Harry awoke to a warmth pressed against his back - to Tom curled up on the edge of Harry's narrow and rickety bed as if that was a normal occurrence for the two of them.
He'd never even seen Tom asleep. His heart quickened.
Tom, in resting, looked harmless. Maybe not quite soft - he had too many sharp edges in his cheekbones and his elbows and the jut of his collar - but fragile, perhaps. Like a pale and spindly creature spun from glass. He was no longer so piercing, when the force of his stare and the intensity of his personality was contained and hidden away from the world behind his eyelids and the dark fan of his lashes.
Tom, in resting, looked positively angelic.
Harry shifted, trying to think of the best way to dislodge himself. He couldn't just curl up again and go back to sleep, could he? However much he wanted to. Because if Tom was an angel, he would delight in being the fallen kind and either way Harry was fated to kill him.
God, he was fated to kill him.
He could do it now.
The thought struck him suddenly, like it belonged to someone else, catching in his throat. Killing Tom Riddle would never be easy, but now when he lay sleeping it would probably be the easiest time. He might never get such an opportunity again.
Why was Tom even still there?
Harry's mouth soured and turned dry, like something crusted and stale. His wand was on the side table - along with his glasses. He didn't remember putting them there, he didn't remember falling asleep either. Tom must have down it.
Harry remembered the words though.
Avada Kedavra, or Accio Heart or perhaps Diffindo Tom's throat. One Horcrux down.
Harry's stomach knitted, his palms growing clammy. He moved inch by inch, freezing at every creak of the mattress or sound drifting up the stairs, at every flutter of Tom's eyelids or shift of his body.
He struggled to reach over him and reach the wand, as it rolled away from his questing fingers. Harry gritted his teeth and leant over Tom some more. The wand skittered to the edge of the table as he fumbled, and he finally caught it - with the deftness of a seeker. He settled back, feeling like his heart would burst out of his chest.
Tom's stirred, making a vague noise of discontent at all the movement, before his eyes snapped open.
Harry's stomach dropped.
He had to do it now, if he was doing it.
Tom brought back Voldemort, he tormented Ginny, he hurt people and manipulated and killed Hedwig.
Tom looked after him, in his own way.
The words perched under Harry's tongue, clogging and nauseating.
Tom's eyes were, for a split second, unguarded and clouded with sleep.
"Avada Kedavra." Harry's voice cracked.
The room flashed green.
Sirius froze as he scanned over the morning papers, sickness rising up his throat. His coffee mug shattered.
"Remus." It came out too raspy the first time. "Remus!"
He stumbled to his feet, breakfast forgotten.
He knew he should have got Harry to stay with him, when he left the Dursleys, regardless of Dumbledore's protests. That Harry needed the blood protection awarded to him at his relative's house, that Harry couldn't stay with the Order because of his unique connection with Voldemort and Tom Riddle...
As if Harry would ever betray information to Voldemort!
...besides, even if Voldemort was a master legilimens, surely it was a risk worth taking that Harry might accidentally reveal something? It was better than leaving Harry alone.
He spent as much time with Harry as he could outside of order missions.
The newspaper lay open on the table, with the Dark Lord's face staring back with a terrible impassiveness. White, snake-like, unyielding.
I will grant the deepest desires of anyone who can give me Harry Potter. Give me Harry Potter, and neither you nor your loved ones shall be harmed.
Sirius didn't bother reading more of the article than that.
He apparated straight to Diagon Alley, and found it packed. Teeming with people speculating in hushed tones about the article they were still just reading and poring over - some, what they would ask for. Everyone had an opinion. Everyone wanted to know where Harry was, to be the first to find him, and so many people had seen him sitting at Florean Fortescue's the last week doing his homework.
He started to shove his way through to the Leaky Cauldron.
Tom snatched his wand in an instant, tearing Harry's out of his hand. Moving impossibly fast for someone who'd looked so groggy only seconds before. His fingers closed around Harry's throat.
Harry's mind reeled.
Tom straightened slowly to sit, keeping his wand aimed at Harry with a perfectly steady hand.
How was he not dead?
Blood trickled out of Tom's nose, but those eyes burned into him. Staggeringly, devastatingly, full of life and fire and fury.
Neither of them spoke for a moment - Harry panting like he'd just ran a marathon.
A nasty smile crossed Tom's face then. "You have to mean it, Harry," he hissed, almost as if this was still one of their duelling classes. "You can't merely point your wand and say the words. You have to truly want to kill, for that particular spell to work."
"Next time I'll remember that," Harry spat before he could stop himself.
"Next time? Next time?" Tom laughed. "You think you're getting a next time, Harry? Oh no."
"I'm a Horcrux, you're not going to kill me!"
But that didn't mean he wouldn't put Harry in the diary, or strip him of his senses or take him prisoner again or some combination of all three. The thought kickstarted him into action again - throwing his weight forward unexpectedly. "Expelliarmus!" Wandless, he'd done it before.
Tom surged forward right back, shoving him against the wall Harry's bed was pushed against.
Tom's wand, at least, clattered out of his hand, rolling onto the floor to join Harry's.
Harry did his best to kick, to claw, to dislodge Tom's hand squeezing his throat so he could sink his teeth into his skin if he had to. "Stupefy!" He tried another wandless spell. This time, it worked more like just yelling words.
Maybe someone would overhear.
The second after that, his body locked into place, arms and legs snapping together as he fell back in a full body bind. The panic exploded in his brain, white and hot and consuming everything.
Tom sat back, kneeling on the bed - hair still mussed from sleep, and now from the fight the normally perfectly coiffed locks curled loose over his forehead. The resemblance between the two of them seemed more vivid and startling than ever. Tom's cheeks had flushed. His robes were wrinkled. His first act, staring down at Harry, was to push his hair back into some semblance of order by dragging his fingers through it. To straighten and smooth out his robes. Then he summoned his wand back to his hand.
He barely blinked once.
Harry stared back, jaw clamped shut too tight to even speak.
He wondered if the hair and the robes bothered Tom, or if he was simply buying time before...before whatever came next. Harry suspected, with a sharp pang, that Tom had been doing exactly that. Hesitating, human, even after Harry tried and failed to murder him.
"Voldemort was right," Tom said, oh so softly. "I should never have trusted you, never indulged you so. It was a mistake to ever let you return to Hogwarts, let alone to let you walk away with any measure of freedom. To get...attached."
Harry had no idea if Tom was talking to him or himself, but the words felt like tiny shards of glass being shoved through his insides. His stomach cramped. His muscles strained uselessly against the spell, his heart racing in his chest.
Tom's face had shuttered carefully now, the initial fire simmering away to something icy and clinical. His hand trembled a fraction in Harry's line of vision. His head tilted.
Harry wanted to scream that turnabout was fair play, that Tom had abused his trust so many times before like with Voldemort's resurrection, like from the second they met and Harry assumed him a friend.
"Voldemort would certainly have me keep you a prisoner," Tom murmured. "Keep you like a declawed cat, for as long as we three live. He's very eager to see you again, I think."
The last thing Harry heard was that Tom's voice cracked too.
Tom stared down at the body before him - Harry's blind eyes darting desperately this way and that. His body unable to even thrash while still under the influence of the body bind curse.
He could imagine the horror Harry was feeling, could practically hear it picking at the corners of his own mind and nerve endings. The all consuming terror, the helplessness, the nothingness. Lesser than the meanest ghost, than the most ravaged spirit.
The worst punishment that either of them could think of.
Last time Harry felt it, he killed two men.
Last time Tom felt it...
He could feel Harry's magic straining now too, prickling and flaring and trying to tear.
He picked up Harry's wand with numb fingers, smoothed his hand through dark hair even if Harry couldn't feel it.
Why had Harry tried to kill him? Rather, why now when they could both find a dozen reasons to justify hurting each other?
Somehow, the fact Harry had obviously been about to murder him in his sleep made it worse than an outright attack. He could deal with Harry fighting him, he anticipated it even. But they didn't try and kill each other, he thought - certainly not in such moments of vulnerability.
He assumed it had been an unspoken knowledge between them.
Clearly, he'd been wrong.
Something had happened - Harry had been upset the night before. Close to broken-looking. So Tom had stayed, hoped to be a comforting presence keeping vigil. He'd watched Harry relax into his company as the night deepened, lulled by the rustle of pages turning and the easy signs of life without pressure to act.
It reminded him of the cottage, when Harry used to come down after nightmares, drink something hot and fall asleep at the kitchen table as Tom worked. They should have stayed like that. It had been simpler, with just the two of them. A haven to return to at the end of the day. Something that was entirely Tom's, that he didn't have to share with anyone else, like a bit of light he could tuck away in his pocket for his own private pleasure.
But he wasn't going to take Harry to Voldemort.
He should, he knew he should, but Voldemort would destroy the boy and despite everything he didn't want that. He said he'd look after Harry and so he would, just as he would hurt him if he had to. Just like Harry would try and kill him, if he felt he had to.
Harry had never tried to kill him before.
Even at the beginning, he'd tried to escape and wound, but never murder.
What had changed?
Either way, Tom couldn't stay. The urge to shatter was as overwhelming as the urge to help.
He watched Harry a beat longer, before grabbing a scrap of parchment and a quill. He was most of the way through scrawling his note when the door burst open.
Black stood pale in the doorway - freezing for a second at the sight of him. His gaze landed on Harry, imobilized with tears rolling down his cheek.
Tom deflected his curse, eyes narrowing.
The second later Black sunk to his knees, clutching his arm, a look of absolute hate on his face.
"Good dog," Tom smiled. It didn't really make him feel better. "I will remove the curse on him tomorrow morning, unless you do something stupid."
He finished his note and left.
Then he saw the papers.
A/N: Thanks for all the comments on the Slash question. I have decided that I will leave the Tom&Harry relationship as platonic. I don't even know if this story is going to be long enough for Harry to be sixteen, I don't think it is. I feel like I'm in the third and final or nearly final arc of the story. I hope you're all still enjoying the story, thanks to those who reviewed I really do appreciate it and cherish each one!
I hope you're all still enjoying the story, thanks to those who reviewed I really do appreciate it and cherish each one!