mostly just glad she wasn't dead in the chamber or dying in the chamber and hadn't paid too much mind to anything else. Instead, she spent the day watching and waiting for Tom Riddle to break down and do something drastic and or evil.
However, for his own part, Tom Riddle seemed to have regressed into pensive brooding. He looked at her quite often that Friday, still more than he had any right to, but more and more of that Tom Riddle show seemed to slip from him. He looked, she thought quietly to herself, tired.
More than anything else, angry, afraid, resentful, or even that usual faux charming, he looked tired. As if he'd been worn down by the world, by that brief encounter on the staircase, and could no longer find the energy necessary to put on the glorious façade of Tom Riddle.
She didn't see him all that weekend. Likely, she thought, he was moping or maniacally scheming her demise down in the chamber of secrets. Harry supposed she should be concerned about that, should maybe planning something to mitigate the damage of a Tom Riddle with too much time on his hands and a thirst for vengeance but she just couldn't bring herself to. It was weird, but there was a thought that maybe he had some right to feel the way he did.
Sure, he was evil incarnate, but Harry had technically acted before he had a chance to even do anything. Harry, having been in the situation often enough of being accused of actions she hadn't taken or thought she was never going to take could unwillingly sympathize. Sure, she had time travel and twenty-twenty hindsight on her side but that didn't mean he knew that.
Did this mean she regretted it? Not really. However, it did mean that he had some right to slink into his shadows and scheme if he wanted. Harry would handle it, she always did, and she wasn't going to go and hold it against him either.
To her own surprise, Harry realized that she'd honestly meant it when she said he could have the chamber. Just not the giant man-eating snake, thank you very much.
So, Saturday had quickly sped by with Harry's head once again buried in books she could barely read through without falling asleep, then Sunday the same, and then it was Monday and even Harry couldn't help but notice that things were… Weird.
People were staring at her. Not just Tom Riddle staring, but everyone in Hogwarts watching her every move at breakfast with a rush of whispers that would quiet down whenever she glanced in their direction. It was, in its own strange way, similar to after her name had been drawn from the goblet. Except that there wasn't the same malevolence in the air that there had been then, the sneering and distaste and turned shoulders from people she had considered her best of friends.
No, here there was that same interest, but it was accompanied by either gossiping amusement (mostly from her Slytherin peers) or else a sort of over the top concern which…
Sure, Harry had supposedly fallen out a window and she guessed she was flattered that people had noticed she was even gone, but she honestly hadn't expected this. And it just kept going too, on into Charms and then Potions and even though Harry had certainly lived through worse, it kept nagging at her. If only because the other times Harry had always known exactly what it was that was earning her the attention of the entire school.
Either it was her scar, the parseltongue fiasco, Sirius Black stalking her through the halls, the goblet of fire, or else ministry propaganda and her over the top epileptic vision fits. Every time though, Harry had known exactly what it was and would eventually be able to buck up and brush it off while carrying on like usual.
This time though all she'd done was fallen out a bloody window!
And even worse was the lack of, well, aftermath from the slaying of the basilisk. Normally, whenever Harry did something really grandiose like that, school was basically done. There'd just be the usual exams left, Gryffindor would earn some last-minute points to steal the cup from Slytherin thanks to Harry's bullshit shenanigans, Hermione would over study as usual, and then it'd be off to the Dursleys for yet another fun filled summer. Harry had never had to stick around and see what came next.
Sure, she supposed she hadn't really expected anything but some secret part of her must have as she kept looking around and waiting for the hammer to fall. Except that as Monday came and went Tom Riddle seemed more or less back to his usual self, and it was just Harry who was the sudden talk of the school. For something that wasn't the slaying of a giant secret snake in the basement.
By the time a full week had gone by since the start of this whole mess, with Harry in Transfiguration sitting next to Alphard Black and staring at the back of Tom Riddle's head again as he gossiped with Abraxas Malfoy, she just felt this odd nagging itch that she couldn't ignore any longer.
Looking down moodily at her successfully transfigured goblet, tapping her fingers impatiently, she tried to think of how she was going to get the ball rolling on this. There… Wasn't really a great way to put it, that, and she and Alphard Black were hardly friends or even acquaintances.
In fact, Harry remembered with a flush, he'd witnessed her emotional breakdown as Tom Riddle and friends had dumped surprise tutoring sessions down on her head. Which, that bastard Riddle hadn't even brought up despite the fact that tonight was Tuesday, one of his free evenings.
He'd gone through all of that, that ridiculous thing with Slughorn, and hadn't even brought it up.
A strangely timid voice interrupted her thoughts, "Are you…"
Harry blinked, looked over directly at Alphard who was looking at her with genuine concern. It was… Almost disconcerting, she thought, it'd been so long since she'd seen anyone look at her like that. She supposed that Tom Riddle pulling her out of the chamber had, but that had been, well, Tom Riddle. Naturally, he did not count when it came to that sort of thing.
Harry, blinking again, flushed harder and blurted out, "I'm sorry."
Now it was his turn to look flabbergasted. Harry wanted to curse, there she went putting her foot into her mouth as usual. There just was no helping it, at every opportunity, Harry could and would make an ass of herself.
"I'm sorry, you know last Tuesday, that you had to see…" Harry started, trailing off awkwardly and allowing her eyes to move to the safer position of inspecting Black's goblet. His, she thought somewhat bitterly, was a masterpiece compared to her own. Which was really sad given that it was Harry's second time through this assignment.
"Oh, no, don't worry about me," he said, now looking more amused than anything before that sober concern returned to his silver eyes, "I wanted to ask if you were alright. I should have gone after you, even if it meant being late for my next class and I'm so sorry that…"
"What? Oh, no," Harry interjected before sheepishly grinning back at him, "Believe me you did not want to do that."
That would probably have made it ten times more embarrassing that it already was. Well, it might have been nice to have someone to talk to that wasn't Tom Riddle, maybe reassurance at that moment that Harry wasn't totally alone in the world, but all the same…
"It's really fine. Besides, you missed me falling out of a window which I'm sure would have been very traumatic to watch," Harry said with a rather awkward laugh, but then she stopped, noticing an odd spark of emotion in Alphard's eyes, as if that was the thing he was most afraid of.
Harry, slowly, awkwardly decided to bite the bullet and just quietly go ahead and ask, "Hey, Alphard, I know we don't really know each other and that we just kind of just sit together in Transfiguration once a week but… Do you, I don't know, know why everyone's gossiping about me?"
Judging by the look on his face, that was the last thing he'd hoped that she would ask him. He glanced around awkwardly, likely searching for eavesdroppers, and Harry did the same. Most seemed engrossed in their own work, but Harry couldn't help but notice that Tom Riddle and Abraxas Malfoy's heads were turned just enough to watch Harry and Alphard out of the corner of their eyes. Malfoy with a rather Draco-esque smirk of anticipation and Tom Riddle with a thunderous frown that Harry couldn't quite parse.
Not that Harry ever really could parse Tom Riddle.
"It's, well…" Alphard said softer, barely audible amid the sound of half transfigurations. He was looking now down at the table rather than at her, as if that made this somehow easier. Finally, he said so quietly that Harry had to strain to hear it, "It's because you jumped out the window."
Harry at first blinked, about to reply that yes, she had jumped out the window but then was caught on the word. Tom had originally said fallen, fainted really, Harry had taken it up from him and said fallen out the window as well. No one, as far as Harry knew, had said she jumped.
"I didn't jump," Harry said slowly, and he looked over at her, giving her a rather piercing if sympathetic look as if he saw through her excuse…
And it finally clicked.
"Oh my god," Harry exclaimed as quietly as she could, "You all think I tried to kill myself!"
And she could see it portrayed in their collective consciousness. Harry Evans has no friends, no hobbies, and no prospects. One day after class she gets publicly humiliated by Goyle and Malfoy (they probably forgot all about bloody Riddle) and then she storms off and supposedly "falls" out of a window. By which, clearly, Harry Evans attempted to end it all by jumping off the roof of the astronomy tower.
Alphard's expression was doing nothing to contradict Harry's new, and terrible, theory.
In a dazed sort of aftermath of her epiphany Harry realized she was going to have to kill Tom Riddle. Not because he was going to become Voldemort, not because of the chamber, not even because of his many character flaws but because he had probably known they'd think this from the very start.
Tom Riddle had made everyone think that Harry couldn't handle a few spiteful comments and had had to throw herself off the roof by the second week of October.
"Look, I just fell," Harry insisted to her seat partner, hoping he at least would believe her and maybe spread the word (to whoever even cared or would bother to listen), "I know it sounds bloody ridiculous but it's really, honestly, true. I have put up with so much worse bullshit than I could ever get from him!"
Here she motioned to Malfoy and Riddle, partners in crime, for emphasis. Black's dark eyebrow raised ever so slightly but he didn't say anything one way or another. Which, Harry really wished he would because the idea that people thought she was so timid or weak that Tom Riddle calling her names in the hallway could reduce her to killing herself was like some kind of a knife in her stomach.
Harry lived in a world of constant adversity whether it was with the Dursleys, Malfoy, Hogwarts itself, or the bloody dark lord after her life. If name calling had been enough to do her in then Harry never would have made it past her bloody fifth birthday.
"You're telling me that you really just fell out of the window?" Alphard asked slowly, dubiously, which was his right as that really wasn't what happened but goddammit Harry had to tell them something!
And that something, she decided, was not going to be a suicide attempt.
"I'm saying I didn't bloody jump," Harry finally corrected with a sigh, deciding a technical truth was going to sound a lot more genuine than an outright lie. Even if the outright lie was slightly closer to reality than her going off and jumping off buildings in despair.
She paused, glanced over at Dumbledore who was now staring at them with a considering expression, as if not sure he wanted to come over and tell them it wasn't time to chit chat or else leave them be given that Harry was friendless and supposedly suicidal.
Harry wasn't sure if that was an improvement in their relationship or not.
"Well," Alphard said, interrupting her thoughts, then paused as if to consider his words. Finally he smiled at her, and it was strange because it was nothing like a smile that Sirius might give. It was too soft, there wasn't any of that marauder humor inside of it, but instead a genuine sort of sympathy that Harry hadn't realized she needed, "Either way, even though I'm not your prefect and we don't really know each other… You can talk to me. I know our lives are very different, that I might not understand, but I promise that I can listen."
"That's…" Harry trailed off, not sure what to say to that. She wasn't sure if it was the kindest thing anyone had ever said to her, or the most touching, but it was maybe the kindest thing she'd ever heard from someone who had no reason to say anything to her at all.
So, all she could do was nod, smile softly, and say, "Thanks I… I'll probably take you up on that sometime."
She grinned then, stood as the class period came to an end and gathered her books, not sure if she was ready for Divination but supposing she was ready enough. And on her way out the door, in a better mood than she'd expected to be in given that she was just told the whole bloody school believed she'd tried to kill herself, she found herself bumping into Tom Riddle.
She skidded to a halt just before she could crash into him. He looked as impeccable as always, as impeccable as Harry didn't even in new robes donated to her by the school. Prefect badge glittering, tie tied in that perfect manner that Harry had never managed to perfect in all her years of Hogwarts, not a single hair out of place. Every time he looked like this, Harry thought to herself, she came that much closer to punching him in the face.
As Harry stood there, watching as Riddle's eyes rose and his head tilted in question down at her, Alphard walked past along with all the rest on his way out the door. He glanced at her, smiled awkwardly, then with a strange sheepish sort of stoicness ignored Riddle's glare along with Malfoy's sneer and muttered insult of, "Mudblood loving tosser."
Alphard didn't say anything, didn't even look back, as he headed down the hallway and then towards the moving staircase as if he didn't have a care in the world. Soon enough, with a nod from Riddle, Malfoy was also on his way out the door, shoving Harry in the process.
Finally, once again, it was just Harry and Tom Riddle lingering just outside the doorway and the show could once again be put on hold. Harry felt herself sigh, shoved past Riddle, and made her way up the stairs towards Divination suddenly not in the mood for Tom Riddle's bullshit.
Tom Riddle, however, appeared to very much be in the mood for Tom Riddle bullshit as he walked beside her.
"So, you and Alphard Black?" Tom Riddle started, a strange sort of sneer on his face as he looked down at her, "I didn't think you had that sort of gold digging in you, Harry. I should warn you though that he's not the heir of the house of Black and is, as far as the family's concerned and do forgive the pun, something of a black sheep. I doubt he'll get much money at the end of things between his more favored siblings and cousins."
Harry flushed, wanting desperately to deny it and scream at him, except that was probably exactly what he wanted her to do. Some part of her wondered if this was it, if he'd just spent the weekend and Monday throwing her off her game so that he could get rid of her somehow here and now.
So instead, walking a little faster, Harry asked, "Don't you have Arithmancy or something?"
"We're in the same general direction," he answered, neither confirming nor denying that it was Arithmancy or some other class that supposedly brought him close enough to the Divination tower. Harry wasn't sure she believed that, but she did believe that Tom Riddle had never been late in his life and wasn't going to start now.
"Still, you didn't answer my question," he said, giving her a rather pointed look, like it was even a question that was worth her bloody time.
"What question?" Harry balked, "You said a fragment of a sentence and then called me a gold digger just because I talked to him."
"You don't talk to people, Harry," Tom Riddle corrected, "I, occasionally, talk at you."
"That's not true, I talk to plenty of people! Just, I mean, not recently but… Besides, you told everyone I tried to kill myself!" Harry blurted, glancing around at the crowds of students around them, each headed to their next class, and watching as they looked at Harry and Tom and then giggled. Jesus Christ, she thought, wasn't this what he had been trying so desperately to avoid?
Now everyone and their brother would know that Tom Riddle and Harry Evans had once walked down a hallway together.
"Oh, so that's what you two were whispering about," Tom Riddle said, nodding to himself as if suddenly everything was cleared up and fine and dandy. Then, seeing her affront he said, "Oh come on, Harry, you show up two days after being missing covered in blood. It was either that or you got raped by centaurs."
If Harry had been taking a drink she would have choked on it right then. Especially, as unwillingly, she found herself wondering what happened to Umbridge after she'd been carried away by the centaurs on sight. She gagged, flushed, then asked, "Were those really the only two options?!"
"The only two that came immediately to mind," Tom Riddle said entirely too casually with a shrug, "And no one asked you to do what you did. I certainly didn't ask it! A small amount of embarrassment and shame is the least you deserve."
The odd thing was, she thought, he didn't seem angry about that anymore. Sure, there was some lingering resentment and confusion in his expression, but not that same burning anger and betrayal from the stairs. Like he really was… over it.
In fact, maybe it was her imagination, or some show he was putting on for her benefit, but some part of him looked downright fond. Harry found herself more than a little unnerved by that spark of emotion.
"Oh yeah?" Harry asked, as she crossed her arms and walked that much faster, "Well what about your bloody shame, Riddle?! We are walking together, walking together in hallways and everyone can see you! Your reputation is ruined, Riddle, ruined!"
"No, it's not, it's Tuesday," Riddle corrected, somehow not looking concerned in the slightest even as he waved towards a flushing Minerva McGonagall (and Merlin, flushing McGonagall, flushing McGonagall looking at Tom Riddle like a teen idol) as well as all his other peers.
"What kind of an answer is…"
"You and I have tutoring sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays on Potions, History of Magic, and how we don't kill ourselves by jumping off school buildings," he said, and he actually had the nerve to smile at her charmingly as he then stopped in his tracks, folding his hands behind his back and stating, "After dinner, seven o'clock, we meet in the common room."
"We meet in the…"
He didn't even give her a chance to finish his sentence, but instead turned on his heel, walked back down the hall and then around a corner to his own afternoon class leaving Harry standing gob smacked in his wake and right back where she started last week. Namely, even after killing his giant snake friend, still stuck in tutoring sessions with Riddle because…
Because she still had no bloody idea at all.
How was it, she wondered as she kept walking towards Divination, that she had so much clearer of an idea on how to kill a basilisk than how to handle her day to day schoolgirl 1942 drama?
You could hardly say Harry Evans looked pleased to see him after dinner but, to Tom's secret delight, she didn't look entirely displeased either. She turned towards him, eyebrows raised, and looking at him as if just by staring long enough she could discover what this latest and greatest scheme of his was.
The trouble was, he thought with some wry humor to himself, there really wasn't a scheme.
Sure, there was going to Slughorn to put this together the week before (though she had figured that out soon enough), but unlike all his other relationships there was no goal beyond that. More, there was nothing to be gained.
For as dense as she sometimes appeared, he'd discovered that Harry had something of a gift of seeing to the heart of the matter relatively quickly. In this case it was that Tom was ambitious and intent on heading places, associating himself with a muggleborn in Slytherin, particularly a muggleborn like Evans was a great way to get him nowhere fast.
Alphard Black, he thought wryly, was surely discovering that from his own relatives for all that he received enough flack merely for having been sorted into Ravenclaw.
Tom Riddle had no reason to go out of his way to acquaint himself with Harry Evans, and they both knew it. Or at least, he'd had no reason before the chamber of secrets. Now there was the lingering mystery, the hints of potential and power beyond what he'd assumed she was capable of…
However, that would mean nothing to his peers at Hogwarts and without the rather thin excuse of tutoring he'd find himself on thin ice with his housemates. Yet, here he was all the same, eager and waiting to get her alone and get started once again despite everything that had happened.
Despite the betrayal, the anger, the disappointment…
He wanted to take her back there, even after the weekend, he still wanted to even when some part of him still screamed that he should never want to see her face again.
He supposed that was the price of casting a patronus; it forced you to embrace the things you did not even know you were capable of wanting.
"So, are we doing this?" Harry asked, crossing her arms and looking even more dubious as he continued to stand there just looking at her.
As always, she managed to look windblown even after having been inside all day. Her tie was ever so slightly askew, her hair all over the place and barely contained in a rather chaotic bun, her new uniform slightly wrinkled, and her sleeves pushed up so that her pale forearms were revealed with the odd smattering of scars on her right hand that at a distance looked oddly like words.
It gave her an oddly boyish look, one that Tom couldn't help but feel he liked, even as it set her just that much further apart from her peers. Particularly her elegant and refined Slytherin housemates all descended from the wizarding aristocracy.
Tom smiled, "Yes, not here though, follow me."
Harry grumbled as she followed him, pushing the strap of her bookbag further up her shoulder, "Well, I figured that much, I'm not a bloody idiot."
They walked silently through the halls, Tom making sure to cringe and look appropriately sullen whenever they happened to pass anyone in his house while Harry just glared at him a little harder each time this happened, until Harry realized they weren't headed to the staircase but instead the Dungeon bathroom.
"Oh," Harry said, catching on rather quickly all things considered, and Tom noted as she reached inside for her wand, "Oh there's no way in bloody hell…"
"Now, Harry, I'll have you know that Slytherin has quite the collection of ancient texts that one cannot find in the library or I suspect anywhere else in the world."
When Harry opened her mouth to interject Tom continued, "Even, I suspect, books on the nature of time and time travel."
That shut her up. Her mouth closed, her glare at first became confrontational and then distant as he didn't press the matter. He could almost see her cursing herself as she fought between turning around and walking back to where she came from no matter the consequences or else following him down below for a hint of these books.
Books that she'd been so obsessed with that he'd seen her reading nothing else since she got here.
"I'm going to kill you one of these days," Harry said, but it lacked any real venom and was instead said as a means of conceding defeat. Tom smiled back at her, all good-natured charm that he knew she didn't believe for a second.
On reaching the door he paused, held up a hand to stall her, and listened for the tell-tale wailing of Myrtle Warren.
"What are you…" Tom hushed her before she could finish, listening instead for the sniffling that came in between the bouts of wailing. It appeared, for once, they were a bit too early for Myrtle's nearly nightly ritual of sobbing to herself.
He motioned Harry in behind him walked towards the sinks, found the gate to the chamber of secrets, and then with a look of awe commanded it, "Open"
They watched as the basin moved apart and revealed the dark entrance to the chamber, Harry looking down at it with a leery and rather unimpressed look, "You know, Riddle, this is the sort of thing that you only want to have to jump into once in your life."
"Oh come on, Harry, where's your sense of adventure?" Tom asked, reaching out for her hand. Harry didn't offer hers, but instead glared at him rather mulishly, hand still reaching into her robes to finger her wand.
"Harry," he prompted, still holding out his hand in invitation.
"See, here's the thing," Harry started, then stopped, glared at him again and said, "First, we are not on a first name basis. We will never be on a first name basis, so it's Evans, alright? Second, why do I have the feeling the moment I jump down there you're just going to stick a knife in my guts, leave me to bleed out, and then tell everyone in Hogwarts that I just managed to kill myself more permanently this time."
"First, Harry, I wouldn't do that because blood is messy and I can't say I'm much of a fan of cleaning it out of my robes," he said, glancing down at his immaculate outfit and considering that he'd never cleaned blood out of robes period, "Obviously, I'd just use the killing curse."
"Obviously," Harry repeated drily, although with an odd twist of humor as if there was something very ironic about Tom Riddle saying that which she quietly found beyond hysterical.
"Second, is it that hard to believe that I honestly have no intention of killing you?"
"I killed your snake," Harry pointed out, almost reflexively, which made it seem that she had a very difficult time believing he didn't want to kill her which…
On the one hand, it was almost funny and perhaps flattering that she was willing to take him so seriously, but on the other hand it caused that small part of him that seemed to want her good opinion to twist just a little.
"All the same, Harry, I… I have no desire to kill you. Truly," he said, and it was amazing that he truly did mean that, more than he ever had before. He had wanted to kill Dumbledore, had wanted to murder Mrs. Cole, had wanted to kill even those that had barely even offended him at all. Once, he'd wanted nothing more than Evans to just be another corpse at his feet but… But she would never be that, even if she was dead, instead she'd be this empty shell of all that she once was. A thing of wasted potential.
And even if he tried he suspected he couldn't bring himself to want that anymore.
"I don't believe you," Harry said, now fully drawing out her wand and settling into an easy duelist's stance.
"Oh, for Christ's sake, what would it take to convince you?" he asked, throwing his hands into the air and wondering how it had come down to this. No one else would do this to him, no one else would even think to do it! He could take Lucretia Black into an unlabeled street in Knockturn Alley and she wouldn't even blink!
Harry considered this, wand still pointed straight at his chest, and then said, "Unbreakable vow."
"An unbreakable vow?!"
"Yup," she said, not wavering in the slightest, not even seeming to recognize how insulting that was.
"What, that I will never attempt to murder you either directly or by proxy?!"
Here she paused, considered him with more than a little conflict in her eyes, and said, "I… I'm not actually sure I can make you promise that without doing… really really bad things. How about… just until 1981?"
(Sometimes, he thought to himself, he couldn't really believe that Harry Evans was supposed to be a normal schoolgirl and not some kind of an alien.)
He felt his jaw drop ever so slightly, and motioned towards her, "What, is that when your number comes up? What happens in 1981 that all bets are off? Why not just make that 1943 or 1945 when we graduate?"
"I don't know, 1981 seems like a pretty good year," Harry said, rather awkwardly at that, clearly hiding the true reason behind this lame casual excuse, "You'll be old, I'll be old, it'll give our duel to the death a real… Oh, I don't know, something to it?"
Tom wasn't even sure he wanted to know. Still, he considered her proposal. On the one hand while he certainly had no intention of murdering Harry Evans right now that didn't mean he wouldn't be sorely tempted to later. Even the idea of binding him to an unbreakable vow was not simply insulting but grating to his entire being. Anyone else would be marked for death for even daring to suggest it.
Except, goddamn her, this was… If he did this then he was that much closer. To what, exactly, he wasn't sure except that this was the leap of faith she was looking for. If he had made this earlier, had offered this bargain earlier, then perhaps she would not have gone for the basilisk.
He would be one step closer to the heart of whatever Harry Evans truly was and he hated that he wanted that enough to consider it.
Closing his eyes, cringing, he held out his hand.
"Hand please," he commanded, hearing as Harry gasped, cursed in shock, and then slapped her hand into his. It was thin, more calloused than he had expected, and very warm.
For a moment he simply held it, allowed himself to feel the tingle of her magic beneath his fingertips. Then, with a breath, he took the plunge, "I, Tom Marvolo Riddle, do hereby vow not to attempt to murder Harry Evans either directly or by proxy until January 1st, 1981."
Opening his eyes there was a great, almost blinding glow, and then nothing but the leftover reverberations of magic and Harry staring down at their joined hands in shock as well as in awe.
Grimacing at her, he said, "Don't make me regret that."
With that, and without a second glance, he took his hand from hers and jumped down into the pit waiting until she followed and landed gracelessly next to him.
"I can't believe you did that," She said as she stumbled to her feet, looking almost dazed as he led her into the chamber, closing the entrance behind him as he went.
"I can't believe you…" she repeated, or attempted to, until he interjected.
"Neither can I," he said, "I hope you know that I wouldn't do that for anyone."
"I know but…" Harry trailed off, rubbed at her head, "I'm really confused."
"It'll pass," Tom said blandly, "Try not to think too much, you'll give yourself a headache."
"But…" she threw her hands in the air as if she had given up any attempt to figure this out, "I just don't understand you, Riddle!"
"Tom, please, we're on a first name basis now," Tom corrected her, smirking at her rather indignant look in response as she maneuvered her way around the shed basilisk skin as well as the uneven floor with surprising dexterity.
"I said we're not on a first name basis!"
"I just offered you an unbreakable vow, if that's not worth a first name here and there I don't know what is."
Harry did not seem suitably impressed by Tom's magnanimous act, "A vow not to murder me, one with an expiration date!"
"An expiration date that you so graciously provided to me," Tom responded, "Which, thank you. In the event that I do wish to gut you I will eagerly await 1981 with anticipation as well as gratitude for your thoughtfulness."
"I'll bet you will," Harry scoffed, frowning and looking away from him, again unintentionally looking rather adorable versus anything truly intimidating.
Nothing, he thought to himself, that looked like someone who could find the chamber of secrets and then take down a basilisk with nothing but a wand and her own bare hands.
"Speaking of, it's been nagging at me all week, but how did you manage to get down here the first time?" Tom asked, now looking around them, "I've been searching this place all weekend looking for ways in and out, and as far as I can tell there's no exit or entrance that doesn't require one to be a parselmouth."
He really had at that, spent the whole bloody weekend either reading through Slytherin's extensive personal library or searching for the way that Evans must have taken to get into the place. At first, he'd assumed the girl's bathroom main entrance he'd taken, but that one had required parseltongue. Besides, she might have merely known it was the most obvious entrance for Tom or any other rescuer to find and left her note there accordingly before seeking out some other way in. Except that the few other more obscure entrances and exits (the ones having stairs) had required it as well or else had only served as a sort of emergency exit.
As it was, the mystery of how Harry Evans had even gotten down here in the first place was still hopelessly unsolved.
She stopped dead in her tracks, looked at him with wide green eyes, and then abruptly started walking again, "I got lucky, I guess."
"Right," Tom said slowly, deciding not to push for the moment however much he wanted to, he'd get the answer eventually, he always did. Instead he asked, "And you knew I was a parseltongue when no one else besides Professor Dumbledore does because?"
This time she didn't stop, didn't stumble either, but seemed to keep walking with a kind of desperation as if speed alone would stop his inquiries. Still, she eventually responded, "I guess I figured that if anyone could get me out of there or figure it out that it'd be you."
For a moment he just looked at her, oddly… touched by what she said. She didn't mean it, would never have said it if she wasn't trying to throw him off the tracks, except somehow it warmed his heart all the same. This idea that Harry knew and accepted that out of anyone in this school, Tom was the one she could rely on in an impossible situation like that.
He tried to shake the feeling off, "Well, I'd say I was flattered if I believed you."
"And that's not my problem," Harry responded, as if it was, indeed, anything but her problem.
"Well, see, I think it is your problem," Tom said slowly, smiling when she glared at him again as he whispered towards the vault to gain them entrance to the central area of the chamber, "Because I'm afraid you've caught my interest, Harry Evans, and you'll find that that is a truly rare thing."
"And?" she asked as she followed him in, warily eyeing the charred body of the basilisk, now cleared of the blood and feathers left behind from her battle with the creature. That he'd have to attend to later, see if there was anything salvageable from the thing that could be sold on the black market. As it was the parts that would have gotten him the most money, the eyes, the skin, were beyond all repair.
"And," Tom continued for her with a smile that he couldn't contain even if he'd wanted to, "You'll find I'm rather tenacious and that when you've caught my interest, given me a mystery whose solution I honestly cannot guess, I can't imagine I'll ever let go."
Predictably, she blanched grew paler even as he laughed in delight and held out his arm so that she could hook hers in his. She walked past him, much to his lack of surprise, but he hardly let that dampen his spirit as he sidled alongside her.
And, as they walked past the charred, eyeless, corpse of the basilisk and towards Slytherin's library, he couldn't help but note, "You know, Harry, if you'd left well enough alone and simply let me pick whatever blasted Defense project we'd have to work on I sincerely doubt we'd be having this conversation."
Now, he wasn't entirely sure this was true, some part of him thought that he and Harry Evans could never truly pass one another by even in some other life. Even if Tom had desperately tried, as he undoubtedly would have desperately tried. Something, somehow, he thought would have drawn his attention to her. Still, all the same, he enjoyed the widening of her eyes, the slackening of her features in horror, and then her curse echoing through the chamber, "Goddammit!"
And even if she'd never believe him, or if she'd deny it until the day she died while she made eyes at Alphard Black, he truly believed that they were on their way to becoming the best of friends.
Author's Note: Oh Harry, so noble in attempt to sort of kind of preserve the timeline. Mostly an aftermath chapter of an aftermath chapter to prepare us slowly but surely for the next major events but it's all in good fun.
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Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter