Chapter 8- Issues of Perception

"Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are."
Niccolò Machiavelli

~Tom~

After three rather grueling days of introduction classes that were as dull as they were informative Tom was rather eager to begin the real coursework. He had picked the four most beneficial electives and had 'advised' Harry to choose the same ones. (Which Harry did because she loved him.) Along with Transfiguration, History, Charms, Herbology, Astronomy, Potions, and Defense Against the Dark Arts, they would be taking Arithmancy, Ancient Runes, Languages, and Fencing. Needless to say their schedules were rather full and Tom was drawing up a time chart so that they could use their time to the most efficiency.

Their first three days in the Slytherin dorms were interesting, tense, but interesting. There was a general hostile air from their housemates that kept them in their room for the most part and made it hard to sleep. Harry had taken to warding their door pretty heavily at night and it was proven prudent when they stopped someone from breaking in…for nefarious reason no doubt. There had yet to be an open assault of them as no one wanted to invite Slughorn's wrath by breaking his 'united front' rule but Tom was cautious.

He knew from experience that if someone wanted to bring you harm they would in the most inventive ways. Harry stuck to his side like a shadow and everyone sneered at her more often than they did him. It seemed they mistook Harry's caution for cowardice and thought her too weak to defend herself without his aid. They were fools. However, an army of ants could take down a clever spider if they had the motivation and Tom knew they had to do a show of power soon.

They couldn't hold back, because if they did these ants would eat them alive. So as Tom sat in the front of their first real class, Transfiguration, with Harry at his side he tuned out Dumbledore's lecture. They had already learned all the theory, no, what Tom was waiting for was the practical. After what seemed like ages Dumbledore started to pass out the matchsticks and somehow managed to make it so that they were the last to receive theirs.

Tom looked Harry in the eye and nodded his head silently conveying his intent. She looked torn for a moment before she nodded in agreement and they began their game. They tucked their wands into their holsters, attracting some attention and brought their matchsticks closer to them. Tom started first, a simple wave of his fingers and one matchstick was turned into a perfect needle. No words had been spoken, no wand waved, and yet there unerringly in front of him was a needle transformed from a matchstick.

Harry smiled at him and wiggled her pointer finger at one of her matchsticks turning it into a needle as well. Tom carefully kept his face blank of emotion as he watched the reactions his fellow students were having all around them. Tom decided to up the game and brought two matchsticks to him giving his hand an elegant wave. One matchstick turned into a needle the other a small metal toy soldier. Harry smirked at him as a sudden hush went over the crowd.

Dumbledore was distracted by a particularly frantic student that had managed to set her matchsticks ablaze and had yet to see them at their game. Harry took two matchsticks and made her own solider with its own needle sword. Then as one, as if they were playing with puppets on invisible strings Tom and Harry began to wiggle their fingers. Their toy metal soldiers came seemingly to life taking up their needle swords to duel one another.

Harry's toy soldier bowed with flourish, Tom's mimicked it with a more subdued air and then they began a mock battle using one hand each to manipulate their characters. Then Tom decided to be creative, turning a matchstick into a toy horse for his soldier to mount and making the needle sword a javelin. Harry quickly mimicked him and soon their toys were racing at each other from across their shared desk. It was in the middle of their mock battle that Dumbledore noticed the unsettling silence and moved to investigate.

When he came upon the mock battle between his two least favorite students he was stunned silent for a moment. Then sternly he said, "What is going on here?" Tom and Harry looked up at him for a moment before going back to their mock battle effectively ignoring him. This only served to make him a little angry and he waved his wand turning their toys back into matchsticks. Tom and Harry then looked back to at him slightly annoyed.

"Twenty points from Slytherin, each." He said severely, "It seems you were not paying attention to my introduction to this course. I stated very clearly that no matter what you think you may know, no matter how advanced you misguidedly think you are, all must start with the basics and I will not tolerate any tom foolery in my class. Congratulations you two will be the first to serve detention with me…for the next three days."

Tom felt sorely tempted to make this man hurt; he had no right to punish them simply because they were more powerful than the rest. "So we must suffer for these deficient cretins who can't even turn a matchstick into a needle?" he said in disbelief before Harry could stop him. Dumbledore looked thunderous, "Another two days for lip." He said before turning his attention back to the class to get them back to work. "And you will use your wands if you want credit for this class." Dumbledore said as he departed from them.

Harry grabbed Tom's arm before the boy could do anything foolish and simply urged him to take his wand out. Tom wasn't one that was easily overrun with emotion, having a very limited range he did feel, but he knew right then that he hated Dumbledore with a passion. In that moment Tom decided that no matter how many years it took he would break that man and strip him of all his power. Harry made a game of turning the matchsticks into as many different types of needles as they could manage and Tom was distracted from his thoughts of Dumbledore's total annihilation for a moment.

~Harry~

It was strange being in this castle once more. Everything was just as she remembered it but it was all so different at the same time. Maybe it was because it had been so very long since she had seen it that the halls seemed so much colder, that the castle was less awe inspiring and the feel of home was absent. Harry felt Tom grip her hand tighter as they entered their next class and wondered at Dumbledore's attitude. He had not changed much from when she had first known him but Harry was certainly seeing him a different light.

Hell, Harry was seeing herself in a different light nowadays. People didn't change, but their experiences certainly shaped them. She was still rash, still head strong, still stubborn, those things about her had withstood the test of countless years but her experiences had certainly shaped her approach. Once more she marveled at Tom, at her love for her once hated enemy, and wondered what her past self might think of her now.

She didn't think she had changed much but still her past self would have trouble recognizing her and not only for the obvious reasons. Harry remembered how deeply she had hated Tom and despised everything he had stood for. Now, Harry looked back at her past self and wondered at her own stupidity. How could she have been so naïve? How could she have not seen the truth before her? How had she not seen it all? It was hard to think about the past now and it made her feel conflicted.

The hostile stares from her fellow house members kept her from fully relaxing and her memories of consistent danger her first time around at Hogwarts had her on edge. Hogwarts was not the 'safe' place she had viewed it as when she had first seen its battlements. It was hard for her to sleep when she was so on edge and borderline panicking from paranoia. It wasn't helping that she knew that eventually their fellow housemates will want to make an example of the 'mudbloods of Slytherin' and it would not be pretty.

Before Harry would not have had the motivation to fight them, because she had gotten so used to being beaten down by constant death that she would have just let it happen. Now it was different. Her eyes found Tom beside her and she felt her heart turn to steel. Now it was different because she had someone to protect, someone to fight for and it made all the difference in the world. She loved Tom and Harry had always been more inclined to fight to protect others than fight to protect herself.

It was hard to think about; it made her jumpy thinking about someone trying to hurt Tom over something that didn't really matter. It was all a matter of perception anyway; they saw them as Mudbloods, and not as what they really were. It was going to be a disaster when things finally exploded. The tension was mounting, every class they took Tom made a point to have them demonstrate ridiculously high skills and it added to the resentment. The glares were becoming harder with every passing day.

By the end of the week Slughorn was blatantly favoring the two of them in Potions and Harry could tell that soon their fellow Slytherins would have enough. Harry was surprised how easily she got used to being stared at again; it was like a familiar habit picked up again after years of avoidance. Hogwarts had always been the place where she was in danger, where stares and whispered always followed in her wake. People concentrated on Tom but she still got her fair share.

They thought they were prodigies, they whispered that Tom was a reincarnation of Merlin himself and there was a strange mixture of awe and resentment as they looked at them. Dumbledore was doing his very best to make Tom hate him and with every passing day Harry was beginning to resent him more. The good old memories of a friendly old man were being tainted and colored now by her experiences of him now. She knew that this Dumbledore wasn't the one she remember and that time had changed the man. That Dumbledore was young and foolish now.

Yet that resentment wasn't tempered by those thought because Dumbledore's behavior now colored his behavior in the future. The tension in their house mounted as Dumbledore's animosity for Tom spilled over to other Slytherins and Harry didn't know what she would do when it all blew up. It happened the first Saturday night after the feast. Tom had detoured to the library and they had come into the common room after everyone else had already settled in. The lower years were suspiciously absent, the prefects were all curiously gone and a group of upper years were waiting for them by the entrance.

Harry froze for only a moment, taking in the sight of their sneering faces and the wands in their hands. For a moment she wasn't facing down a group of petulant purebloods, for a moment an army of faces stood before her, her murderers from various lives stood before her sneering and looking at her with cold eyes. For one moment she saw her various violent deaths, saw her suffering under various hands and then the vision changed. Suddenly it wasn't her suffering…it was Tom and something inside her snapped. The words for various curses were barely being voiced on their tongues when Harry reacted.

Flinging her hand out she banished the entire group against the wall in a wave of pure magic that ripped their wands from their grasps. Tom was behind her, eyes narrowed, he took half of the group and pressed them down with his magic his only intention being pain. Tom's magic responded and his group screamed as the intent magic reacted to his call. Harry didn't even pause at their screams, her half of the group were on the ground and she moved to incapacitate them.

She moved to cripple, breaking the bones in their hands, arms and legs to keep them down. Those in her group screamed as well but it did little to settle her frayed nerves. When it was over and their attackers were a mess of groaning sniveling whimpers at their feet Harry was panting heavily with shaking hands. She wanted to kill them, she wanted to destroy them, and yet she knew that was not what Tom needed so it stayed her hand. Tom was smirking at her from across the room where his part of the group laid at his feet twitching and groaning.

Slowly other Slytherins trickled in from whatever hole they had been hiding in to see what had happened to the force that had been meant to show them their 'lesson'. Tom walked smoothly over to her and pulled her possessively to his side and somehow it crazily made Harry feel better. Then he turned his dark eyes to the gathering crowd around them with his expression perfectly blank. The entire room was so qquiet you could only hear breathing and the occasional groan of pain.

"In case any of you simpletons have failed to notice there is a new order within Slytherin, there has been since the moment we stepped off that rickety boat. It starts with the two of us at the top and everyone else beneath the ground we walk on in importance." Tom said and to make sure they got the point he stepped very purposely on one of the boys necks that was on the ground in pain. He applied just enough pressure to his foot to make it hard to breathe but not enough to choke him to death.

"What matters is power, a simple enough concept that everyone should be able to grasp it! We are powerful, you are weak, thus you will fall to your knees before us or you will be put onto your knees. The former has a lot less pain involved I strongly suggest you do so now." Tom said cooly and slowly one by one the students dropped to their knees. One or two were slow to fall to their knees but the scattered group at Tom's feet whimpering in pain made them decide to give in.

Harry could practically feel the smug satisfaction rolling off Tom in waves. "Now, we wouldn't want anything untoward to happen to anyone. Don't want anyone to go missing or something equally unpleasant should our involvement ever be associated with what happened to these unfortunate upstarts. So I trust you will all know it would be better for your health to keep this to yourself?" Tome said as the crowd murmured in agreement. Even the ones on the ground knew better than to report what had really happened to them because they had learned to fear the two of them tonight.

No one wanted to see how true Tom's threat really was and they wisely decided that nothing had happened. "Good," Tom said in low tones, "now pick up this trash and take care of it. From now on until you prove yourself worthy of being in our presence you are to stay away. I only have time for people worth something and have no time to be spent on fools." Tom said stalking away dragging Harry along with him to their room. Once in their room Tom pressed her up against their closed door and kissed her square on the mouth.

It wasn't a kiss filled with passion, or with any sort of romance. No this kiss was one of possession, of marking, of taking, and it held only the feeling Tom could understand. Still Harry let him do as he willed, the kiss made her feel alive, it woke up that part of her she had thought had died a long time ago and that was all Harry needed. Tom would never be able to really understand emotions, he had a limited scope to work with and so he was often baffled by simple concepts that dealt with emotion.

Tom was a broken person, prone to violence, deceit and manipulation. He was a narcissist of the highest order and could never feel much more than ownership for her. However, Harry loved him anyways. She knew what he could and probably would become. She knew intimately that monster lurking under Tom's eyes and still she loved him. This man would cause her all sorts of misery, would probably be responsible for the deaths of countless precious people to her and in spite of it all Harry loved him.

As she kissed him back Harry acknowledged to herself that her mind was all sorts of messed up. She had lived too long, she had suffered too much, she had been splintered, broken, lost pieces of herself along the way and now nothing could really put her back together. In her first life she had been so similar to Tom Riddle, both orphans, both parselmouths, both hated and loved for things out of their control. Similar temperaments, they had been so similar in so many ways Harry had remembered being afraid of becoming just like Tom Riddle, aka Voldemort.

Yet, in spite of it all there was on glaring difference between the two of them. Tom had no concept of good and evil. Tom would never be able to understand morals, right from wrong, and could only respect power. Harry on the other hand knew good and evil. Had fought for the light, for justice, understood right from wrong and knew what darkness really was intimately. It used to be what had separated her from the monster she had been fighting once upon a time.

However, now that difference mattered very little to her. Now that difference was not so big as to distinguish her from the monster within Tom and in fact made her more of a monster than what Tom would become. Because Tom didn't understand, couldn't understand that what he would do, what he would become was wrong. Harry knew, Harry understood perfectly how wrong it all was…it was just she didn't care anymore. Good or Evil, right or wrong, it didn't matter anymore to Harry. The difference between them then was moot point, and all that mattered was she was walking into this darkness with eyes wide open.

She would walk into the darkness with the light at her back, knowing what she was turning her back on and how wrong it was of her to do. She would become a monster if Tom needed her to because Tom was what mattered to her now. The light, the warmth of fairness and righteousness had abandoned her long ago. So, now she was slipping into the cool embrace of 'I don't give a damn.' Tom was here, Tom was by her side, and that was all that mattered.

~Dumbledore~

Albus sat at the head table and looked at the Slytherin banners in the hall with thinly veiled distaste. The year had flown by and Slytherin house had won the house cup for the first time in fifteen years. Albus knew who was responsible of course, his eyes skimmed over the Slytherin table eyes falling on an exotic pair within their midst. Tom Riddle and Harry Vedette were well loved by the staff. Almost all of them had given the pair glowing reviews at the end of term meeting and Slughorn was nigh impossible to talk to now that he had those two in his house.

However, Albus knew better than to trust Tom Riddle's veneer and watched the boy closely. Albus was quite convinced that the boy was responsible for all the 'accidents' that had occurred this year to various students. Especially that rather large group of Slytherins that ended up in the hospital wing at the beginning of this year. Albus knew he could not prove it, not with all the students refusing to say it was more than an careless 'accident' and so he had simply resolved to watch the boy closely.

He still remembered the disturbing things that matron had told him when he had dropped off their letters and was very cautious around those two. His eyes fell onto the more curious of the two, Vedette. Harry Vedette was a mystery, because she wasn't like Tom. Tom made Albus feel wary; he trusted his instincts when it came to that, but Harry was different. Albus had seen her stop her fellow Slytherins from bullying the half giant Hagrid. It had taken him a long time to convince Dippet to allow the boy's admittance and so he had been keeping an eye on the boy for any violent tendencies.

However, Hagrid was a gentle soul and never once raised his hand to defend himself from even the most vigorous bullying. Albus had watched him be bullied enough to know for sure now that his trust hadn't been misplaced in that. However, it had been curious to see Harry stand up for the half giant and especially considering the boy was a Gryffindor. The act itself was noble, surprisingly so, but the other Slytherins reaction to her had him worried. They cowered away from her, they never again bullied Hagrid and in fact Dumbledore had seen the boy sitting with Harry in the library from time to time.

Tom was always with Harry, though, and he didn't much like Hagrid that much was obvious. Harry was a mystery, there was goodness in him but as long as he remained at Tom's side that side would not come forth. It reminded Albus of another pair of boys, one blond and charismatic, the other red haired and desperate for an escape. Albus saw a lot of his past self in Harry, it made it hard to look at him, it was like looking at his past self and reminded him of his grave mistakes. Tom reminded him disturbingly of the other boy, his possessiveness over Harry was eerily similar to that man as well and Albus was frightened of the association.

Albus could only watch as a terror grew before him and he knew with some certainty that this boy would bring great darkness into the world. He could do little else but watch. It made him feel powerless and the frustration of being the only one to see the boy for what he was, was indescribable. All the rest were fooled by his talent, by his politeness, they perceived him as the next coming of Merlin and it was almost torture.

The worst of it was that there were six more years of this to come and he would be happy to see the day when Tom Riddle left Hogwarts for good. Albus wished he could convince the others of Tom's treachery, but they all thought him overly paranoid of the boy. They would scarcely believe Tom responsible if they found him standing over a dead body with blood on his hands. Tom was very good at having himself perceived in a favorable light and it would take a lot to change people's opinion of him. Still, Albus would watch, he would wait and when the time came he would stand against the monster Albus was sure Tom would become.

A.N.: A little shorter than normal but I wanted to get this posted! It's been a combination of life getting in the way and writer's block. I have been trying to get this out for a long time now. Writing and rewriting it over and over! Lol well let me know what you think! Please Read and Review!