Everything stopped. Harry would like to be able to disbelieve his senses, but in exactly zero worlds had he imagined that Tom Riddle (The Tom Riddle!) would be asking him, Harry Potter, to a party with him.
Harry blinked, then blinked again. “Can you repeat that? I’m not sure I heard you right.”
He half expected Riddle to throw up his hands in disgust and walk away, but instead the taller man folded his hands in front of him and patiently repeated, “Potter - Harry - could I invite myself along to the Black Gala with you as your plus one?”
Harry cocked his head, then shook it a bit as his hair fell into his eyes behind his glasses. “Is this for real?” Flicking his wrist, he summoned his wand from its forearm holster and began to pace to his left, checking Riddle for any obvious abnormalities. “Have you tasted anything off in your food or drink so far today? Are you under the Imperius? Wait, no, scratch that, you wouldn’t be able to answer that truthfully.” He looked up sharply at Tom’s too-pretty face then, suspicious. “How do I even know you’re him? What was the first thing you said to me?”
Tom rolled his eyes, exasperated. “Yes, I am here under my own power and no compulsion. Why is that such a hard idea to grasp?”
Harry’s reply was slow and matter-of-fact. “Because even when you did acknowledge my existence at school we disagreed on everything? Because it’s been five years since then and this is the first I’ve heard from you and it’s a God-damned come-on? This doesn’t make any sense, Riddle!”
“I don’t know why I expected better of you,” Riddle muttered under his breath. That stung a little, but Harry mostly forgot about it as the former Slytherin went on to explain. “You,” and here he tilted his head at Harry, “Have a standing invitation to the Black Gala. You also have an obligation to attend this year, considering you’re now officially being groomed to step in as Sirius Black’s heir once he decides to retire, which everybody knows he’ll do as quickly as humanly possible.” Harry nodded. This was all fairly common knowledge, especially for anyone keeping up with political currents as he knew Riddle would be. “I, on the other hand, find myself in need of an invitation to said Gala for multiple reasons, one of which is to speak to Lady Cassiopeia about her recent travels in Greece.”
“That tracks,” Harry replied amiably, slowly turning back to circle the other direction. “Aunt Cass rarely comes back to the UK and this is her one known stop every year. But my main question is, why didn’t you ask Bella?” Deliberately looking into those cool gray eyes, Harry couldn’t miss the flash of pure annoyance that went through them at the mention of Harry’s dearest cousin.
“The lovely Bella,” Tom spit out her name with disgust. “Is the main reason I need you to be on my arm for this event.”
Pfft. Harry couldn’t help but laugh out loud at that. He glanced up at the sour look on Tom’s face, then had to clutch at his stomach to keep from falling over with mirth. “Serves you right, you berk, for leading her along like you did.”
Tom looked for an instant like he was going to get angry, then paused to contemplate for a minute before it turned to exasperation. “I will grant that wiser choices could have been made.”
Tom’s voice was already deep by graduation, but he must have gotten elocution lessons at some point because it is rich and modulated and smooth as butter. Perfect for a politician, or a radio host. Here Harry went, cracking himself up again at the thought of Tom sitting in a radio station all day choosing Weird Sisters songs and fending off thirsty mothers. He pulled himself back on track for the rare opportunity to poke fun at his Slytherin acquaintance. “Wiser choices?? She latched on to you and you totally fed into her crazy. You’re only now realizing you can’t get rid of her that easily?”
“Yes, okay? Is that what you wanted to hear?” Tom started pacing, a hand running through his perfectly-coiffed hair and messing it up. “I’m now realizing that she creeps me out, and I’ve told her I don’t want to be with her or be friends with her any more and she won’t bloody leave me alone. So yes. I would like you to be my fake date to the gala, I would like you to pretend that we’re madly in love, and then maybe, just maybe, she’ll fuck off.”
Harry considered this, then nodded. “Okay.”
Tom’s head snapped up so fast Harry could almost hear his neck crack. “What?”
“I’ll do it. I’ll accompany you to the gala and be lovey-dovey and shit. You were honest about your actual motives, and I’m always down to mess with Bella.” Harry grinned widely. “As a bonus, maybe my aunts will stop trying to set me up on blind dates with their friends’ kids after this, for at least a little while.”
“How often do they try that?” Tom asked, intrigued.
Harry shuddered. “At least twice a month - I’m still trying to get over the guy from last week, thank you very much.”
“Well. Right.” Tom still looked a little thrown off by how quickly Harry had capitulated, but he attempted to gather himself together.
Harry brightened up. “You know what’s going to be critical to pulling off this plan?”
“Practicing physical contact and PDA! We have to be comfortable around each other, or this won’t work.” He stepped forward, right into Riddle’s personal space, and was gratified to see no flinching or startling - a single eyebrow rose in response.
Reaching up to cup Tom’s face, Harry stroked a prominent cheekbone with his thumb. “You have such an even skin tone, sweetcheeks,” he cooed. “And your eyes are the same color as the sky above the Quidditch pitch in winter.”
A second eyebrow joined the first. “So that’s how we’re playing this?”
Two big hands fell to Harry’s waist and tugged him closer - he could feel Tom’s body warmth radiating along the whole front of him. “Then you, pumpkin, are wasting away. I can almost wrap my hands around your waist! Did you even have lunch today? Be honest with me.”
The thing was -
Well, for one thing, just to be the focus of Tom’s overwhelming attention was a Lot. Tom had always been very driven, very single-minded - and having all that centered on himself was a heady concept.
Second, he was right? Harry had always been skinny, due to the Backstory-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named, but even once he’d been adopted by Sirius and filled out with maturity and exercise, yeah - Tom’s fingers almost met around his waist.
Which was stupid hot.
All this processed in an instant as Harry caught his breath. From this close, there was no way Tom wouldn’t notice. Harry gave himself a beat to pull himself together, then smiled lopsidedly and responded, “You know what? I actually did forget to have lunch today. Is that you offering?”
Tom looked like he was honestly considering his suggestion for a minute, but then he turned his intent gaze squarely on Harry’s face.
His fingers flexed deliberately around Harry’s waist. Harry let out a shuddering breath, and he didn’t miss the way Tom’s nostrils flared.
Tom’s lips quirked up in the most honest smile Harry’d ever seen from him. “I think I’ll take you up on that later, darling - but first, we’ve got to see this through, don’t you think?”
Harry nodded eagerly.
Leaning in, Tom brushed his nose over Harry’s, while one hand swept up to rest on Harry’s shoulder. Harry still had one hand cradling Tom’s face which he eased back to the nape of the other’s neck, into the soft curls there.
“Are you going to kiss me or not, Tom Riddle?” Harry teased.
Tom hummed. “I reckon so, Harry Potter.”
And with that, his lips touched Harry’s in a feather-soft brush. Harry rolled his eyes and pressed up into it, tilting his head so that - there, the angle was much better. Thankfully, Tom realized that the time for teasing was over and put his back into the kiss, slipping his tongue out to wet Harry’s lips. Harry happily obliged the man, losing himself in the give and take of slick mouths and rasping tongues and bitten lips. Tightening his hand in Tom’s hair produced a lovely deep groan that Harry eagerly licked up.
A while later, when they were catching their breath, Tom smiled against the skin of Harry’s neck where he was in the middle of nibbling at it. “Practice, huh?” he murmured.
Harry grinned, still panting. “Heh. Yeah, practice. You have a problem with that?”
“Never.” Tom reapplied himself to Harry’s neck and Harry couldn’t hold back the high-pitched whine from the back of his throat.
Harry dropped a hand down to Tom’s ass and squeezed, weathering out Tom’s glare with a laughed, “What? It was right there.”
Later that afternoon, after more practice, they sat together at a table in one of Vertic Alley’s side streets for dinner.
“We’ll need an alibi.” Harry was drumming his fingers against the tabletop. “That’s not quite the right word for it - a narrative? Answers to questions like, ‘How long have you been together?’ and, ‘How did you meet each other?’ and rot like that.”
“Hmmm.” Tom considered this for approximately one second, rolling with it. “We obviously knew each other in Hogwarts...”
“I kept an eye on Tom throughout Hogwarts. Who didn’t, to be honest?” They stood together in the Black townhouse’s drawing room, conversing with one of Harry’s least favorite uncles. Harry was tucked up under Tom’s arm, having the time of his life. For once, the people he didn’t want to talk to didn’t want to talk to him! It was a win-win scenario. “But it’s not like I ever thought anything could happen - he was always so untouchable.” This was accompanied by a saccharine look towards a Tom who was doing his best not to break out laughing by faking a coughing fit instead.
Once he’d caught his breath, Tom chimed in, placing his hand that wasn’t possessively draped around Harry’s waist over his heart. “The other week, though, we bumped into each other at a coffee shop in Diagon Alley, and fell head over heels for each other.”
Harry stood on his tiptoes to place a loud, smacking kiss on Tom’s cheek. “And we haven’t been separable since!”
Pollux Black looked vaguely green as he took in the two of them. “Well, congratulations to the both of you on… finding each other,” he managed to croak out before scampering away as fast as he could manage without spilling his wine.
Harry immediately twisted around to bury his face in Tom’s chest so his snorting wouldn’t give the whole game away. When he’d gathered himself enough to straighten up and smooth down Tom’s lapels, the bastard had the audacity to ask in a faux-concerned voice, “Are you going to be all right, darling?”
Harry swatted at him ineffectively. “You’re not helping, asshole.”
Tom caught his hand, however, and lifted it to his face to place a tender kiss on Harry’s knuckles. “I’m just playing my part.”
Harry warred with his own impulses, but eventually let a blush spread over his cheeks in response. I’m supposed to look besotted with Tom, but he’s playing his part far too well.
This close, if Harry concentrated, he could feel the pressure and sparks of Tom’s magic interacting with his own aura. Not everyone was powerful enough that their magic manifested around them naturally, but both Harry and Tom were absolutely on that list.
As Harry looked away from Tom’s intense gaze to scan the other attendants of the gala, he caught quite a few admiring gazes. He had to admit that between the two of them, they painted quite the picture. One taller and one shorter, their coordinating high-fashion robes marked them as a well-matched pair. Between Harry’s position as the Black Heir and Tom’s rising influence in the Ministry, no one in politics could afford to ignore both of them. Also - and here he turned back to Tom and intertwined their arms together, smiling - they just looked really good.
“Why then,” Magnus Montague blustered, “how would you propose to charge up a location-specific blood ward?”
Tom only held himself back from his first instinct, to silence the man, by reminding himself that he was inside a Dark family’s house surrounded by similarly-minded people. He was far too used to only discussing these topics one-on-one behind a silencing ward.
His second instinct was to step in and correct the fool - obviously the answer was not to capture thirteen Veela and a centaur - the Arithmancy of such a choice would be simply dreadful. He didn’t even think to glance over at Harry; the former Gryffindor would probably be in over his head when it came to outlawed magics like these.
Which was why when his date drawled, “Personally, I’d drain an Acromantula and then use a Blood Quill to charge the plasma so it would be keyed to only me,” Tom couldn’t help but turn and stare. Harry was idly fiddling with his fingernails and only looked up when it was apparent both of the others were staring at him. “What? That’s the best way to get a high enough volume to properly draw out the runes, as well as to ensure that the magic strain is undiluted.”
Tom… couldn’t fault his logic, but wanted to check - “How would you plan on dealing with the ritual backlash if you’re the only live participant?”
Harry looked delighted that Tom could keep up with his level of theory. “Why, I never said I was the only participant in the ritual, simply that only my blood would be involved. Ideally this would be a tandem cast, with my partner stabilizing the matrix and feeding me Blood-Replenisher potions.”
Tilting his head, Tom regarded Harry in a new light. “You have thought this through before.” He leaned forward. “Have you actually completed the ritual?”
Harry batted his eyes at Tom. “Haven’t found the right partner yet.”
Tom knew that the smile that crossed his face at that challenge couldn’t be described as tame.
He didn’t care.
A throat cleared beside them, and they both whipped around to stare at Magnus, who abruptly went pale. “I… I think I shall be going now.”
Harry nodded. “Get along, then.”
Tom barely registered the other man leaving them alone as he eagerly asked Harry, “Which runic language would you be considering for a ritual of this scale? I mean, Elder Futhark is the default, but I think you could possibly find better results from…”
“Hello Aunt Cass - this is my friend, Tom Riddle. He has some questions for you regarding your research in Greece this year?”
Tom performed a very respectful half-bow. “How do you do, madam. I was wondering whether you’d managed to further decode the dialect of Magical Greek at Thermopylae, and what impact your latest findings could have on our understanding of Homer’s third epic?”
Cassiopeia’s eyes lit up with an unholy flame. “No one here ever keeps up with my research, they just want to know if I’ve discovered more gold in my time away. Come, come! I’ll show you the latest transcripts.”
Towards the end of the gala, Tom and Harry had made their way among most of the guests in attendance, including, thankfully, some people that Harry actually enjoyed talking to.
Sirius had been a hoot, as always, and Remus and Tom had gotten along famously. In fact, Remus was going to lend Tom a book for a research project before they headed home.
“All right,” Harry cuddled closer on the couch to whisper in Tom’s ear. “We’ve seen everybody at this party and impressed everyone we need to except for Bellatrix. Is she even here?”
Tom continued playing with Harry’s hair as he answered, quietly, “She is in attendance, yes, but she has been avoiding the pair of us.”
“I wonder why,” Harry replied dryly. He and Tom had been all over each other all evening, and he’d enjoyed the experience immensely. No one else could keep up with him like Tom could, and the two of them had a very similar, sharp sense of humor.
Also, if he said it himself, they made a bloody intimidating couple. Intimidating and cute at the same time.
Tom levered himself off the couch and stretched out a hand for Harry in a very gallant manner. “Let’s go find her, shall we?”
Placing his hand in Tom’s, he stood. “We shall.”
Bellatrix Black’s face when she saw Harry on Tom’s arm was the picture of envy. She tried to rally herself and be witty - “Evening, Tom. I hope this party isn’t boring you too much? Some things are only pleasant with good company.”
But Tom shot her down with prejudice. “Ah, and tonight’s company is superlative, I can assure you. Harry and I are quite astonished we hadn’t managed to find each other before - isn’t that right, darling?” He smiled adoringly down at Harry.
“Completely right, Tom. And tonight would have been horribly boring without you.” Honestly, though, Harry realized that sentiment was completely true. He had enjoyed the evening, and he was glad he and Tom had managed to bump into each other.
Instinctively, he reached up and wrapped both arms around Tom’s neck, giving the other a shy smile and a peck on the lips. “Thank you for coming with me today.”
“My pleasure,” Tom purred, and returned the kiss with interest.
Bellatrix whined, “Are you sure you want to be with Harry, Tom? I could be so much better for you!”
Tom fastened her with a glare that even she shrank back from. “Bella, I’ve told you multiple times that we are over, and that you have no claim over me. I am here with Harry, I want to be with Harry, and I don’t want to be with you. So back off.”
Harry resisted the petty urge to stick out his tongue at his cousin as she left in a huff. He did, however, give in to the instinct to kiss Tom again. He was right there, anyways.
They went on a real date the next day.