Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter

AN: Hey everyone! A couple of people asked me what Hadrian meant when he said, "You know, just yesterday I wouldn't have had to think about the possibility of stepping on any toes when it came to you," The best way I can explain this is by referring to this section from Chp 4: "And now, with his own actions fuelled by envy and an over-inflated sense of self worth Grant Sawyer was his to do with as he would. And if Carrow's moral integrity did decide to rear its head, Tom wouldn't be holding back this time. He had kept to the rules; mostly, now that Sawyer had stepped over the line, it was Carrow's turn to back off."

...

Tom slipped through the door without a sound. Letting the white painted wood shut softly behind him.

He had watched as Carrow had walked into the dormitory, utterly silent, collected his things and without a word headed straight towards the communal bathroom despite the late hour. Riddle had noted the mud-blood's anger flushed face as he had stormed into the room mere seconds later.

Sawyer had seemed disappointed when no one asked him why he was so upset, drawing his bed curtains closed around his four-poster with a pout.

He had waited for his house-mates to quieten, to close their eyes in search of sleep before leaving his warm bed, his absence unnoticed.

Carrow was standing in front of one of the white, porcelain sinks. His chest was bare, pyjama pants riding low on narrow hips. He had a small, white towel thrown carelessly over his head, his left hand using it to dry his hair while his right washed his teeth. Escaping water droplets fell from his hair to land on tan shoulders, their individual rolling paths along his skin creating glistening trails down his toned back.

Tom allowed none of his appreciation to betray itself as he leaned back against the white tiled wall without a word, making no effort to fill the silence between them.

The stillness stretched.

Carrow's coordinated actions never faulted.

If he was disturbed by the quiet, or Riddle's unapologetic scrutiny, he never showed it. He made no attempt to initiate conversation, carrying on with no observable tension.

...

"He's mine." Tom broke the silence.

The hand moving the towel thrown over Carrow's head stopped moving for a long moment, before slowly pulling the material down; adjusting it until it hung around his neck in a casual way.

Brilliant emerald and untarnished slate locked gazes in the small mirror bolted to the wall above the sink.

Carrow abruptly broke the stare, leaning forward to spit out his toothpaste.

Using one of the towel ends to wipe his mouth clean, he finally turned around and leaned back against the sink's porcelain rim, folding his arms across his bare chest.

"Yeah..., I figured." Carrow flashed Tom an amused look. "It's not every day that the muggleborn makes such a leap in social status."

"Indeed." Riddle smirked, "Don't interfere." He cautioned.

Carrow raised a single brow at him, emerald eyes guarded. Tom was almost certain that he was thinking about what would happen if the situation became too cruel for him to ignore.

Tom smirked. "I'm not asking you."

Carrow straightened slightly, his eyes hardening with the 'order'.

Slate never faulted for a second.

Without warning, Hadrian's mouth twisted into a sardonic grin, and he let out a bark of laughter. His amusement possessed the exact same self-mocking edge that had been there all those years ago, when that train whistle blew as it started pulling away from the platform.

"No, you never do." Carrow observed with a speculative tilt of his head. "Alright." He nodded his agreement. "I won't interfere. It doesn't really bother me either way." He gave an apathetic shrug of his shoulders.

Tom let his brows rise in question, "Really?" He drawled. "I would have thought your conscience would protest." He mocked lightly.

Not wishing to analyse the reasons why he was enjoying their exchange, Tom consciously ignored the fact that his teasing had been genuine. He'd feigned such a show of camaraderie many times in the past; this, however, was the first time such banter had felt natural to him.

Carrow inclined his head in acknowledgment of the hit, and to Tom's surprise actually explained him-self.

"Sawyer seems to believe that he's quite capable of looking after himself. I can't say the thought of him being shown otherwise isn't tempting." Tom noted the flare of cruel darkness flash across emerald, catching it with knowing eyes.

He'd known since he was eleven that his helper wasn't as pure as he might seem to others. The Slytherin's had some idea of the real darkness in Carrow, there had been enough instances over the years which had ensured that.

But he didn't think that his housemates were aware that Carrow had the capacity to be as cruel as Tom was. He wasn't sure if the pureblood consciously hid that part of himself, ashamed perhaps of what he was capable of if pushed. Maybe he didn't wish to tip his hand. Whatever his reasons were, Riddle had known since that first unguarded look into emerald eyes through steam thick air, Carrow possessed darkness as inherent and treacherous as his own.

Not that his relaxed, easy going persona was false; frustratingly, it was all too true.

Where Tom was about control, absolute total control of both those around him and himself, Carrow revelled in chaos.

It didn't mean that his obsession wasn't any less dangerous than Riddle was; all it meant was that they were fundamentally different people.

That entirely different, entirely similar core...fascinated him.

"I intend to..." Riddle promised, his lips revealing a hint of cruelty. "Just so long as we're clear," He stated intently.

"Crystal." Hadrian smiled a close lipped smile, the laugh lines making the expression all too disarming.

He thought briefly about asking Carrow why Sawyer resented him to such an irrational degree, but quickly discarded the idea. He'd much rather figure that out for himself.

As soon as he had his answer though, Sawyer would be dealt with. He wasn't sure how much longer he could stomach the mud-blood's presence.

Riddle smirked at Carrow, "You've got some toothpaste...," gesturing to the left corner of his mouth in explanation, he didn't wait to see what the other would do, turning and leaving as silently as he had entered.

"What?...Shit, how'd I manage...?"

The soft, muffled sound of Carrow's cursing, followed by self-depreciating laughter; had Tom smothering an answering grin of amusement as he slipped between his now cool, cotton sheets.

...

"Very good, Mr Dawson, ten points to Gryffindor!" Dumbledore congratulated enthusiastically.

Tom rolled his eyes. He'd gotten the transfiguration correct on his first try, this was child's play.

A sharp rap on the door drew the class's attention. A flushed looking Professor Baird poked her head through the door without waiting for an answer.

"Albus! Is Mr...?" Her tight voice broke off abruptly as her brown eyes landed on her target. "Carrow! Outside, now!" She snapped, her behaviour uncharacteristically ropable if her furious glare was anything to go by.

Tom glanced at the unconcerned Carrow getting to his feet without complaint.

Slate eyes watched as he began packing away his books and parchment, the completed assignment sitting with half a dozen other perfectly transfigured objects as the first. Clearly, he wasn't the only one bored, he realised smugly.

"Is everything alright, Camilla?" Dumbledore asked, eyeing the angry woman with interest, ignoring the way his Gryffindors were sniggering, not even trying to hide their humour.

"I have it in hand, Albus, thank-you." She said sharply.

Tom's eyes narrowed as Carrow shot one of the more popular Gryffindor boys a conspiratorial wink.

The attractive male lion had to bury his head in his arms in order to smother his laughter. Even so, he managed to shoot Carrow a thumbs up.

Unfortunately, Riddle had seen this type of thing too many times before to be surprised.

As soon as Hadrian slipped through the door, Baird called, "Good day, Albus!" and closed the door behind her loudly.

"Well," Dumbledore began, "please, everyone, return to your..." He trailed off as mutterings from the other side of the door started drifting through the wood, climbing in volume.

"...Don't even try to deny...! I know!"

It wasn't long before those mutterings became shouts.

"No other student in this school, capable of performing such a spell, would use it for such frivolous uses, but you, Carrow!"

The sound of a choked laugh, as if someone was desperately holding it back followed the pregnant pause of silence from outside.

"Well?! Don't you have anything to say for yourself?!"

The shrill scream had Dumbledore clearing his throat with an uncomfortable sounding cough. The old man was clearly as interested in the conversation happening outside as everyone else was, but his feeling of duty wouldn't let him go without at least an attempt at refocusing the class.

"Some of you seem to be having trouble with the last counter-clockwise circle. If you do not carry the motion fluidly, your tea pot's spouts will transform incorrectly, resulting in..."

Screaming interrupted him, "You flooded my largest greenhouse, Carrow! Flooded!"

Shocked whispers broke out. Wide eyes and impressed students commenting on the gumption such a big prank would take.

Tom's eyes became slits.

"Professor," Carrow's placating tone immediately silenced all noise.

"When I opened the door, the force of water carried me half way to the Black Lake!" Professor Baird's indignant words had the class breaking down in giggles and sniggers.

Carrow coughed. "Half-way, wow." A second cough. "I was always told that water was good for plants." He said cheekily.

"...He didn't." Acrturus groaned from beside him.

Tom was having a hard time wiping the scowl off his face as it was, the howl of amusement from the Gryffindors certainly did nothing but blacken his mood further.

"Yes, Mr Carrow, but flooding isn't!" Camilla Baird screamed.

Tom closed his eyes, searching for patience as his classmates dissolved into uninhibited laughter.

If he was hearing things correctly, it sounded like Carrow had used an elemental spell to carry out his prank. It was the most logical explanation. It was also the reason why fingers would have immediately been pointed at the pureblood heir. Elemental spells were notoriously difficult to perform. They not only required impressively powerful magic, but the crucial skill and strong will to control it.

And Carrow used the esteemed ability as a punch line in a school prank.

Tom exhaled slowly and slammed his textbook shut with a clap.

...

Arcturus Black shot Grant Sawyer a poisonous glare when the mud-blood bumped into him in the hall.

"Sorry," Sawyer apologised sheepishly, a contrite look on his face.

He sneered, swallowing back the litany of insults on the tip of his tongue. "I understand that the concept of walking with another person is foreign to you, Sawyer, but for future reference, personal space is a must." He smiled mockingly.

The mud-blood immediately blushed and ducked his head, undone by his tame insult.

He scoffed internally at such pathetic weakness.

"What punishment do you think Hadrian will get?" Abraxas asked the group as they walked down the corridor.

"House points, detention, the usual thing." The Black heir waved the question away.

His sister shook her head, large black curls flying across her eyes, obscuring her vision, "If you ask me, he deserves to be suspended." She suggested snidely.

"If it were anyone else, Darla, you'd be the first one to shake their hand in congratulations." Stacey rolled her eyes in exasperation; his twin's dislike of Hadrian was well-known.

Darla shot her best friend a venomous look.

"What do you think, Tom?" Malfoy asked the silent prefect.

Riddle shrugged indifferently.

"He won't be expelled?" The almost hopeful sounding question immediately drew everyone's attention.

Arcturus shot the mud-blood a narrowed glance.

As strange as it was to understand, these past two days around the parasite had made it more than obvious that Sawyer held no love for Hadrian. In fact, if it didn't seem so wholly irrational, going off of what he'd seen last night he'd say that the mud-blood was downright hostile when it came to Carrow.

Tom's decision to wait, and even invite him into their circle, suddenly made far more sense when he'd discovered the oddity.

His friend always strove to understand people's motivations. This was no different. Tom would want to know why Sawyer held such anger for Hadrian before he acted. As soon as he'd learnt what he wanted to know, this game would end, and the mud-blood would receive his due.

Seeing the gleam of excitement dancing in muddy brown eyes for what it was, but not for what it meant, Acturus couldn't honestly say that he wasn't intrigued enough to wait and suffer the parasite's presence in order to solve this mystery either.

"Expelled?" Tom asked in a deceptively interested voice.

Thrown by the use of such a neutral tone, Arcturus glanced at his friend in confusion only to realise that this was it, Tom was making his move.

The mud-blood nodded, "Well, I would think that mere detentions or loss of house points would be too lenient in this situation." He explained nervously.

"Are you asking us, or telling us that it would too lenient?" Abraxas sneered.

The answer was obvious.

Sawyer flinched at the cold accusation.

"Don't be so quick to judge, Abraxas," Tom soothed the mud-blood's hurt ego. "Let him speak."

And he had no doubt that part of his friend's decision to seize this chance, and uncover the answer to Sawyer's unexplained hostility towards Carrow at this exact moment, was because his friend couldn't stand the thought of another day in the parasite's presence.

"Well, don't you think it would be a bit lenient?" Sawyer asked Tom directly.

It left a bad taste in his mouth. Arcturus knew that Tom was manipulating Sawyer in order to get what he wanted, but it was galvanising having to watch as the mud-blood spoke slowly, picking his words carefully as if he were the one manipulating them.

To know that the weakling in front of them considered himself so worthy, so special and yet, not do something, to thoroughly disabuse him of that self-delusion, was infuriating.

Somehow, Riddle's manner betrayed nothing but sincere, if detached, interest. "Carrow's pulled stunts like this before, Sawyer. His pranks are, if nothing else, always dramatic. He got nothing but a figurative slap on the wrist when he cast an over-powered confundus charm on the staircases, do you think this so much worse?"

Arcturus desperately wanted to roll his eyes when the mud-blood adopted a deep thinking frown line. Anyone with a brain cell, especially Tom, knew exactly why Hadrian's latest prank was so outlandish.

While most students hated Herbology, no one could dispute the business logic behind Hogwarts growing its own potion ingredients. These plants were notoriously expensive and difficult to maintain, with a large student population to do much of that maintenance work for them in the name of lessons, the school had a large pool of income right at its fingertips.

The reality was Hadrian had no doubt cost Hogwarts a small fortune with his flooding stunt, never mind how brilliant or impressive the magic that caused it was.

Unfortunately for Professor Baird though, the lucrative reality of the greenhouses, while an open secret, officially it couldn't be punished as anything other than frivolous destruction of school property.

"Well, they know it was him this time, right?" Sawyer asked hopefully. "Those other times, everyone knew it was him, but they couldn't prove it. This time they know for sure. Carrow slipped up, gave himself away somehow. That has to make this more serious, doesn't it?"

Arcturus stared at his dorm-mate flatly.

Riddle gave the expectant idiot a close lipped smile, "It won't happen. Even if he does deserve it, he's the heir of the Carrow family. The Professors simply do not have the necessary power or authority to expel someone of that ilk."

Now that was certainly possible. His friend was probing, starting to push possible buttons in order to uncover the source of the mud-blood's anger at Hadrian. The Black heir watched Sawyer closely, looking for any reaction to Riddle's poke at pureblood resentment issues.

"Of course," Sawyer sighed in disappointed resignation.

Arcturus frowned, dissatisfied with the parasite's answer. "Does it bother you that he'll get away with it because of who he was born as?" He asked with forced indifference.

Wide, mud-brown eyes looked at him with shock, nerves and indecision filling the dull orbs a moment later. "I don't...resent...the power that purebloods enjoy because of their status," Sawyer said carefully, as if he knew that he was walking on thin ice despite their schooled faces.

Tom raised a single brow and smirked. "Just Carrow?"

Sawyer swallowed loudly, raising a hand to press against his temple in an obvious show of apprehension. His stare darted continuously around the group, searching for any sign of negative feelings with uncertain eyes. Finally, when the silence became awkward, no-one stepping in to save him as he was silently pleading them to do, he nodded jerkily; too coward to verbalise such agreement.

Taking their cue from Riddle, nothing more than interested hums and intrigued nods of thought escaped them. Though Arcturus caught the way his sister had to raise her eyes to the ceiling, incapable to hiding her disgust and anger.

Tom deliberately started walking again, the casual activity putting the subject of his interrogation at ease completely.

Arcturus shook his head in admiration

Riddle was a master at this. He'd got Sawyer to admit to his resentment of Hadrian, and by reacting with nothing but clinical, detached interest, made it seem as if such an opinion of Carrow was hardly something the mud-blood had to keep secret.

Sawyer would feel safe enough to speak his mind on the topic now, and if he was reading this right, the level of resentment that he was harbouring for Hadrian, for whatever reason, was too large to stay silent now that he believed voicing such opinions wouldn't result in their rejection.

He wouldn't last the day.

They'd know everything in mere hours, he was sure of that.

...

Stacey forced herself not to draw away from mud-blood as he slid into the empty seat beside her through force of will alone.

She understood the unspoken message clearly, get him talking. Riddle sat in the desk in front of her with Arcturus, close enough to listen and intervene if he felt it necessary, but not close enough to have to suffer speaking to the rodent himself.

Shaking her shoulders and hair delicately, she assumed an open, curious persona with just a touch of coldness to ensure he didn't suspect anything. Not that she believed for one second that the mud-blood had enough intelligence for such practical caution.

"Hadrian hasn't shown up." She stated in a conspiratorial mutter.

People such as Sawyer always wished to be part of the 'in crowd', and there was no better way of giving such an impression as the sharing of a secret or confidence.

Mud brown eyes swung towards her, wide with the shock that she would initiation conversation.

"...No." He agreed softly before turning away from her.

She clenched her hand into a fist underneath the table, suppressing her growl of frustration. "Well?" She pressed. Another thing people always loved was being sought out for conversation.

"Well what?" The mudblood parried.

How inspiring.

"Well," She lowered her voice to give the impression of secrecy, but couldn't bring herself to lean forward to further that notion in his mind. "Maybe you were right? Detention and house points wouldn't take this long to sort out."

Guarded brown eyes searched her sky blue ones clumsily. "You think I'm right?" He scoffed, shaking his head, "You hate me, Moon. You always have. Don't even bother with the about face, I'm not buying it." He stated strongly.

Aw, looks like her acidic tongue had done more damage over the years than she'd thought, she was so proud.

"Nonsense, you're one of us now, aren't you?" She raised an expectant brow. "Did you think I would ignore that?"

Understanding lit those eyes and he grinned. "Yes. I'm one of you, now." He repeated to himself.

She waited in silence knowing that he'd do the rest of the work for her.

"I wouldn't be surprised to know that he was in the Headmaster's office." The mud-blood stated arrogantly. "Carrow's always somehow been able to wriggle out of any bind he gets himself into. He's...charming, I know." The acknowledgment seemed to hurt him to admit, and the small vengeance was sweet. "But I'd like to see him explain this one." He laughed.

Realising that the idiot hadn't anything more to say, despite his face telling her he desperately wished to keep their 'bonding time' going, Stacey hummed in seeming agreement. "But if he gives up the names of the Gryffindors he was working with..."

"Gryffindors?" Sawyer asked sharply.

She smiled and pointed to the trio of wizards that made up some of the Lion's house most popular students in explanation.

Sawyer's realisation was slow coming, but come it did.

He took a deep breath, shooting her a penetrating look.

Nothing except mildly interested features greeted him, and her, 'lack of agenda', seemed to give him the confidence he needed to speak up.

"Why don't you, any of you, ever speak to Carrow about his association with the other houses?" He asked in what seemed to be frustrated confusion.

He was kidding, right?

"What do you mean?" Her voice betrayed none of the scorn present in her thoughts.

He leaned forward, and she had to turn her head slightly and dig the sharp nails of her hands deeply into her legs to stop herself from reacting the half a dozen ways she wanted to.

Three of those ideas involved her leaping away in a different direction each time, and the other three had her kneeing him in the groin, banging his face into the table, and pushing him to the floor so that he knew to never ever come that close to her again.

"None of the rest of you act the way he does with the other Houses. Them?" He pointed to the Gryffindor trio, "They hate most Slytherins. Yet, I've seen Carrow and them tripping through the halls together, drunk as Lord's. They hate the Slytherin Quiddich team, but don't begrudge Carrow when he catches the snitch and steals the Cup from them. The only other Slytherin they can even remotely stand is Tom."

Stacey saw the way the material covering Riddle's shoulder blades tightened when the mud-blood, yet again, referred to him in so casual an address.

"But that's not all; he'll sit with the Ravenclaws for hours sometimes, lost in debate. He invites them back to our common room, and yet no one says anything. He even likes the Hufflepuffs! The vast majority of them won't even sit with any other Slytherin except him in class...I've seen the way other Slytherins are laughed at by their housemates if they have friendships in Hufflepuff, why not Carrow?" He muttered harshly.

He was serious, she realised with a certain amount of disbelief.

How was it possible that he not know the answer to all those questions? He'd lived in Slytherin for almost seven years, yet he didn't understand the basics of how, why and apparently what their house hierarchy was.

It was as obvious as he was ugly!

Every single person had a spot in the pecking order. If you were above someone, you had the right to chastise, ridicule and order them about if that is what you wanted. If that person didn't like it, they had one of two choices. Accept it and shut up, or become stronger than the other person and rise above them in the hierarchy.

You were as high as the calibre of people you were able to dominate, and as low as those you couldn't, if the need arose, force to do as you ordered.

Most had a general idea of where they fit on the ladder. And Hadrian Carrow had shared the top position with Tom Riddle as soon as he'd walked through the Slytherin entrance when he was just eleven years old.

Why? Because of the very simple fact that no one in that room, then or since, has ever come close to being able to force either for them to do anything they didn't wish to do.

So no, they didn't comment on his behaviour with the other houses.

Stacey smiled thinly at Sawyer, "He wouldn't listen."

...

Bevin Greengrass nodded discretely in acknowledgement of Riddle's silent instruction to engage Sawyer in conversation.

This had to be some sort of retribution for him subjecting them all to the mud-blood's presence in the first place.

As soon as the bell had rung, signalling the end of the lesson, Moon had just about leapt from her seat, wisely remembering to give Sawyer a curt goodbye, before she practically ran from the room in her haste to leave.

It was a good thing she had remembered her manners with Riddle's latest project if the look he'd sent after her retreating figure had been any indication.

Wanting to get it over and done with, he walked up to Sawyer and fell into step beside him.

"Hey, you and Moon looked to be having a pretty involved conversation earlier, everything alright?" He'd decided that the best approach he could take was to be the ally helping smooth the mud-blood's way into the group.

"So now you're interested?" Sawyer said smugly. "Yesterday I may as well not have existed to you."

If only...

"Hey!" He pulled on the moron's elbow, not slowing them, but adding credence to his 'outrage'. "You're not the only one on trial here. By being the factor that essentially introduced you to Riddle, my reputation and place within the group is on the line too. If you fail, I'm out."

Muddy brown eyes bugged out in shock, the mud-blood's mouth falling open. "Wow." He breathed.

Greengrass nodded. "Exactly. So, do you mind sharing? I might be able to smooth any ruffled feathers if I need to."

Sawyer shook his head, shock dissipating to be replaced with proud satisfaction. "No, it wasn't like that. We were just talking about Hadrian."

"Are you sure?"

"Absolutely." He nodded decisively.

He made a show of exhaling in relief. "Good. She didn't look upset or anything, but I thought that it was better to check with you to be sure."

"Thank-you, Bevin." Sawyer smiled widely.

He swallowed his irritation at the first name reference with difficulty; he had a job to do.

"Hey, no need. If she wasn't red from anger she was blushing for an entirely different reason. Good on you!" He laughed.

The mud-blood fell for it hook, line and sinker. "Oh, no. It wasn't, she wasn't, I-I mean I'm not..."He stammered in a ridiculous amount of embarrassment for such a tame innuendo.

Bevin made an 'ah' sound. "You mean you don't like girls? I know you're muggleborn but you should know by now that the wizarding world has no stigma against same sex couples."

"I know!" The mud-blood frowned in offence at his assumed ignorance. "I'm just not a flirt, that's all."

Please, as if he'd had the chance to be one.

"There's nothing wrong with having some fun." He said casually.

Sawyer glowered darkly at the stone floor as they walked on, not imagining for a second that Riddle, many paces ahead could hear them clearly.

"I've come to realise that people our age aren't interested in anything but a pretty face as far as having fun is concerned. And I'd rather be judged and valued on what I'm capable of, not how handsome I am." He spat bitterly.

Bevin shot the runt a curious glance, for the first time interested in this conversation, however little that might be. "Talking about Hadrian?" He asked. Before Sawyer could even ask the predictably stupid question he added, "Last night, you brought up..."

"...The fact that Carrow spends half of his nights in someone else's bed?" He sneered with an ugly expression.

Bevin shot a fast glance around the hall, breathing a silent sigh of relief when he saw that no one could have overheard the intrusive, distasteful remark.

What the hell was the moron thinking spouting off like that?! He shuddered to think what Hadrian might do had he found out, and the mood struck him. You never knew with Carrow.

"...Yeah, that." Bevin breathed out shakily. "Though, he's not the only one with such an active...social life, you know." He reminded lightly.

Sawyer didn't say anything for a long moment before he finally nodded; looking as if the thought pained him.

Huh, Hadrian had been right. The mud-blood had the hots for Riddle. Bet that'd gone over well with the Slytherin.

Sawyer seemed to struggle for the words to explain. "It's frustrating to know that because Carrow is relatively attractivehe's given free passes and attention that others have to work for and actually deserve!" He exclaimed in aggravation.

Well, of course. That was simply the way of the world. Attractive people had an easier time of it; it was a fact that wasn't going to change anytime soon. Anyway, Tom was equally as handsome as Carrow, in completely different ways of course, and the moron wasn't moaning about the unfairness of that, was he?

The mud-blood bit his lip, glancing up and around in an absurd show of checking for any would-be eavesdroppers before speaking plainly. "All I'm saying is that there's a difference between book smarts and street smarts, just like there's a difference between obvious good-looks and features that blend in."

'Features that blend in'? Bevin let his eyes take in the weak, unattractive features of the boy beside him with mocking amusement. Sawyer wished that was all he was.

The mud-blood waved his arms widely, "One combination will make you stand out in the crowd, make you a popular face in your youth, but it's the second type that really excel in the world. The sort that ends up using the first for their own gain." He stressed passionately.

What?!

"Just because I'm more subtle than Carrow's dramatic antics, I'm seen as something less! It's not fair!" Sawyer stated strongly, his mud-brown eyes staring at Bevin as if he'd just offered up a priceless piece of wisdom.

What a load of Hippogriff dung!

"...Some people have all the luck," How he managed to hide the strain in his grin, he had no idea.

...

"...So you see, when Carrow was seen to give me some sort of protection within Slytherin, he'd automatically made me weak in the eyes of everyone. This way, no matter how low on the social hierarchy he fell, there was at least one person always below him." Grant explained eagerly to his silent audience.

"No kidding..." Nott breathed with wide eyes.

They were getting it. They understood!

This was really happening, after all these years the truth was finally coming out.

He shuffled forward on the grass, nodding frantically, his mouth split in a wide grin of relief at finally being able to tell them what had happened.

What Carrow had done to him.

"It was ingenious really." He admitted begrudgingly, "Once Carrow had labelled me under his 'protection' it was just always assumed that I agreed with everything he did, with the way he acted! When, in reality, nothing could have been further from the truth."

He implored them to understand this, his eyes beseeching.

"I don't blame any of you for the way you've treated me over the years. I would have done the same to such a seemingly weak person, but that's not me! I've been stuck under Carrow's shadow, tarnished by his reputation." He laughed breathily. "I've been going crazy!"

"I can see that." Abraxas drawled slowly, his voice disbelieving; and Grant felt like shouting his triumphant escape from Hadrian Carrow to the skies.

It felt like fourty tonnes had been lifted off his shoulders.

He should have spoken up years ago. Explained the situation sooner. He'd wasted so much time being careful, worried they wouldn't believe him. That Carrow would find some way to slither out of this hole just like he charmed his way out of everything else.

"You think Carrow's protection was totally unneeded, Sawyer?" Riddle asked in an undecipherable tone of seeming calm.

Grant looked at the one person he had always wished knew the truth the most over the years.

Riddle was leaning back against the tree, eyes closed, face tilted to the sky. The rest of the Slytherin elite surrounded him in a loose semi-circle on the grass.

Classes had ended an hour ago, but instead of going back to the common room, Riddle had led them outside to sit beneath the lone tree next to the Black Lake.

Today had been...wonderful.

Riddle's causal inquiry about whether he resented purebloods and their place in society seemed to have a cascade effect on all his other housemates.

He was actually having productive conversations with them, conversation that they initiated!

But that wasn't the even the best part of his day. For the first time ever, he was able to actually talk to them about Hadrian Carrow.

He had wondered for years why they never put a stop to Carrow's atrocious behaviour with the other houses. Somewhat emboldened by their neutral reactions earlier, he'd gathered his courage, and simply asked.

He wouldn't listen. Carrow wouldn't listen to them if they did pull him up for the behaviour. It was so simple! He can't believe he'd never even thought of it before. They couldn't simply curse him, he was a pureblood heir, however undeserving, and he wouldn't listen!

Of course!

The positive responses he'd received throughout the day, whenever he brought up Carrow, had Grant becoming more and more convinced that his caution was unneeded. That they would understand.

So, when the conversation had turned naturally to a topic that led into him telling them everything; he'd taken it and run.

"Yes." Grant stated without a hint of doubt. Utterly certain, that without Carrow, he would have been as close to Riddle as Arcturus was, perhaps closer even.

"Really?" The sceptical drawl to his left had him looking into Darla's guarded eyes. "You are muggleborn, Sawyer. You don't think that that would have caused problems?"

Grant deliberately turned back to face Riddle, despite the closed eyes. "I would have been able to prove my worth, my power to you, if Carrow hadn't acted as he did. You wouldn't have relegated me to the bottom of the hierarchy without proof, would you? I was never given the evaluation that everyone else is. If I had, this whole thing could have been avoided. I would have been accepted by all of you years ago." He said sadly.

So much lost time. And it was all Carrow's fault.

"Indeed." At the sound of the crisp word, he looked up, only to lock eyes with untarnished slate. "You weren't given the traditional evaluation, Sawyer. It was remiss of me." Riddle stood up in a gracefully fluid move.

"I-I don't..." Grant stumbled to his feet, tripping over his words.

"Blame me, yes I know." Riddle collected his bag from the ground, his eyes never making contact with his again. If he were the paranoid sort he might have said that the avoidance was deliberate. "You blame Carrow."

"Yes." Grant hurried to assure.

"Well, in that case, I believe I have all that I need. Don't you all agree?" Riddle asked the question widely.

"Oh, yes. It was...most illuminating." Arcturus Black promised.

Riddle turned on his heel and began making his way back towards the castle, speaking to them as he walked. "Everyone will meet here thirty minutes after curfew tonight. Don't be late." He ordered in an icy voice.

Grant frowned in confusion, the thought of breaking the school rules so deliberately instantly quickening his heartbeat, his anxiety prompting him to speak up. "Why?" He called out.

Riddle stopped, and slowly turned around so that for the first time since he'd finished explaining everything he was looking into those slate orbs.

A darkly seductive smirk curled up the corners of his mouth, "Your evaluation, of course."

...

Finally! Having spent many a strangely timed moment thinking on the plot point that was giving me so much trouble, I've found a solution that I'm happy with! Yeah!

Grant Sawyer has made such a muddle of everything that concerns Carrow and how people regard him. By isolating major points of misunderstanding in Hadrian's character ie) his lack of pureblood decorum, and having Grant actually explain to different personalities the incredible way he makes aspects of reality fit into such a neat, perfect delusion, it gave me the chance to really flesh out Hadrian and Tom. At least I think so ;D

Things are definitely starting to pick up! What did you think? Did you like?