Chapter 3: In Which Stories are Straightened
Tom slipped into the restricted section for the fifth time in the last two weeks. The main part of the library held plenty of surface information on the founders, but nothing of interest to him. The records of Salazar Slytherin in those books were limited at best. There was more to the founder: he wouldn't be Slytherin if there weren't hordes of things the man had done, things kept to limited knowledge. Even the restricted section probably wouldn't contain all the detailed knowledge he wanted, but it was the best place to start.
He two hours before the caretaker made his rounds. Tom settled in to read.
When the mail came at breakfast one morning in early October, Tom ignored the owls themselves, focusing on the students' reactions to their letters instead. That Gryffindor first year was still getting weekly letters from home. The Ravenclaw fifth year who always sat at the end of the table seemed to be having trouble with his girlfriend. Black had started submitting to the Daily Prophet...
An owl landed on the table in front of him. It took Tom a moment to recognize Wolf. (And he still couldn't understand why Harry had chosen that of all things to name an owl.) Wolf held out a claw, staring at Tom as if daring him not to take the letter attached to it. Around him, his Slytherin classmates were beginning to notice. Tom had never gotten a letter at breakfast before.
Rookwood reached for the pitcher of pumpkin juice sitting by Tom's plate. Wolf snapped at his hand, ruffling his feathers in a protective show. Rookwood jerked his hand back, biting off a curse, and turned an angry look on Tom.
"Watch where you put your hand," Tom snapped. He untied the letter quickly, before the bloody owl could gather even more unwanted attention, glancing at it only long enough to confirm that Harry had sent it. 'I told him he didn't have to write', Tom thought furiously, stuffing the note in a pocket. He wasn't about to open mail at the table, where anyone could see it.
Wolf was still sitting by his plate, glaring at him. Tom gave him a sausage, shooing him away. Wolf stayed where he was a moment more, as if to prove he was leaving because he wanted to and Tom had no say in the matter, before finally taking his prize elsewhere to eat.
We need to clear up some history. I'll be at Hogwarts for breakfast the morning of the first game. Make some time to talk.
"They don't need to know anything," was Tom's immediate reply when Harry mentioned his newly discovered relatives.
Harry didn't really want to tell them anything either. "Legally, you're still my next of kin. Whether or not we're related by blood doesn't matter."
"Wizards always put blood first." Tom hands were clenched in fists so tight his knuckles were white. He saw where Harry was looking and relaxed them deliberately.
Harry couldn't really say anything to that. Tom was right, after all. Adoption bound them legally and magically, but blood came first and foremost in wizard lineage. They could lie, of course, but it would have to be a convincing one.
"We should have planned this out better," Harry muttered, smoothing down his fringe. "We have to tell them something. They're bound to bring it up again, and avoiding the topic will just make them more curious."
"I've already told people here that we're brothers. You can't change that now!"
"I told you that you could." In a roundabout way, perhaps, saying that Tom could think of him as something closer to a brother rather than a father.
Harry could think of two possibilities. "Half brothers or cousins," he said.
Tom stiffened indignantly. "Half brothers would make me illegitimate!"
It wouldn't exactly cast Harry's parents in a flattering light, either. It was the simplest blood relationship to explain, which was the only reason Harry had mentioned it. "Cousins, then. On my mother's side, so it can't be traced."
"This could have been avoided if you'd just not mentioned me."
Harry rolled his eyes. Now Tom was just being petulant, and they both knew it. "They already knew about you. Their daughter's a third year here. I'm surprised no one's asked you for any more details."
"They have. I just haven't told them anything specific."
"Right. So we'll say we're actually cousins—our mothers were sisters—but since I'm your guardian and our ages are so close we decided to call each other brothers instead. That way we can still claim a blood relation and it's not unusual that I didn't know you until now." Hopefully that story would be enough to satisfy the McGonagall's, and all the other people who were bound to hear about it through them.
Tom was watching him through narrowed eyes. Harry frowned right back. "What?"
"Why will it be harder to trace family through your mother's side?"
"They'd have to find her maiden name."
"That's not all of it. Why?"
"I never said I was pureblood, Tom, people just assumed." He'd actually thought Tom had figured out that much a while ago. And for wizards, a muggle's family was much harder to find and trace than a pureblood, or even a halfblood.
Tom was still watching him with that intent, calculating look, and Harry wondered what it was that had set off the kid's suspicions. He forced himself to relax. Suspecting that Harry was not coming fully clean about his past was a long way from suspecting that he was actually a dimension hopping abnormality from the future.
"I've got to go get ready for the game," he said, "If you end up having to make up more details about our 'family' make sure to tell me so we can keep our stories straight."
Tom nodded once, sharply, but Harry's sinking stomach insisted that their newly crafted blood relationship was the last thing on his mind.