Riddles and Inquiries

The Argument

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter

Warning: Fem!Harry Potter AU, Tom Riddle AU

Just a fair warning for you, readers. The depiction of Tom in this story will differ from what he's described as in the books. In this story, he will not be an antisocial child who enjoys hurting people for no reasons but to satisfy his own amusement, for the majority of the time, nor will he take trophies. However, he will remain secluded and quite cold, much like in the books, and perhaps a little bit dark from time to time. You'll notice the other differences later on. Just a quick note. Also, I plan on mixing the plot of each HP book into this story, because, why not?

Chapter 2: The Argument

The next morning, Harry was abruptly woken up by the sound of screaming outside of her room further down the hallway. At first, she imagined that it was only a phantasmagorical sound her mind had produced as a result of still being half-asleep, but after a minute or so, she discovered that it was not a figment of her imagination that was taking its course. This was something from the reality she knew, and the very same reality she would remain a part of until she day she drew her last breath.

Reaching over to the nightstand next to her bed, she grabbed her glasses and put them on. Little by little, her sight returned to normal and she was fully capable of seeing everything both in and out of reach, even with the crack a little further up in the right lens that appeared after Billy threw her a solid one to the face a few days earlier. It was hardly the first pair of glasses she had ended up cracking, but at least these ones were still useable. If Mrs Cole got to hear that Harry had lost yet another pair of glasses in some fight, she would rise to the roof.

As she exited her room, her messy hair constantly threatening to fall in her face, she came to the realization that she had not been the only girl in the wing who had been awoken by the startling screaming, which, in itself, wasn't as surprising as most would have it to be. It wasn't until she stepped fully out that she discovered that the screaming further down the corridor had been reduced to vague crying and whimpering in such a short period of time.

"What's that sound?" asked one of the girls, Lily Everett, to her friend, Mary Collins.

"I don't know, but it comes from the boy's wing," Mary Collins replied. "I think it's Billy."

As soon as she heard this, Harry grew somewhat curious over what it could have been that had reduced someone like Billy to tears. Or rather, she was feeling quite enthusiastic about watching him cry herself. For as long as she had known him, ever since his alcoholic father dropped him off at Wool's several years ago, she had always taken Billy for being one pratty boy with no regard for others than himself. He would take advantage of his size and make sure that others obliged by his orders like he was the lion in the savannah. Now that he was finally the one crying, Harry couldn't help but to feel somewhat…. Satisfied.

The reasons for this, however, was something she had yet to find out. Without wasting a single moment, she began to walk towards the end of the corridor where she took a sharp turn and headed straight towards the boys' dormitories, disregarding any courtesy as she went straight towards what was considered to be a forbidden area for girls to enter. Gender separation was a prospect she viewed with both incredulity and disbelief, as she didn't really think that there ought to be any difference between boys or girls. Or maybe it just had something to do with the fact that she couldn't care either way.

The crying grew louder and louder the closer she went until she finally reached the boys' corridor, finding the majority of the boys out of their rooms. They seemed to be surrounding something she couldn't tell what was until she stepped a little closer and discovered Billy Stubbs curled up on the floor, his face concealed beneath his thick hands. On an ordinary day, she would've laughed at him like she always did whenever she saw him, but she didn't quite feel like switching roles with him on that day.

"What's going on?" she asked the closest person to her, a scrawny young boy by the name of Toby Smith, and pecked him on the shoulder. Out of all the boys, with the exception of Tom, she considered Toby to be one of the more reliable ones in the building despite the fact that he was two years younger than herself. He had always been susceptible towards bullying due to his meek size and demeanour, but he was surprisingly reasonable for his age and not half as stupid as the rest of them tended to be.

Toby turned to her and gestured to the door leading into Billy's room, which was firmly shut. "There's a snake in Billy's room," he said. "He woke up and discovered that it had eaten his bunny."

Harry raised an eyebrow at this explanation, not really believing it. "How did a snake get into his room? We're at the third floor, how did it manage to get inside?"

Toby shrugged, not capable of producing a logical explanation to this himself. "I don't know,"

Still not buying it, Harry forced herself through the crowd, ignoring all of the comments she received in the process, and proceeded to grab a hold of the handle leading into Billy's room. Before her hand even grazed the surface of the handle, however, Billy forced himself up into a sitting position and shrieked with his eyes full of tears, "DON'T OPEN IT!"

Unfazed by this warning, Harry did just that and pulled the handle down, stepping inside the room without noticing how all of the boys behind her immediately started backing away as far from the door as possible without being left incapable of witnessing whatever was about to occur in front of them.

The next thing any of them knew, the Potter girl stepped out of the room, but she was no longer alone. Wrapped around her neck in the same way as a scarf was one large common adder, one that could easily have been mistaken for another kind of snake had it not been for the fact that there wasn't a whole variety of other serpents in the UK. With its mouth decorated with white fur and an abdomen that appeared to be twice as large as it would've been under ordinary circumstances, it didn't require a lot of deduction to figure out what had been its recent choice of meal.

Without looking twice at the Potter girl's face, the boys were easily able to notice the delighted smile on her lips. She seemed to enjoy holding the revolting creature, and if anything, the adder shared that sense of mutual affection. As soon as Harry was out of the room and within their proximity, albeit distantly, nearly all of the boys began to scream at the top of the lungs whereas Billy looked ready to faint at that point.

"What is all this ruckus?!" came the stern voice belonging to Mrs Cole, who came stomping down the hallway in her nightgown and with her signature shawl around her shoulders. She didn't even make it to the edge of the crowd before she paused abruptly in her steps, face paling severely as she laid eyes on the Potter girl standing there. "H-Harry," she began meekly, not daring to take another step forward. "W-What is t-that you're holding?"

"It's a snake," said Harry as if the answer was obvious, which it, in truth, was. "It was inside Billy's room."

"She must have put it there!" shouted one of the boys, pointing at her with an accusatory finger. "She always has a thing with snakes! She must have been the one who put it inside Billy's room!"

Harry sighed and rolled her eyes, caressing the snake affectionately. "I know it must be hard for you, but don't be stupid. I wouldn't dare to walk into Billy's room ever if I was offered a thousand pounds. I value by health far too much for that sort of idiocy."

"How did it get there, then?" demanded Billy, having finally regained what little courage he had left.

"I didn't ask it," Harry said nonchalantly, looking down at the snake, and then proceeded to step a little closer towards the crowd with the snake outstretched in her hand and a smirk plastered on her face. "Maybe you should ask it. If you understand it, that is,"

"Harry!" Mrs Cole barked, shielding the orphans behind her with her arms outstretched. "That's enough!"

Harry pouted and ceased her attack. "Fine, be like that,"

"And I would very much appreciate it if you put it back where it came from,"

At this, Harry glared at the older woman. "I already told you, I didn't put him in there."

"Really?" Mrs Cole asked sceptically and crossed her arms over her chest. "Then who did?"

"I swear to our dear Lord," Harry said and crossed herself. "I don't know."

Several hours later, however,

"Oi, idiot!"

As Tom went through yet another page in yet another book, the sudden sensation of something hard crashing against his forehead forced had him instantly fall back into his seat whilst rubbing the area where he had just been assaulted. Before he could get up and demand some sort of explanation from the perpetrator, he came face to face with a very angry-looking, very infuriated Harry, whose expression could've easily forced even the worst kind of people to second-think their actions before committing them. Tom, unfortunately, was far beyond that point.

"What in the world were you thinking?" she demanded, leaning closer into him with both hands on her hips and eyes sharpened to match the angle of a knife. "You know, for someone who thinks so highly of himself, you're terribly stupid when you want to be."

Without moving too much, Tom rested his head on top of his hand and raised an eyebrow at her. "Am I supposed to feel cornered or interrogated? What have I done that has warranted your anger, Harry?"

"Don't play dumb," she said. "You put that snake in Billy's room, didn't you?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"You are full of crap,"

"Language."

"Bite me," Harry took a deep breath, seemingly to calm herself down before she did something stupid herself, and stepped back from him. "But honestly," she began, her voice having calmed down to an unrecognizable point for her. "Why did you do it? Don't lie to me by saying that you didn't, we both know you're a good liar, but you won't be able to pull that on me." The way she looked at him as she spoke made Tom feel a sense of remorse which he rarely experienced on a daily. Perhaps it was merely due to the fact that Harry was the only one whose company he valued to some degree, but eventually, he decided that the truth was the only thing she deserved to get from him.

He clapped the book in his lap together and said without looking away from her, and with a voice that sounded like it had been put in a room filled with ice for several minutes prior to this conversation. "Yes, it was me," He was not moved in the slightest by the fact that Harry seemed like she was on the verge of walking away from him. It was her decision whether or not she thought that his actions were revolting or not, but he wouldn't lie by saying that it wouldn't affect him somewhat. Being surrounded by imbeciles on a daily wasn't something he enjoyed, and as far as he could tell, Harry was the only one who did not fit into that category, not entirely, at least. Certainly, she was a fool when she wished to, but only because her boredom led her to make foolish decisions.

"Why did you do it? Was it revenge?" she asked, narrowing her eyes slightly at him.

Tom didn't falter but nodded. "Perhaps Billy would finally learn his lesson, or better yet, cease to behave like such a nuisance."

"He could have been injured, you know," she said sternly, but not out of any anger or disappointment. "Adder bites are venomous, especially to children,"

"But they cannot kill unless their bites are severe," Tom said dismissively, not showing the same kind of concern for someone's well-being like she did. "Not to mention, I asked it to only scare him."

"It devoured his rabbit," she finally said after a moment's pause, and at the mention of this, he raised an eyebrow, genuinely surprised. In all honesty, he didn't care much for animals, but he hadn't imagined that something so major would occur. Billy's rabbit was something the boy adored despite himself, as Tom had heard the Stubbs boy sing a lullaby to the rabbit on numerous occasions before bedtime. In his opinion, if anything was revolting, that was.

Instead of displaying any regret, Tom merely shrugged. "It wasn't in my intentions, but I assume that some things are inevitable."

"Like death?" she asked coldly. "That's harsh even for you, Tom,"

"I didn't ask for it to get killed in the process,"

"But you don't seem to feel any guilt,"

"….. Would it make you less upset if I did?" The words left him before he could prevent them from doing so, causing something akin to a bubble of surprise to appear within of him.

She shook her head. "I don't want you to lie. Did you intend for it to happen? Did you make that snake eat that rabbit?"

"I already told you, I cannot control how an animal behaves. It's instincts. It hunts, it kills, it survives."

"So, what you're saying is that as long as you reach your goal in the end, it doesn't matter what you've done to achieve it, whether it was cruel or not?"

"Nothing is cruel as long as it's necessary," said Tom. "Would you blame a cat for catching a mouse if it was hungry? Would you have rather let it starve?"

"That's hardly the same thing," she said, glaring slightly at him. "You didn't have to let the snake loose to begin with."

"Just like you didn't have to end up fighting all the time? Don't be a hypocrite now, Harry. It's not your strongest suit."

"What would you know about that?" she scowled, crossing her arms over her chest. "How would you know what's my strongest traits or not?"

It was Tom's turn to narrow his eyes. "Subtlety is not exactly something you excel at, Harry. Sometimes even I find it hard to stand you when you're acting like such a child all the time. If you're going to criticize me for doing what was necessary in order to get even with Billy, then perhaps you should look a bit at yourself before you judge anyone else." His voice was never raised as he said this, but each word he pronounced felt like daggers which penetrated Harry's chest one by one. She was no stranger when it came to Tom's treatment towards others, but even she struggled to stand him at the moment.

Tom looked at the Potter girl with a tilted head, not quite knowing what to fathom of the situation. Whether she was angry or sad, he couldn't tell due to the fact that her bangs had cast shadows over her eyes and concealed any emotion behind them along with that odd scar on her forehead. If she ended up crying then and there, something which was a rare occurrence in itself, he did not know if he could handle having to share proximity with someone with such strong emotional dependence like the Potter girl. He loathed it when people cried, primarily because he couldn't find the silence to keep reading if he happened to be close to said crying person.

He didn't hear any crying or screaming, however, like he had initially assumed would occur. No, the next thing he knew, the Potter girl walked up to him, reached over to the back of the chair he was sitting in, and ever-so-light tilted it. Successfully, her intentions were made clear as daylight. Tom fell onto his back down at the floor as the seat tipped over, knocking the air out of his lungs and the book out of his hands.

Indignantly, he got up and glared at the Potter girl, who, in return, glared down at him equally coldly.

"Fine," she said surprisingly nonchalantly, turning around to walk away. "Be like that." And with that, she exited the common room and disappeared out of sight somewhere in the hallway.

For the next couple of days after the incident with the adder inside of Billy's room, Harry didn't as much as speak to Tom, and the gesture was quite mutual on both parts. For days on end, they would make it their goal to ignore each other as much as possible. It didn't help that the other children were quick to notice, and if either Harry or Tom were ever confronted by anyone with inquires in regard to the status of their relationship, Harry would angrily bite back some sort of snarky remark whereas Tom would completely ignore the subject without any explanation as to why.

The lengths that they would go in order to ensure silence among them would be quite unpredictable. During meals, the Potter girl and the Riddle boy would sit as far away from each other as one could possibly imagine, going as far as to sit on opposite sides of the room if they had to. Harry would finish her meals like a rabid animal without manners or without care and quickly leave the dining room in less than a single moment. Meanwhile, Tom would, like usually, eat his meals quietly and with complete equanimity, as if there was nothing in the world that was amiss.

Mrs Cole had practically raised those children herself, though she was far from being the kind of mother figure that was expected of her. However, even she was quick to notice the rift that had appeared between Harry and Tom for some reason. Those children would usually stay within close range of each other, even when they didn't agree on something, but this seemed odd even for them.

The reason behind the Riddle boy and the Potter girl's incomprehensible companionship was something neither the staff nor the other children at Wool's orphanage could deduce regardless of how many times they attempted at figuring it out. Tom was a solitary child, one that had rarely cried during infancy and had hardly craved the same kind of attention as other children his age usually did. He didn't make any implications that he was lonely, nor that he was in any need of special care. He ate well, was well-mannered and mature for his age, and didn't spend his time on toys or playing with other children, but rather on books and solitary activities.

Meanwhile, the Potter girl was an unruly child, one that could not be contained or controlled in any way by either rules or authority figures. The number of times she had gotten into problems with the staff or other children equalized the number of times they had tried to get her to behave herself. Though she was by no means a bully who exploited her uncanny abilities of getting out and in of trouble unscathed, she was far from the innocent angel everybody would assume at first impression due to her age. She was loud, didn't express any care for authority or challenges, and seemed prone towards getting herself in dangerous situations, whether it intentionally or otherwise.

Now, the reasons behind their companionship remained, as always, a mystery to everybody else who had come to get used to the presence of the Riddle boy and Potter girl. They were as different as night and day, yet for some reason, they seemed to tolerate each other more than they did with any other children. Mrs Cole had lost the count of how many times she had seen them together, whether in the library or someone else in the area of the orphanage. They would either be conversing, to which Harry would express more enthusiasm and spirit than Tom, or they would simply be within close proximity of each other while tending to their own business without exchanging a single letter. Tom would do something like reading while Harry would probably be in her own world, or annoy him with her antics.

Now, however, something had changed. As seemingly a result of this rift that had appeared between them, Harry was getting into more and more trouble and fights and didn't appear to have any problem with being the one to initiate them despite how many times it had resulted in her being sent to bed without supper. Tom, meanwhile, was more seclusive now than ever before, and Mrs Cole had never imagined that it could exceed from what it had been in the past.

One Sunday afternoon, she decided to do the right thing and confront the Potter girl about what had happened. It was a cloudy day and hardly the ideal weather for playing outside, but there she found the girl, laying on top of a branch in the tree in the backyard with her hands behind her bed as if she was sleeping in the sun. Usually, children would fear such heights and avoid going up there at all costs, but Mrs Cole was far too accustomed to Harry's thrill-seeking demeanour to be surprised. Pulling her scarf tighter around her neck, the older woman walked up to the trunk of the tree and looked up at the young girl. "Harry," she called.

"Hmmm?" Harry replied grumpily with, not looking down from where she was to face the caretaker.

"Is there something that matters?" Mrs Cole asked, trying her best not to overstep her boundaries. Lord knew what would happen if she did something to anger the young girl.

"What gives you that impression?" Harry asked, sounding rather cynical.

"Well," the older woman began. "I've noticed that you seem a little down as of recently. I thought that you might want to talk about it?"

"Talk about what? There's nothing to talk about." The Potter girl replied hastily, even a tad sharply. "I'm perfectly content with my life, thank you very much. The sun is shining, the children are laughing, peace on earth and all that crap, et cetera, et cetera. Why on earth would I be angry for anything?"

"Harry?"

"What?"

"It's cloudy."

Harry didn't reply to this. Either she was too flustered to admit that she had been wrong or she simply didn't care. Either way, Mrs Cole sighed with defeat and retreated back inside, knowing fully well that trying to persuade the stubborn girl to do the same would be pointless.

Tom found himself being incapable of putting a name on what he was experiencing whenever Harry was gone. Loneliness wasn't the word, as he had no problem with being by himself, but it was something that, perhaps, wasn't so far away from it. He wouldn't go as far as to say that he was miserable without her company, but he did find it a little hard to concentrate on his books when he was alone, ironically enough. Perhaps it was something the Potter girl had done to him, an effect of having spent too much time with her, he imagined.

In all honesty, he didn't mind being on his own, but it felt as if something was missing. The sensation could be compared with a drug addict that had been deprived of their cravings for too long, though he hardly considered himself addicted to the obnoxious girl's presence. He could stand it a little longer, but for some reason…. It felt strange. As Tom continued to read Edgar Alan Poe's work quietly for himself in the common room, he attempted his best to block out any noise. The other children who were there didn't seem to notice him, which was something he preferred, but that wasn't what slightly bothered him.

Harry was nowhere in sight. In fact, he hadn't seen her since breakfast, and she had been the first one to leave the room that morning.

Why did her absence bother him so much?

"Hey, Riddle! Where's your friend?" Came the voice belonging to none other than one of Billy Stubbs' friends, who were now finding themselves leaderless due to the state of shock Billy had been left in after the incident with the adder in his room. Apparently, the newly elected leader was a scruffy boy named Henry Cooper, and though he was hardly as grand in size as his predecessor, he had enough underlings to make up for that.

Tom had experienced his fair share of bullying throughout the years, but he had never taken it personally. He didn't quite care about it as much as any other child would. Not to mention, whenever Harry was around, he never found himself susceptible to harassment, but now he that was alone, aloneness equalled vulnerability.

Instead of responding right away, Tom kept his eyes glued to the pages, only occasionally glancing up. For each time he looked around the room, he couldn't spot any of the caretakers there.

Where were the adults whenever things like these happened?

He suddenly felt the book in his hand get snatched away from his grip. "I asked," said Henry belligerently, holding the book up in the air in front of his as a sign of taunting in a similar way like Billy had earlier that week. "Where is your friend?"

Tom sighed, unfazed. "If you had eyes, you would have noticed by now that she's not here."

The comment must have hit the scruffy boy harder than intended, for in the next moment, Tom found himself on the floor with a foot pressed on top of him. "What did you say, freak?" asked Henry, putting more pressure down on him. Despite his efforts, Tom felt it began to hurt on top of his chest from the weight that was put upon it.

"I said," Tom said slowly. "You should be able to tell that she's not here if you had a pair of eyeballs."

"Why you little—"

Before the Cooper boy finished, in less than a moment's notice, he was on the floor with a bloody nose. His friends backed up and it took only a second before Tom acknowledged the messy black hair belonging to none other than Harry in front of him. With her back still to him, Harry walked up to Henry, grabbed him by his hair, and then proceeded to drag him all the way across the floor and throw him out the door and into the hallway, much to the shock of everyone who were present and witnessed the situation occur in front of them. Only Tom managed to keep a straight face throughout the ordeal.

Not to mention, none could quite comprehend how such a skinny girl like Harry could drag someone so easily like that across the room without breaking a sweat. And as she turned around, the expression she had on her face was enough to make all the other boys associated with Henry, as well as all the other children in the room, run out of there without a brief moment's hesitation. In less than a few seconds, there was nothing but complete silence there.

That was, until,

"You're still an idiot, you know that!" Harry glared daggers down at Tom, who had yet to get up from the floor. "I'm not going to come by every time you get yourself into trouble."

Tom couldn't help but smirk. "Yet here you are."

Harry seemed to grow flustered a bit before she replied with, "Completely coincidental."

"I'll leave it at that," He rolled his eyes as he said this and finally got up to his feet, grabbing the book which had fallen on the floor after the boys left. "Though I must say, it has only been a few days and you're already in need of my company. Unimpressive."

"Would you like me to be mad at you longer?!" she snapped.

He tilted his head to the side. "You were 'mad' at me?"

"Gah!" she threw her arms up, exasperated. "You're hopeless!"

"What does that make you, then?"

"Less hopeless than you. Honestly," Harry sighed and rubbed her temples. "Look, don't go putting snakes into other people's rooms and have them devour their pets, alright? Do that, and I'll consider putting up with you again and keeping those other idiots away."

"Is that supposed to be a threat?"

"Does it work?"

"It's not very effective,"

She proceeded to snatch the book out of his hands and hit him on the head with it, which was something he never imagined would be enough to make him consider weighing his words carefully before saying them. Tom rubbed the part of his head where he had just been hit and glared slightly at Harry, who stuck her tongue out to him. "The next one won't be to your head, I tell you," she said warningly.

"I will consider," said Tom slowly, holding his hand up prepared in case the Potter girl decided to become unreasonable again. "Alerting you the next time I will attempt at something similar."

Surprisingly enough, Harry's scowl turned into a smirk and she seemed content, which was something Tom hadn't expected from her. "Sounds good enough for me,"

For reasons unknown to him, Tom felt more at ease now than he had over the course of the recent days. Whether it had to do with the fact that the Potter girl, he couldn't quite tell for sure.

"By the way," As if having just thought of something, Harry held a finger up. "How did you manage to get the snake into his room unnoticed?"

Well, that wasn't a conversation he was looking forward to.