It was a minute to midnight when Harry jumped, startled as Tom closed his book and smoothly stood up, moving to the opposite sit of Harry’s chair holding his hand out expectantly.
Harry raised an eyebrow in confusion but took the offered hand anyway and followed Tom’s lead as he was guided out of the room and up numerous flights of stairs until they reached the top floor, and through one of the sitting rooms was a balcony that overlooked the manor grounds. As Harry passed through the doorway onto the balcony in the cool night air he tried awfully hard not to think about the slightly warmer hand that encompassed his, and the thoughts of how to gently extract his own hand without being awkward about it were running through his head, because he was holding the Dark Lord’s hand. Which wouldn’t have been awkward if it was only for a few seconds, but Harry hadn’t let go and neither had Tom as they ascended to the balcony.
Harry was distracted by Tom’s wandless tempus that showed that there were only 10 seconds until midnight, and Harry’s gaze was enraptured by the slow ticking of each second disappearing as midnight dawned even closer. With 5 seconds left Harry began slowly counting down in his head until the clock finally changed to 12:00.
There was a series of small pops around him, as he was joined by 11 house elves from both the Slytherin and Peverell households along with Nagini who slithered through the door, and Harry felt claws digging gently into his collarbone and a light brush of feathers near his cheek as Hedwig landed on his shoulder.
Just as Harry was about to open his mouth to ask what was going on when a loud bang sounded from far away and his heart practically jumped out of his throat as there was an explosion of light from the far ends of the grounds, and the sky was filled with colour. The words Happy Birthday Harry shimmered into existence and Harry felt his jaw drop open as he saw fireworks in real life for the first time. The words were distorted by a lightning bolt obscuring the letters, with the sparks showering down onto the manor grounds and disappearing out of existence. Two wings of white light beat softly in the sky, two wings that Harry was familiar with as he looked to his right and eyed Hedwig on his shoulder, while another firework went off, with a green snake that twisted into what could only by Nagini. 11 little heads of elves shimmered in the night sky and Harry chuckled as the Dark Mark wound its way into the largest firework yet, and once that had dissolved into smoke, a series of smaller explosions erupted and Harry’s vision was entirely filled with the multiple shades of gold, silver, green and blood red in twinkling bursts that glittered out of existence, only to be replaced by newer fireworks that climbed even higher in the sky.
Harry felt his cheeks hurting with how much he was smiling as he watched the last of the fireworks fade away, and he turned to his audience, to see the army of house elves nervously wringing their hands together as they looked at Harry.
“Did Master Harry enjoy the show?” Leila asked, blinking her large green eyes at him.
“It was wonderful,” Harry said, gently extracting his hand from Tom’s grasp to crouch down so he could be at the same height as the creatures, but what he was not prepared to happen was for his words to send the elves bursting into tears. “Wait why are you crying? Please don’t cry,” Harry pleaded as he had his arms filled with a tearful Ellie, who then moved out of the way and was replaced by Lia as Harry hugged each of the excitable elves.
“We is just very happy you liked it,” Pip said as she too gained a hug from Harry. With each elf adding their own piece of information, Harry deducted that the two groups of elves had banded together in their common desire to make Harry’s birthday extra special, and with the idea of fireworks set in place, they’d gone to Tom who had helped them source and place the exploding items to create the display.
“Where’s my hug?” Nagini hissed as she slithered towards Harry once each of the 11 house elves had moved off to the side after their hug.
“Come here Nagini,” Harry snickered as the snake wound her way around Harry’s arms and draped herself over his neck, careful not to disturb Hedwig who hooted in Harry’s ear. “Hold on Hedwig,” Harry muttered shifting his fingers that were mostly bound by Nagini’s coils to stroke the owl’s feathers.
Once Nagini had extracted herself from Harry, Hedwig flew over to the snake and landed straight on her head, but apart from an annoyed hiss Nagini did not object, which left Harry to stand up properly and eye Tom who had crossed his arms and had leaned against the balcony rails as he watched Harry engulf the range of creatures in hugs.
As Harry raised his eyebrows expectantly at Tom, it took the other an embarrassingly long time to understand the meaning behind that look.
“Absolutely not,” Tom stated with finality, but Harry was picking up on something else as well. Though Tom’s demeanour outwardly said that being hugged was the absolute worst thing in the world, his emotions were strong enough to bleed over the link the horcrux had created, and it left Harry conflicted.
“You’ve never had a hug before?” Harry asked softly, watching as Tom’s eyes clashed with his and they stared at each other, until Tom sighed and let a few thoughts and memories drift into Harry’s head.
Harry saw a young Tom Riddle who knew that touch only meant he would get hurt, a kick or a punch from one of the older kids, that was a form of touch, the pain that came from the matron grasping his ear too hard, that was also a form of touch, and yet as he grew up he learned that a lack of touch meant there was a lack of pain too.
For Harry is was much the same, as he grew up he hated anyone coming too near, because that only equivalated to pain, but the difference between the two of them was that as he entered Hogwarts, he let people in, and he made friends and slowly he learned that touch came with good and bad. For Tom, he’d only closed himself off further, until an invisible wall surrounded him that no one was able to breach, and it worked just fine, well it had until…
“Oh,” Harry whispered, barely audible in the light breeze of the night. Harry wasn’t feeling pity, pity was something Harry knew Tom did not appreciate, but there was a certain sadness that Harry couldn’t help feeling, but really, he couldn’t blame Tom for his aversion to touch. There was a beat of silence before Harry blurted, “so is that a no then?”
“No,” Tom replied, pushing off the railing and took what could only be called a cautious step forward.
Harry felt himself take in a sharp inhale, because that was about as close as he would get to a ‘yes’ from Tom, and so Harry found himself bridging the gap between the two of them, and before he could bring himself to have any doubts, Harry took a last step forward and circle his arms around Tom’s waist, pulling the other impossibly closer to him. He wanted to laugh or perhaps cry when he felt Tom tense up impossibly further, but Harry waited, he waited until ever so slightly Tom began to relax.
“I’m not going to let go until you properly hug me back,” Harry muttered, his voice slightly muffled from where his face was pressed against Tom’s shoulder, and with only a second of hesitation Tom’s arms came to encircle his upper back. The hug was surprisingly warm and the pair stayed like that for what felt like too little time and almost an eternity, and when Harry finally pulled away with a grin and noticed then that their audience had either popped, slithered or flown away. As the pair walked the distance to their bedrooms, Tom did not remove the hand that was placed on Harry’s lower back until he’d received a shorter and slightly more crushing hug from the wizard as he whispered thank you and goodnight.
Their first hug couldn’t be called the world’s best hug, but from two socially awkward dorks it was a monumental achievement.
The next morning Harry had been just about to head down to breakfast when Tom had knocked on his door.
Hello!” Harry said brightly with a matching grin at the tired frown on Tom’s face.
“Honestly how do you function without coffee in the morning.” Tom grumbled leaning against the doorframe. “Anyway, hurry up we’re going out for breakfast.”
With that Tom whirled around to stalk down the hall back to his bedroom.
“Wait to a magical or a muggle place?” Harry called after him.
“Muggle. I don’t want to have to deal with snobby purebloods today!” was the snarky reply and Harry’s laughter echoed down the halls. Unbeknownst to Harry a small smile crept onto Tom’s face as he opened the door to his walk-in wardrobe to figure out what to wear.
Only half an hour later Harry and Tom were seated at a muggle café with a silencing charm and a notice me not charm surrounding their table, and Tom had imperioed the waiter for faster service since “muggles are slow creatures”, leaving Harry to roll his eyes at his dramatics.
“What have you done on your previous birthdays?” Tom asked popping a forkful of scrambled eggs in his mouth. He was in a much better mood now that he had ordered some coffee, and smirked at Harry’s disgusted expression.
“I didn’t even know when my birthday was until third grade when we had to fill in a profile for ourselves at the start of the year. So, I basically found out from the same teacher whose hair I turned blue that year.” Harry paused to munch on the crepes he’d covered in maple syrup. “So basically nothing, until my 11th when Hagrid came to tell me I was a wizard and then he gave me my first ever birthday cake, except that Dudley ate it and Hagrid gave Dudley a pigs tail for it.” Harry smirked at the memory and in his mindscape, he took the orb containing the memory, copied it and relayed it across to Tom, who took note of his former classmate and that he still had the two pieces of his wand when the board had snapped it in half.
“Still can’t believe you blamed it on Hagrid Tom,” Harry said looking at Tom unimpressed.
“Alright I know there’s no need to look at me like that,” Tom huffed pointing his fork at Harry. “I needed someone to blame, and someone with Acromantula’s in their dorm was the way to go about it in my head,”
“Please if that’s any worse than having a pet Basilisk,” Harry argued, but conceded that what was done, was done, and there was nothing that could be done about it.
“Did you not get the starter pack for muggleborns?” Tom observed the memory Harry showed of him going to diagon alley the first time.
“The what?” Harry was confused but still content with his sugar filled breakfast.
“I’d wondered this yesterday. Each of the muggleborns or halfbloods who grow up in the muggle world are given a starter pack for things like how to use a quill and basic cleaning and drying charms for parchment and all of that stuff.” Tom waved his fork around and Harry hid a smile at Tom’s habit of animatedly talking with his cutlery.
“It’s either a Dumbledore thing, or a boy-who-lived-should-know-all thing.” Harry shrugged and continued to describe the rest of his birthdays with Dobby coming and dumping a cake on Mrs Masons head for his 12th, him writing his essay for History of Magic underneath the covers of his bed for his 13th, the sugar-fee snacks from Hermione, the rock cakes he never touched from Hagrid and the large birthday cake that came from the Weasleys for his 14th when the household had gone into a-quarter-of-a-grapefruit-for-every-meal diet that hadn’t lasted very long. That had caused Tom’s lips to quirk upwards as Harry shared the memory of Harry sarcastically saying how filling that piece of grapefruit was to a beady eyed and ever hungry Dudley who looked distraught at the sight of his own piece of fruit.
“But you know I have to say that today has been the best birthday of my entire life.” Harry had just finished his crepes and was animatedly talking to Tom. “Like seriously, fireworks? Of all things? And crepes for breakfast, these are so much better than pancakes which is what we have at Hogwarts and I don’t even have to spend the entire day doing chores and really best day ever and it’s not even noon!”
Suddenly Harrys good mood dropped a little and he looked out the window onto the garden that the place overlooked.
“Hermione and Ron did send me boxes of Honeydukes chocolate, and in their cards, they said they’d see me soon and explain ‘everything’,” Harry informed Tom, and sighed as he made eye-contact with the wizard as he leaned his head on his hand which was propped up on the table. For Harry there was a simmering pot of anger and frustration towards his friends, he knew that friends had rough patches and they held secrets, and yet the lack of effort and the impersonal gifts made Harry want to scream. Those same two friends had turned their backs on him in the Triwizard Tournament and the only reason they even tried to mend things was because they saw Harry nearly die at the expense of a dragon’s next meal.
“I don’t know what to do with them at all, what do you think?” he asked Tom.
“Why are you looking at me? If you wanted to learn how to create a following you could ask me about that but your friends are your own to figure out. The only problem I have is you apparently have only two friends at school,” Tom raised his eyebrows at Harry’s sheepish expression.
“Don’t look at me like that, I’m not naturally extroverted and half our year level hates me for no reason at all. Hell, I think Ron’s always been a little jealous over the fact I’m the boy-who-lived while he thinks he’s just another Weasley.”
“Then you have to show them you’re not the stuck-up spoiled brat they probably think you are,” Tom said, draining the last of his coffee.
“They think that?!” Harry sputtered, and would have choked on his tea if he’d taken a sip of the drink.
“Well obviously. I thought that about you until I regained my sanity. So did Severus, until I told him you were living with Petunia. Nowhere in any of the books on the shelves of the wizarding world mention how you grew up except that you live with your Aunt and Uncle, who everyone assumed to be magical.” Tom explained.
“You’ve read about me?” Harry smirked, and received an eyeroll in return. Harry did ponder over the fact that he did seem a little pompous in his exclusive friend group of 2 other people, not having branched out to speak to any of the other students except for the boys in his dorm. It surprised him that people didn’t see how small he was in comparison to his fellow classmates, nor the condition of his clothes, but he supposed it was hard for people to see him as anything but the boy-who-lived, rather than just Harry.
The pair stood up and with the removal of the imperius curse they walked out of the establishment and Tom looked expectantly at Harry.
“Where would you like to go now?” Tom asked as they walked up the street.
“Uhh, hold on let me think,” Harry said as his mind whizzed through multiple different options. He’d never been to an aquarium, nor a theme park. He’d like to go to the theatres one day maybe, but one place he hadn’t been was…
“The ocean, or like the beach,” Harry decided, thinking back to the two times he’d ever been near the ocean being the house in the middle of the sea the Dursley’s and he had stayed in to escape the onslaught of Harry’s Hogwarts letters, and the Azkaban escape.
Harry’s hand was grasped and a dizzying second later he landed on a patch of grass on the top of a cliff that gave way to a series of rocks that were being assaulted by the strong waves of the ocean. Harry felt as though he’d seen the place once before, almost like in a dream, but dismissing the thought he looked around and sputtered when he peered over the rocks and received a face full of saltwater. There was laughter behind him and Harry turned to see Tom laughing at him.
“Sadist!” he yelled towards the cackling man who grinned and flicked his hand and Harry knew that something bad was about to happen. When he looked behind him a giant wave had risen above the rock wall and crashed straight on top of Harry’s head. Gaping like a fish at Tom’s cackling, Harry stalked towards the man and his entire outfit on fire.
Tom rolled his eyes and the fire disappeared and Harry was sucked into a tornado of warmth and he found himself completely dry again. They sat side by side on a particularly large rock and watch the water crash and retreat against the dark coloured rocks, the wind fierce enough to make a bird’s nest of Harry’s and even Tom’s hair.
“Speaking of Azkaban,” Tom started, having heard Harry’s previous thoughts about being near the sea, “there’ll be another raid in the next week for the lower Death Eaters who were captured after the war.”
Harry sat up in shock as his head snapped sideways to look at Tom.
“That wasn’t all of them?” Harry asked, and then huffed as Tom dissolved in a fitful of chuckles. “Why are you laughing?”
“Merlin no, that was only my inner circle Death Eaters. The muggles permanently transfigured will not survive long in Azkaban, and it will be suspicious if everyone on the floors died at once, now, if each week a single level is cleared out, it’ll look like a disease swept through the prison. I also did not want to occupy too many healers, there’s currently a shortage of healers in the wizarding world, plus my inner circle were prisoned in the highest floor, where the highest security is, being a mass of Dementors,” Tom explained, leaning back against the bench and draping an arm across the back of where Harry was seated. “Also, not that I doubted you, but I did want to properly test your method of removing the Death Eaters from Azkaban.”
Harry nodded in understanding as Tom continued to talk.
“The lower Death Eater’s wouldn’t have sustained nearly as much mental damage and shouldn’t take as much time to heal. The prisoners without life sentences still have their wands, which will need to be obtained, but it shouldn’t take much effort for them to get back on their feet, and many will want to return back to their families, hence contracts must be signed which will need to be written up by myself, and I’ll probably have Ironclaw read over them before copying them.”
Harry felt his gaze drift over the horizon as he listened to Tom think aloud, and once he’d finished mulling over plans both out loud and in his head, the two lapsed into a comfortable silence. Surprisingly, this time Tom was the one to break the silence.
“The orphanage used to take us here in the summer.” Tom began, and Harry whipped his head around to stare at him. “A few months before we’d gone there two others, Amy Benson and Dennis Bishop, had taken my pet snake Ila, and chopped her head off and placed her dead body in my bed. When we came here, Amy and Dennis were playing a bit away from everyone and I took them to a hidden cave over there.” Tom pointed to the right to where the rocks seemed to dip inwards a little with sharp spikes pointing out in all directions. “I’d wished to make them feel the pain Ila did but 10 times worse, and they did, that was what I believe was the first time I cast the cruciatus curse. It was extreme but at the time it was what I thought they deserved, and the two never spoke again. I did find out later that a boy named Billy Stubbs had proposed the idea to killing Ila to the two and for that I murdered his rabbit and hung it from the rafters. I suppose I was a spiteful child and rather sentimental too.”
A serene expression was on Tom’s face as Harry listened to him speak. There was no disgust, no horror at the actions of a young Tom Riddle, and Harry found himself feeling surprisingly vindictive at the mention of the children, and there was a small part of him that said they got what they deserved, and the thought startled him so much that only after a few moments of silence he wondered why he was sentimental. Quirking an eyebrow in curiosity he looked at Tom out of the corner of his eye, finding him already staring back with a smirk on his face.
“That cave now houses one of my horcruxes, my mother’s last possession the Slytherin locket,” Tom finished, clasping his hands together and looking into the distance, as if reliving the memories.
“What happened to the orphanage?” Harry asked, finally breaking the silence between them, Tom looked at him from the corner of his eye and stood up, offering his hand to Harry again and there was no hesitation as he took it, and purposefully did not remove his hand from where it was entangled with the other’s as they apparated to a new location. In front of them stood a block of offices that towered over the street.
“It used to be here. It didn’t get bombed in the second world war it was demolished probably somewhere in the last 2 decades to give way to these office blocks.”
Tom was surprised that he was mildly disappointed to see the structure gone as he didn’t get the chance to show Harry, so he gathered a few books containing his memories in his mind and sent them towards Harry. There was a moment where Harry’s eyes glazed over as he reviewed Tom’s memories.
Wools orphanage loomed over him, the tallest structure in the village with dark bricks and the old metal gate that squeaked open loud enough to notify anyone entering.
Different children sneering as he walked out of his individual room and into the communal dining hall. He looked down at the small grass snake that was wrapped around his wrist making snide comments at the other orphans.
The Professor that had set his cupboard on fire and swept out of the room, no doubt he would hate this wizard with each and every cell in his body. But ignoring the man, he was special, and he’d always known he was special and he would be the most successful wizard to ever exist.
There were other memories as well, and Harry had a hard time distinguishing his own emotions from Tom’s as they spun in a storm inside his head. There was sadness for Tom, dread towards the looming figure of the orphanage and hate for every other orphan as well as Dumbledore, but also fondness towards Ila the snake and pride that came along with knowing that Tom really had become the most successful wizard of all time, in both their opinions anyway.
“Dumbledore delivered your letter,” Harry muttered, trying to keep his emotions in check after the onslaught of different memories.
“Unfortunately. I don’t know whether that’s better or worse than Hagrid.” Tom rolled his eyes and smirked when Harry elbowed him in the ribs.
The two spent a while wandering the streets of London until a wandless Tempus from Tom saw that it was nearly time for lunch, which meant Narcissa would be arriving at Peverell Palace soon through the floo network.
One apparition later, Tom and Harry were striding through the doors of the infirmary where light chatter was emanating from small groups in the room. Travers and Rabastan were in a heated battle of chess while Barty sat and observed the board. Rodolphus was reading, as was Rookwood, while Mulciber, Dolohov and Rosier were busy trading newspapers as they tried to read through the Daily Prophet archives from the past decade, while Bellatrix was sitting and filing her nails as she flicked through the latest copy of Witch Weekly.
Harry stood still for a moment as everyone’s heads simultaneously turned towards him and there was a scattered and completely untimed yells of ‘Happy Birthday’, and Ray and Eddie popped in to shyly present a flower crown of daisies which Harry bent down for them to place the crown on his head. He had barely any time to thank anyone when he was immediately called over to Bellatrix who wanted to criticise the latest fashion in the wizarding world, and so Harry was pulled under her arm and squished up against her side as she moped over the fact that they’d started spinning water-nymph hair into silk instead of using sea-silk for ball gowns which was just not on, especially if she was to obtain the best outfit for the Yule ball.
“You’ll be hosting a yule ball this year, right?” Rodolphus interjected, and Harry’s eyebrows practically shot to the ceiling in surprise.
“Sorry what?” Harry sputtered looking between the earnest faces of the Death Eaters.
“A yule ball at Peverell Palace,” Rookwood repeated. “The Malfoy Ball is usually for ministry officials where everyone tries to sell of their latest idea or bill to have passed in the Wizengamot. Before things got…” Rookwood glanced at the Dark Lord who was talking with the healers, “…less hectic in the first war our Lord hosted a Yule Ball for the Dark which was an absolute success.”
“And since things are going better than ever, we hoped you’d host a ball here!” Barty finished.
“You’ll have to ask Tom about that. Plus isn’t one ball enough,” Harry complained, having flashbacks to the horror that was the Yule Ball last year.
“Absolutely not Ickle Potter, some of us won’t get to attend the Malfoy Ball, which is a plus in my opinion, but it’s not every day you get to tantalise the baby Death Eaters,” Bellatrix grinned.
“Hold on, the whole family comes, including the children?” Harry asked, feeling a cloud of doom settling over his head.
“That’s right.” Bellatrix cackled.
“Are you not excited to see mini-Malfoy Harry?” Barty hollered with a laugh.
“Ooh my nephikins is all grown up?” Bellatrix perked up at the mention of her nephew who she’d only ever seen as a baby.
Harry just groaned and flopped backwards onto Bellatrix’s pile of pillows.
“He’s a nightmare and a half,” Harry complained, and took pleasure in staring at the ceiling as he listened to Barty give his humble opinion on the boy, and humble it was with the recap of the number of taunts and spells thrown in corridors by Malfoy and his lackey’s, including the ordeal with the Potter Stinks badges from the Triwizard Tournament.
Harry added his own two sickles as he described the boy to be the main instigator of many of the lies Rita Skeeter had written in the Daily Prophet, while also revealing the unregistered animagus of the woman.
Bellatrix had nodded along with their stories, slowly sneering further and further as she heard of her nephew who had taunted her Lords… not right hand, because that was her position. Subordinate? that wasn’t right either, since all the Death Eaters were subordinates. Well whatever Harry was, he was clearly held in a higher regard than any other Death Eater, even herself, and so Harry would need protecting at all costs.
Just as Barty went to tell some new stories of the boy, Pip appeared in the room, informing that Narcissa had arrived for tea and a chance to see her sister.
Harry had jumped up from his spot next to Bellatrix and let Pip apparate him to the parlour, the sensation of house elf magic feeling quite different to the dizzying feeling of wizarding apparition, where he’d met Narcissa and led her up to the infirmary. The sister’s reunion had been chaotic with Bellatrix tackling her normally stoic sister in a vice like grip, and Harry saw Narcissa delicately dab her eyes with a white handkerchief with a sewn in daffodil into the fabric.
Though Narcissa was supposed to come just for morning tea, she stayed for lunch too, where the subject of family came up, with Narcissa chatting about her son. Bellatrix listened with rapt attention, as did the others in the room, though they couldn’t stop the slight smirks that graced their faces as Harry’s expression of disdain was extremely clear as he sat reading the latest book recommended to him by Poppy on healing.
Then the subject of a witch named Andromeda came up, with many of the other Death Eaters having a mixed array of feelings towards the witch.
“Wait who’s Andromeda?” Harry asked, confused.
“Andromeda is out other sister. She married a muggle, and was cast out of the family, affectively cutting all ties with us.” Narcissa explained, a sad faraway look in her eyes.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Harry said, a little awkwardly since he wasn’t used to comforting people particularly adults who wore Narcissa’s heartbroken expression, but he was trying his best. Narcissa could clearly see that as she sent a small smile in his direction and the furrow in her forehead eased a little.
“You know Harry, I don’t mind she married a muggleborn, I wouldn’t have even minded if she’d married a muggle-”
“I would!” Bellatrix piped up, and received a half-hearted glare from her sister who then turned back to Harry to continue her explanation.
“Andromeda got married in secret, didn’t even tell us two, who she’d spent every second of every day with when she was growing up and then she just disappeared. When Father knocked her off the family tree she hadn’t even tried to contact either of us. Now she fights with Dumbledore for a cause she doesn’t even know is harming so many people, including yourself. I’ve tried to talk to her so many times and she just ignores me every time.” Narcissa sighed, leaving Bellatrix to wrap an arm around her shoulders, nearly in a chokehold, but Narcissa took the comfort for what it was and gently pat her sister’s arm that was wrapped around her neck.
“Cissy don’t worry, when I get a wand I will go kill that little bastard of a wizard for taking away your older sister,” Bellatrix threatened.
“Bella no,” Narcissa said sternly.
“Bella yes!” the witch cackled.
“Bellatrix, you will do no such thing,” Tom ordered as he marched through the door of the infirmary, and Bellatrix visibly deflated at the fact she wouldn’t get to murder her sister’s husband. As Tom walked past Harry he silently handed a book to him and the black leather cover of the book had gold embossing and as Harry opened the front cover in confusion he realised it was a book detailing the entire history of the Black family.
‘Why’d you give me this?’ Harry asked Tom in his head as he went to talk about something with the healers.
‘As Heir Black, it’s probably a good idea to know the family you’ll receive Lordship over one day.’ Tom replied, and Harry huffed. He’d tried to start reading on Pureblood politics and all that but it was just so terribly boring, and the ideal that inbreeding between family members was better than marrying a muggleborn or a halfblood. Not only that, but everyone was at least somehow related in the wizarding world, and with family drama being a big part of them, it came as no surprise when Harry switched out the book for one on the uses of animal ingredients in potions.
Harry found himself flicking through the book, finding it was all handwritten, until he reached the section on the Black sisters, with Bellatrix being the oldest, while Narcissa the youngest. There was a small inserted piece of parchment with Tom’s handwriting, detailing the theory behind the Black’s madness came from their love of arranging marriages between cousins, a small passage mentioning the same phenomenon displayed in Tom’s uncle Morfin Gaunt. Harry made a mental note to ask Tom about it later, but for now he quickly skimmed through the book, finding a passage on his Godfather, who apparently had a brother named Regulus.
Placing the book down Harry went to socialise with a couple of the other Death Eaters, with Narcissa and Bellatrix overlooking as Barty and Harry faced off in a game of chess, and once that was over, Harry dragged Tom into playing a game with him, and the group of Death Eaters held their breath, jaws nearly dropping open when Tom shooed Barty out of the chair conjured in front of the table that held the chessboard, and regally sat down. As Harry had expected, he spectacularly lost with Tom completely wiping his pieces off the board, leaving him pouting as Tom sent him a winning smirk.
Just as Tom had swept to his feet after his win, there was a series of pop’s in the room, and Harry watched as the army of elves proudly levitated in a giant three-tiered Victorian sponge cake decorated in royal icing and with 15 candles place in a ring at the top. With a click of her fingers, Pip lit the candles while Leila lowered the cake onto a table that had materialised in the room, and with the Death Eaters cheering in the background, Harry had to stand on his toes to blow out the small flames on the towering cake. The smoke faded into the words Happy Birthday and Luca cut the cake into perfectly portioned sizes and floated one to each of the occupants in the room, giving Bellatrix a smaller amount so her stomach wouldn’t get upset having just gotten used to keeping down solid foods. Not surprisingly there was around half of the cake left and so the house elves set about dividing it into portions, Lia taking some back to Slytherin Manor, while Earl place the rest in the fridge for dessert for the next few days.
After a few more games of chess, Harry talked with Narcissa about how the others had mentioned the prospect of a Yule Ball at Peverell Palace, and he was not expecting her enthusiasm for the event considering it would rival her own. Narcissa appointed herself to help with the decorations of the palace, discussing that she would have a silver, champagne and a light green scheme, leaving Harry to pick out blue and silver for his. Tom had handed Harry a blank diary and a quill and so Harry found himself jotting down everything Narcissa was telling him, from sourcing trees to the best places to buy classy yule decorations and by the time it was time for Narcissa to leave, Harry’s head was filled with plans that would be carried out in 5 months time.
Before Narcissa went to leave, she wrapped Harry in a light hug and presented him with a birthday gift wrapped in emerald paper with a silver bow. After ‘thank you’s’ were exchanged Harry led Narcissa back to the floo, with Tom in tow as they made idle conversation. Narcissa asked what Harry was doing in the evening for dinner, and having no idea he looked towards Tom who mentioned a restaurant called Le Ciel which Harry could only assume was expensive as fuck considering Narcissa couldn’t hide her shock as her eyes widened and her mouth parted very slightly.
Once bidding her and the other Death Eaters goodbye, the pair landed in Slytherin manor, where Nagini and Hedwig sat in their respective owners’ chairs, with Hedwig having a small box tied to her foot which she thrust out at Harry for him to untie.
Taking the box with blue wrapping, Harry flopped in his armchair and gently removed the ribbon on the outside before picking apart the wrappings, not outwardly reacting when Hedwig decided to sit on his head and mess up his carefully spelled hair. The box holding the gift was a jewellery box, that when opened displayed a rather familiar watch that Harry watched Saffi work on the previous day.
“Don’t just stare at it,” Tom admonished, as he sat beside Harry and took the watch into his own hand, using the other to grab Harry’s right wrist and lightly push up the sleeves of the robes he wore to wrap the watch around his wrist, which automatically resized to sit snugly around his wrist.
“Should I swap my bracelet and watch?” Harry asked, bringing his hands in front of him so he could observe the two of Saffi’s creations that sat on each wrist.
A look of displeasure crossed Tom’s face, and Harry briefly thought it was directed towards him, until he heard a muttered “I should’ve thought of that earlier” as Tom brought Harry’s hands closer to himself to switch the two pieces of jewellery for him. With soft touches to his wrist Harry watched the exchange happen, and shook his wrists to admire how completely decorated his hands were with the Peverell, Potter, Black and Gaunt rings making an appearance.
Once they’d settled back to being an invisible weight around his fingers, Harry moved on to opening Narcissa’s present, being a brooch holding the Malfoy family crest. With a questioning glance towards Tom, the other explained the Malfoy family was notorious for handing out tokens like their crest to their allies. Harry thought the idea was completely stupid, and though Tom didn’t say anything, Harry could feel his agreement across the horcrux.
The pair lapsed into silence as Harry observed his new gifts, and thought back to his lunch with Saffi when he mentioned he didn’t have a watch, which wasn’t ideal for when he was in the Great Hall or on his way to class. He smiled at the thoughtfulness that went into the gift and also at the fact that Saffi had literally made his gift straight in front of him and he hadn’t any idea it would be his.
Harry was interrupted by the sound of something sliding along Tom’s desk and he looked to his right to see a velvet green box approaching him. As it stopped in front of him he observed his name that was engraved in a gold plaque that was in a font very familiar to him.
Looking up at Tom with raised eyebrows, Harry snickered as he observed the other was doing a horrible job at concealing his anticipation as Tom feigned reading through the parchment in front of him, which when Harry had a closer look was the list of people he still needed to break out of Azkaban.
Playfully rolling his eyes over Tom’s dramatics, Harry opened the box, only to find it had an undetectable extension charm on it, meaning he could not directly see the bottom. So, using his magic he wrapped it around the contents in the bag and sent it flying into the air, only to find stacks and stacks of books pouring out of the seemingly small place. Each stack was tied with a neat bow and a roll of parchment attached to it, so as Harry gradually sifted through each stack he discovered they were grouped into different topics, being curses and the dark arts, duelling, transfiguration, charms, history regarding purebloods and books filled with potion recipes. There was even a stack of healing books, with the accompanying parchment reading ‘I suppose you wouldn’t make the worst healer,’ and it was the closest Harry thought Tom would come to saying ‘you were right and I was wrong’ which brought a wicked smile on his face.
The odd one out was another stack of an array of different books, being one on astrology since Tom said the Blacks were fond of naming their children after star constellations, one on the Victorian flower language since bouquets were a fantastic way to say ‘fuck you’ in a snobby pureblood way, there was another on parselmagic and being a parselmouth, while the last was one on necromancy with Tom voicing how he’d seen Harry contemplate reading one in the Peverell library.
“So, do you like it?” Tom asked as he watched Harry finish examining his newest books.
The pure giddy excitement that has completely overtaken Harry is slowly reined in as he went to answer Tom. Initially he was going to say something like ‘no he hated them’ only to wait for Tom’s visible reaction before revealing just how much he loved them, but as he looked at Tom to do as such, the words died in his throat. In that moment, Tom’s expression would look completely normal, cold even to an innocent passer-by, but Harry instantly saw the anticipation that poorly covered his fear in his eyes, and the subtle twitch downwards of Tom’s lips as he doubted whether or not the gift was satisfactory.
“I really, really like them,” Harry answered, sincerity bleeding out of his entire being and the overwhelming urge to just engulf Tom in a hug in that moment bubbled up inside him as he watched Tom visibly relax. “You know I think this is the best birthday present anyone’s ever got me,” Harry continued, as his gaze skimmed over the stacks of books hovering in the air.
“I’ve had the elves expand your bookshelf,” Tom said in response, changing the subject completely since he did not have a coherent response to Harry’s gratefulness and since when did someone else’s happiness make him happy?
Harry, who was completely unaware of the others inner turmoil, nodded and began to put the stacks of books back in the box they’d came in.
“The box will prevent the detection of any items inside it. It also should appear as a completely empty box to Mad-eye Moody in the Order if you should meet him at the Order’s headquarters.”
“Do you think I will go to the headquarters?” Harry asked closing the lid of the box that would no doubt store the ‘darker’ books he’d bought over the course of the past few weeks.
“You’ve told me you have never stayed the full summer at the Dursley’s so I would assume so,” Tom replied, not liking the highly likely possibility that Harry would have to leave to go to the Order who wholeheartedly supported Dumbledore. “They already assume I’m back since Severus decided to rant and rave about his Dark Mark.”
Harry huffed and leaned back on his chair, high weight leaning slightly towards Tom. “Is it bad that I kind of wish I didn’t have to go?”
“Not at all” was Tom’s response, and neither created an explanation as to why they both wished that Harry would not be snatched away by the Order, and the conversation ended there until Nagini slithered in carrying a dead fox by the scruff of its neck, while Hedwig flew just behind her with a dead mouse in her talons.
“Nagini, what’re you doing?” Harry sputtered as the snake dumped the red furry mammal at his feet, only to have Hedwig drop the dead mouse in his lap. “Hedwig!” Harry scolded but was ignored by the owl who was hooting happily on his shoulder.
“Today is Little Master’s Hatching Day,” the snake announced winding her way up Harry’s chair leg and onto his lap. “So, Nagini and Pretty Birdy brought gifts!”
“They’re very nice,” Harry praised and merlin those two animals were terrible since Nagini hissed in pleasure and curled up like a cat in his lap, a rather large cat that is, while Hedwig preened her feathers, and Harry looked a little helplessly at Tom who held such a disgusted look that Harry couldn’t help but snicker quietly.
“Can I just encase them in like resin or solid glass?” Harry asked Tom, who looked up from where he was glaring at his snake to mull over the question.
“Aren’t you going to eat them?” Nagini pouted as she cracked an eye open to look at Harry.
“Well… perhaps not right now…” Harry trailed off, unsure on how to answer the snake without upsetting her.
“You don’t like my gift?” Nagini wailed and Harry didn’t know that snakes could cry, but Nagini was doing a good job of dramatically flopping around in his lap as she sulked over the fact that Harry might not like her gift, and so he was quick to reassure her.
“No, no I promise you I love the fox, I just didn’t want to waste it you know, since your gift is very precious to me I’d like to keep it as long as possible,” Harry said, running a soothing finger across the diamond shaped head of the snake, who bobbed her head up and down in agreement.
“Alright then,” Nagini hissed and promptly went back to dozing peacefully.
Harry fondly shook his head and used his cypress wand to place multiple preserving charms on the animal bodies, and set about encasing the creatures in resin. Yes Harry would admit it was quite cruel, but at the same time… he didn’t want to throw out Nagini’s or Hedwig’s gift, and so as he shrunk down the cubes down to the same size, he had two trinkets to put on display.
“Could use them as paperweights,” Harry commented as he looked over his handiwork, and showed them to Tom. “Or do you call them parchment-weights, honestly I don’t see why we have to use parchment and quills,” Harry complained.
“Purebloods,” Tom answered, and Harry nodded, it was most definitely their snobby ways that refused to acknowledge the evolution of writing utensils in muggles. “Now if you don’t wish to be late for dinner, go get changed, put your books away and come back in 15 minutes.”
“How fancy is this place?” Harry asked as he gently nudged Nagini off him, who decided she didn’t want to leave his seat just yet and so she curled back up on his empty chair, Hedwig soon joining the snake, and Harry was endlessly thankful that Nagini had gotten over trying to eat her.
Harry rolled his eyes because ‘moderate’ in Tom’s vocabulary meant it would be overly extravagant. What Harry didn’t know was that this was probably the most exclusive and expensive restaurant to exist on earth, in both the muggle and wizarding world.