Tom fixes his smile in place while Dumbledore asks his next question.
“Why did you apply for the DADA position, Tom?”
A trivial question, meant to dissect Tom’s intentions, no doubt. But Tom is well practiced in pretending sentimentality. The old coot may suspect his lies, but he will never be able to prove it. Not without legilimency.
“Hogwarts,” Tom says carefully, remembering Saint Wool’s, “has always been like a home to me. I can think of no better place to return to for my career.” All those young minds, full of potential. If he can just make them grow into the powerful soldiers he needs, then… “I wish to teach and provide a nurturing environment for my students just as my professors did before me.”
He doesn’t bother adding like you did to Dumbledore. They both know it would be a lie and Tom would sooner snap his own wand then kiss up to his old professor.
“Hmm…” Dumbledore stretches back in his chair, his gaze fixed on Tom, “…You are very young for this position… perhaps more experience…”
“Professor Chang has been on your staff for two years and she is but a year older than I am. I also spent a year in Romania, doing an independent study on the dark creatures within the region under Master Kettleburn’s supervision. I included his recommendation in my portfolio.”
“True enough, true enough,” Dumbledore nods, popping yet another lemon candy into his mouth and sucking loudly.
Tom hates it.
Several moments pass, in which Tom thinks of seven different ways to curse Dumbledore, when finally, Dumbledore stands up and says, “Thank you for the interview, Tom. An owl will be sent for you if you’ve been hired.”
Tom almost pulls out his wand right there (something about Dumbledore always makes his thoughts irrational) but he only bows politely and walks out the door without so much a goodbye.
This formality with owls is nothing but an distraction. Tom knows that he’s the best candidate for this job, he even tracked down the other applicants to study their resumes and none were as impressive as his. If Professor Dippet were still headmaster, he would have hired Tom on the spot just as he hired Professor Merrythought but no, Dumbledore has to review Tom’s credentials again…
Dumbledore is going to reject his application, Tom knows it. The urge to maim something returns. How dare the old coot, when Tom is better, smarter, than any other wizard in England, when Tom can make other wizards and witches better too, if only—
He nearly trips over a body crouching over by the gargoyle statue.
Indeed, Harry Potter groggily blinks up at Tom from the floor with his raggedy hair and startling green eyes. Tom notes that Potter dresses the same as ever, in the most atrocious, neon sweaters with horrible caricatures of cute little animals on them. Today’s animal sweater is a platypus covered in yellow bowties.
“Oh,” Potter blinks, not bothering to get off from the floor, “S’that you, Riddle?”
“Get off from the floor, Potter.”
Potter stands up slowly and yawns, stretching out his hands. “Wow, s’weird seeing you here. Did Dumbledore also call you for an interview or something…?”
For a moment, Tom sees red. Of course, of course, Dumbledore would find an extra applicant, his star pupil to take the DADA position from Tom’s hands. Of course, Dumbledore would schedule Potter’s interview after Tom’s just to rub it in Tom’s face. Tom imagines it now—Potter securing the DADA position and it is unacceptable—
“Wow, chill there, Riddle, you look like you’re having an aneurysm—”
Tom fights back a glare and marches past Potter. Tonight he’ll prepare a curse on the DADA position until the job falls to the appropriate applicant. He wonders how long Potter will last as professor and what accident will befall Potter by the end of the school year. A troll attack? A memory charm?
“Hey Riddle, I’d watch out for llamas in your future!” Potter calls cheerfully.
Tom’s hand twitches. “I see you haven’t changed,” he murmurs.
“It wasn’t a compliment,” Tom walks away.
Another silly prediction. Just like in school. Potter always made the strangest remarks, none of them true. Marshmallows will fall from the sky tomorrow. Your tongue will turn into a snake. Silly things that were probably pranks, considering Potter’s family history.
Tonight, he’ll cast the curse.
To Tom’s disbelief, an owl waits for him in his study with a letter. Stamped on the envelope, besides the Hogwarts seal, is a llama sticker.
He gets the job.
On his first day of work, Tom walks into Dumbledore’s office and sees Potter happily munching on brownies with the old coot. Tom nearly rubs his eyes for clarification but keeps his face blank and fixed in his practiced smile.
“My apologies, I didn’t know you had company, Professor. Shall I come back later?”
“Nonsense,” Dumbledore’s eyes twinkle annoyingly, “Harry here is your new colleague.”
Potter sits up, propping his legs on Dumbledore’s desk. Today’s sweater has a llama on it. A llama baking muffins. “Hey there, Riddle! Isn’t this cool? I’m the new Divination professor!”