Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction based on the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling. No claim is made on the characters or setting, and no material profit is intended or expected.
Things were, some weeks later, mostly settling down. Jessica had, of course, been sent home after finishing dinner in a rather shaken state; Harry wasn't entirely sure if she had been placed under a Memory Charm or not. He rather thought that it might be safer to leave her with some knowledge of the possibility that things she'd received from her mother just might do something untoward.
Harry was being laden with homework. Tom Riddle was presumably also being laden with homework, if Harry recalled that particular segment of second year correctly. He thought it was probably a fairly safe bet.
Not that he saw all that much of Tom. He was third year; Tom was second.... He was Gryffindor; Tom was Slytherin. He'd already been sorted, after all. But whenever Harry DID happen to run across Tom Riddle or hear the name mentioned... he remembered.
Hard to forget. And he sort of felt responsible for the other boy.
There was a general, unavoidable air of suspicion about him, of course. He had been You-Know-Who, after all, although he had apparently not remembered that particular epithet. On being barraged with it in conversation at some point, Tom had finally snapped that no, he did NOT know who, and would they please just come out and tell him!
During the stuttering that followed it had finally dawned on him, and his eyes had been shut as he walked away.
Harry hadn't been in a position to go after him at the time, but he was still concerned. He knew what it was like to have everyone suspect him -- most of the school had thought he was the Heir of Slytherin for a while, and at least he'd been reasonably sure that he wasn't and VERY sure that he hadn't been attacking people. It had still been very unpleasant.
And somehow, he suspected that there weren't any equivalents to Fred and George Weasley in Slytherin, much less to Ron and Hermione. They'd been the ones to get him through that. Sure, they'd initially been horrified about his being a Parselmouth, but they hadn't thought it meant he was doomed to the Dark Arts or something.
It might have been circular reasoning of a kind, but Harry was worried partly because lacking anyone to talk to was (so far as he knew) exactly how Ginny Weasley had gotten into trouble with Tom Riddle's diary in the first place. Unsurprisingly, Ginny was quite possibly the student least comfortable with this Tom's presence. Trying to discuss it with her tended to be an exercise in futility. It wasn't helping that Snape, with his usual sadism, insisted on forcing them to work together.
He wasn't the only one guilty of circularity, either. He was almost sure that at least as far as the teachers were concerned, part of the reason they suspected Tom was that there was surely no better way to drive a boy to the Dark Arts than to surround him with the type of suspicion and fear that no one could entirely help!
And the most absurd thing about the whole situation was that everybody was half-giddy over Voldemort's defeat, and by all rights... well, he and Tom had both done a lot more this time than Harry had at a year old.
Harry looked across the Great Hall to the Slytherin table, half-listening to Hermione lecturing him, Ron, and anybody else within earshot about their latest homework assignment. Tom didn't appear to be having any difficulties at the moment, at least. He sometimes looked extremely tense and by all reports was driving himself to be a model student -- that phrase gave Harry an uneasy turn somehow, and more of one when he remembered he'd heard the diary-Tom gloating over it -- but was currently leaning back in his chair (with one elbow firmly pinning down the notebook another student was trying to swipe) and watching with amusement as something or other bounced around the table, followed by shrieks of laughter.
As Harry watched, trying to make out what it was, the bouncing object plopped into someone's goblet. Tom hastily fished it back out as soon as the goblet started to wobble dangerously, then dropped it on a napkin. It promptly started hopping again.... Harry squinted. Surely that wasn't Neville's toad Trevor -- no, it was brown. He hadn't thought Tom would....
Not that having anybody's toad hop all over the table and into the food and drink was Harry's idea of a good time for either the students or the toad, but it didn't seem to be bothering the Slytherins and he hadn't seen anybody do worse to the toad than take it out of a goblet before it spilled something.
Because Harry was paying attention to the Slytherin table, he heard one of the fourth-year girls ask, laughing, "So are you sure that's not a real frog?"
"Enchanted chocolate frog," Tom's voice replied lightly. "That's all." Well, that explained why it was brown, at any rate.
"I'd certainly hope so...."
Harry was listening to Hermione again (a bit dazedly when she started connecting the assignment to other courses, sometimes tenuously) when he noticed that the banter at the farthest table had changed in tone. Tom, for one thing, was starting to sound rather frustrated....
"You did change it to a real frog under there!"
"I did not! I'll show you." Harry looked up just as Tom snatched the brown frog out of midair and bit down on one of its legs.
A second later, everyone who hadn't already been watching looked up at Tom's yell. Tom knocked his chair over getting up, which didn't seem to accomplish much since he was still holding the frog, and his dismayed expression banished most of the remaining joviality from the conversation. There were still a few hoots, but on the other hand, that might have been a stray owl.
The other Slytherins were starting to get up and back away from him, too. As some of them almost immediately ran into the Hufflepuff table, this started something of a chain reaction. To complicate matters further, some of the students from farther off were trying to get close enough to see.
"It IS a real frog!"
"Can't believe he did that --"
"Come off it, who's really surprised?"
"All of you, return to your seats at once!" Variations on that theme came from all the heads of house.
Harry took a look at Tom's face, which had gone alarmingly pale, and then got up and started pushing determinedly toward the Slytherin table.
"Harry? What are you doing?" Hermione sounded startled.
"Aren't rescues our department?" he retorted.
"You think Riddle needs rescuing?" Ron sounded rather dubious.
"Him or the frog," Harry muttered. "Probably both. It's all right, I've got it."
They still followed, if a little more slowly. Harry found the going increasingly difficult until he wedged himself in between the most densely-packed students and popped out on the inside of an apparently inviolate ring. From there it was easy to reach Tom and grab his arm, startling him out of the increasingly ineffective protestations that it hadn't been supposed to be a real frog.
Once he was close enough, Harry could see the little patch of green where the chocolate covering had been scraped off by Tom's teeth, and the line of blood trickling from torn skin. The chocolate was melting under Tom's fingertips, too, and the frog was struggling wildly.
"Come on," he said under his breath, then frowned around at the hubbub and said more loudly, but still to Tom, "Come on. Let's get the frog to the infirmary."
A little to his surprise, Tom closed his mouth and followed when Harry tugged on his arm, and the ring parted with startling alacrity as he towed the younger boy firmly towards the door. They encountered Dumbledore and McGonagall next to it; Tom looked up at them in what looked like fright, but McGonagall nodded tightly and Dumbledore gave them both an encouraging small smile before letting them out.
No one followed them into the corridors.
Harry stopped after the first few corners and made Tom turn and look at him. "Are you okay?"
Tom nodded, a bit shakily. "It was only supposed to be animated, not transfigured... I don't know what happened...."
Harry shrugged and started walking again. "Either you made a mistake or somebody decided to play a trick on you. I'm guessing the second; that'd be a pretty advanced mistake."
Tom took a couple of quick steps to catch up with him. "You believe me?"
"Don't sound so shocked. Anybody with any sense would, if they'd seen the look on your face."
Tom turned and gave Harry a rather embittered look. "You must not think much of most of our fellow students, then."
Harry winced. "Well... maybe not all of them. They should do better when they stop to think. I think."
"You're encouraging." Tom looked rather gloomily at his panicked frog and rubbed some of the chocolate off its head. It croaked.
"The teachers --"
"The teachers all watch me like hawks as if they think I'm suddenly going to turn chalk-white and perform one of the Unforgivable Curses!" Tom exclaimed in frustration. "I don't mean they're unfair, but... they're suspicious. Everybody's suspicious. And I've been trying to be friendly, and I've been trying to do everything right... and now this."
There was a loud ribbit from the frog, as if for emphasis. Harry wondered briefly why McGonagall hadn't just transfigured it back into chocolate. It seemed simpler.
"Maybe this'll reassure them," he said thoughtfully.
Understandably, Tom looked at him as if suspecting insanity. "You do not have the same definition of reassuring as I do, do you."
"Probably not," said Harry, "but think about it. Apparently, when Voldemort was here, he was amazingly good at practically everything."
Tom interrupted him indignantly. "I'm not going to mess things up just to --"
"Of course you aren't," Harry interrupted right back. "You ought to be just as good at everything -- well, everything you're supposed to be doing -- as he was. But it's creepy if you always get things right on the first try unless you're Hermione or something." That got half a smile, at least. "And even she makes a mistake once in a while. Part of the problem for you is that people are worried you do remember things from Voldemort. Especially the way you've been breezing through Defense against the Dark Arts."
"I'm 'breezing through' Defense against the Dark Arts because I had a real teacher for my first year, not a conceited fraud." Tom paused. "She was very sure of herself, but she had reason. I wonder what happened to her?"
"I don't know," said Harry. Then he snorted. "I'm sure our first-year teacher could have taught us quite a bit if he'd actually wanted to try."
"Well, maybe not about defense...."
"I didn't say it would've been anything we wanted to learn. Although I'd think Voldemort would have known how to block things. Obviously Quirrell didn't."
Tom stopped in front of the doors to the Infirmary and regarded them with rather less enthusiasm than many people would have directed toward a large meal of fresh slugs, then pushed them open. "Madam Pomfrey? I have a hurt frog...."
The frog incident might or might not have reassured anyone. The resulting alarm, however, at least failed to daunt Tom's house-mates enough to prevent them from making him their new Seeker.
Harry had draped himself in his father's invisibility cloak and gone to watch the Slytherin Quidditch tryouts. Tom was not overall a more expert flyer than Malfoy -- Malfoy actually had the edge there -- but had still managed to outperform him at spotting and catching the Snitch. Harry could still outfly his opposite number, he thought, but he wasn't completely sure how much Tom's skill might improve once he got used to fifty years' worth of advances in broomstick technology.
Lucius Malfoy had made only a little protest before grinding his teeth and accepting the situation.
Currently, Harry was trying to ignore the fact that the Slytherin and Gryffindor teams had somehow both wound up on the field at the same time again, both with official permission, and neither -- to the astonishment of absolutely nobody -- was willing to back down.
The teams had each taken an end of the field and were somewhat resentfully keeping mostly to their own halves, although there were enough stray Bludgers coming from both directions to be suspect. There would probably have been more if not for Madam Hooch's volunteering to supervise.
At least Tom wasn't likely to try to kill him.
Harry spotted the Snitch near midfield, ducked a Bludger from his own team, and dived. The wind howled in his ears, and -- eyes fixed firmly on the Golden Snitch -- Harry stretched out his right arm.
Something slammed hard into him. Harry lost sight of the Snitch as he keeled over sideways on his broomstick, clutching desperately at it with his legs and both hands. After a bad moment of skidding, he wrenched the broom underneath himself so he could steady it out of its sidewise scoot.
When he could take his attention off the wayward broomstick and look up, Harry saw Tom Riddle a few feet away bringing his own broomstick's drift under control.
Madam Hooch's whistle shrieked loudly, but neither boy even jumped. They just hung in the air, half lying on the brooms. Harry thought Tom looked about as dazed as he felt.
Definitely just as well she was there, Harry thought vaguely. Someone would probably have been hurt by this point otherwise. Come to think of it, Tom looked awfully blurry, and he could barely see Madam Hooch... oh. He had lost his glasses.
"Disgraceful! Flying into him like that -- good sportsmanship should not be restricted to a match!"
Harry squinted, uncertain which of them was being scolded. He hadn't meant to collide with Tom; this didn't seem quite fair....
"I didn't see him!" Tom protested. "I was after the Snitch, not trying to hurt him."
"How could you not see him?" Madam Hooch demanded. "You dived practically on top of him!"
"I was looking at the Snitch!" Tom's voice was high with stress, and he sounded a bit petulant as he added, "It was our Snitch anyway; I didn't think he'd be going after it!"
"Madam Hooch," Harry interrupted as she drew breath to speak again, "I believe him. I didn't see him either, and it felt like we hit pretty much on the same level."
They both turned to him. Harry thought they were looking at him, anyway. It would make sense. He fixed his eyes on where Madam Hooch's ought to be and pushed his hair out of the way.
"Are you certain?" she asked.
"Well, not absolutely," explained Harry. "It all happened pretty fast, so one of us could have been flying higher."
"I know where you were in the air, Potter. And you know what I meant."
Right. "I don't read minds, Madam Hooch," Harry said politely, "but I don't see any reason not to think it was an accident." He looked around and smiled ruefully. "We are kind of at the boundary line."
Madam Hooch seemed to accept this, nodded sharply, and flew away from them again. "Return to practice."
Tom looked at Harry, still hovering, and asked hesitantly, "Why did you do that?"
Harry squinted at him in surprise. "It was true."
Tom rubbed his forehead and said quietly, "Thanks." Then he started to turn away.
"Wait!" said Harry.
Tom paused, hovering.
Embarrassed, Harry pointed downward. "Do you think you could help me find my glasses?" He thought better of this almost at once; Tom's Slytherin teammates would likely never let him hear the end of it if he helped Harry. "No, that's all right, never mind."
"Make up your mind." Tom sounded slightly amused and began circling toward the ground. "I'll find them -- hah." He banked low and came up from a sweep of the ground with a glint of glass and metal in hand.
Then he tossed it at Harry.
Harry caught it easily. He might not be able to see clearly, but unlike the Snitch his glasses followed a very predictable trajectory. "Thanks."
"I'm almost surprised neither of us happened to catch them, before," Tom said. "Though since we didn't, I can't believe they didn't break."
"Of course they didn't," Harry said, unfolding the glasses and settling them on his nose. "I got so tired of having to fix them, I finally looked up an Unbreakability charm."
Tom's eyebrows shot up, which Harry could actually see now. "I hope you charmed them not to hurt you, too, then."
Harry blinked. "Um... no," he admitted sheepishly.
"You'd better. Or take the first one off. It's probably okay for the lenses, but.... I'm sure she could do it, but would having Madam Pomfrey pry your glasses out of your face really be better than fixing them?"
Harry shuddered. "No. I guess I'd better take the Unbreakability charm off, then. I don't know the other one."
"I do." Tom held out his hand. "Let me see them."
Harry hesitated for a moment over handing his glasses to a Slytherin, even a friendly one, to be enchanted. On the other hand... they weren't playing each other yet, and Tom probably had enough people not trusting him as it was. He'd probably rather win fairly, anyway.
Besides, he'd handed over a little bit of his life to the other boy; what was a pair of glasses he'd already held anyway?
Harry handed his glasses over and watched as Tom solemnly fished his wand out of a pocket and, with fierce concentration, pronounced a charm and handed the glasses back.
"HARRY!" Fred Weasley bellowed.
"WHAT?" Harry shouted back, putting on his glasses.
Fred arced toward him and bashed a Bludger high into the air and away. "Are you going to sit there talking to the Slytherins all day? I've seen the Snitch three times! Oliver's been busy, but he'll notice you in a minute and have fits."
"Right. Sorry, my glasses fell off and Tom helped because I couldn't see to find them." He nodded at Tom, turning his broomstick back toward the Gryffindor half of the field. "Talk to you later."
"See you at the real match," Tom said with a faintly predatory smile. He swiveled sharply in the air and shot away.
Harry was prudent enough to have paid sufficient attention to Tom's words to ask Hermione about the charm he had used. It seemed to have been correct.
Testing it by diving face-first into a rising Bludger during the match against Hufflepuff really hadn't been in his plans, but the glasses neither broke nor bruised him. Of course, as they were not much protection, the Bludger still broke his nose, but there was no additional damage from having the glasses driven into his face. This was good. Madam Pomfrey fixed his nose.
The glasses also continued to behave decorously during the match with Slytherin. They did not spontaneously slide off his nose. They did not spontaneously combust, shatter, fog up, tap-dance, or transform into frogs. Harry drifted around the field looking for the Snitch and concluded that the various levels of misgivings held by those who knew he had let a Slytherin charm his eyeglasses were probably unfounded.
They did not prevent him from glimpsing the Snitch, either, which probably would have been the cleverest way to take the opportunity to cheat. Harry spotted a gleam of gold and leaned forward over his broomstick to dash toward it.
Halfway there and going far too fast to stop even if he'd wanted to, he saw a figure in green speeding toward it from the opposite direction.
Harry angled very slightly left.
So did Tom.
They shot alongside each other and reached for the Snitch at the same time. Harry decelerated as abruptly as he could as soon as he touched metal....
The two Seekers came to a halt facing in opposite directions with the Golden Snitch trapped between their raised palms and sat very still in the air.
Harry blinked across at Tom. The field sounded very silent suddenly, and he wasn't sure whether this was just because the wind no longer whistled in his ears or because the entire audience and both teams were staring at them and trying to figure out whether to cheer or not. He hadn't suddenly gone deaf, because he heard Madam Hooch's whistle when they stopped.
The Snitch's wings beat frantically against his hand.
Tom blinked back at him. "Now what?"
"I have no idea." After a few more seconds of hovering, Harry laughed nervously. "This looks kind of like what Muggles call a high-five."
Tom started to smile a little. "It does, doesn't it?"
They both sat there for a moment longer, feeling extremely silly. Both teams began swooping in to investigate, impeding Madam Hooch's vision and progress. Harry looked over to see her weaving between students.
Then Harry felt Tom's fingertips across his palm as the Slytherin Seeker's hand closed around the Snitch, and the answering smile slid off his face with shock.
Tumult broke out as the Gryffindors protested and the Slytherins cheered. Both spread somewhat slowly as most of the audience couldn't see through the englobing players.
Madam Hooch's whistle cut through the noise as she reached them and saw Tom holding up the Snitch and Harry looking stunned. She blinked, then called out, "Slytherin's Seeker has the Snitch."
They'd lost, Harry thought miserably, shutting his eyes. He'd lost. Gryffindor had been ahead, but not by a hundred and fifty points. He'd thought --
The referee's voice went on mercilessly. "Match to --"
"Madam Hooch?" Tom interrupted.
Harry's eyes opened.
"We had it pinned between our hands," Tom explained. "We caught it at the same time."
"Then why," asked Madam Hooch, "are you holding it now?"
Tom shrugged. "It was an awkward position."
It was Slytherin beginning to protest now.
"Very well." The whistle shrieked again. Madam Hooch shouted, "The Seekers caught the Snitch at the same time. According to the rules of Quidditch, the catch is null." She plucked the Snitch from Tom's hand and tossed it into the air; it promptly flew away. "Continue play!"
Harry held his place in the air, as did Tom, while the rest of their teammates broke away and resumed play. Several of the Slytherins shouted their disappointment at Tom.
Harry waited until it was quiet before asking, "Why did you do that?"
Tom looked at him in silence for a long moment, then said, "It's the choices we make...." He trailed off, then broke into a mischievous grin. "Besides, I'd prefer a clean win, not one based on Gryffindor… innocence."
He sped away across the field, leaving Harry to sputter and then take off after him.