Riddles and Inquiries

The Trip, Part 1

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter

Warning: Fem!Harry AU, Tom Riddle AU

Chapter 4: The Trip, part 1

It was nearing the end of July, and it was evident that the summer was slowly beginning to fade bit by bit. The skies would begin to darken even before late in the afternoon, raining would become more prominent than ever before, and it seemed as if not matter how many times Harry tried to venture outside, the sun would never graze her presence like it used to days prior. On that morning shortly after breakfast, however, she went outside like she always used to but headed down the street this. It wasn't uncommon for her to leave the orphanage on such short notice for no reason other than to ease her boredom during days where she was particularly prone to it, but this visit to town did have its purpose.

Not even an hour later, Harry returned from her errands in town with a package of treacle tart in her hands and few other sweets as well. She had been quick enough to enter her room and hide it away in her luggage before any of the staff could notice, but not before taking a few bites to satisfy her cravings. Afterwards, she, as well as a number of children, gathered up in the common room with their bags hanging over their shoulders and their clothes firmly attached to them. It wasn't for no reasons that they did this. During the end of summer, the staff would bring a few of the children along to the country side or the seaside for a short-lived trip whereas the others would remain at the orphanage like they ordinarily did. The trip was voluntarily and those who wished to remain did so on their own accord.

Harry, as well as a few other children, were more than pleased about leaving the orphanage. The usual trips didn't tend to be long, and only lasted a day or two at most. However, the reason why she was particularly excited for this trip was because, according to the staff that were in charge of the arrangements, even the director himself, this time they would be leaving all the way to Ireland, which was quite a bit away. From Harry's perspective, the further away they went, the better it was, First, they would have to take the train for several hours, then they would depart on a boat to a private place in Ireland called County Clare, where the director had rented several cottages for them to use whilst there. It was supposed to be a demanding trip, but it was apparently a solitary place where the children could unwind and spend a few days having fun on the seaside.

The children who were supposed to join for the trip were fewer than expected. It was just Tom, Harry, Amy Benson, Dennis Bishop, Lily Everett, and Toby Smith, Matthew Baker, and Mary Collins who had decided to join in on the trip this time. They were all clothed accordingly to what the weather showed outside, and already had their luggage packed safely with them by their sides.

Mrs Cole entered the common room with her luggage in her hands and her signature scarf wrapped firmly around her neck. "Alright, children. I hope you've remembered everything that you'll need for today. The train leaves in less than an hour, so we'll make our way to the station now. If I see any of you make any problems on the trip," her eyes flickered over to Harry for a moment before proceeding, "I will not hesitate to send you back. Is that clear?"

"Yes, Mrs Cole," it rang from the children. Though Harry was compliant about the conditions that were required for her to join in on the trip, she glanced to her side and spotted Tom sending her a particularly sharp look, almost as if judging whether or not to believe this demeanour of hers. Everybody in the orphanage knew about the situations she was prone towards, but Tom made it a habit to observe them for himself.

Harry merely smiled at him, though it was far from as welcoming as most would've imagined.

"I know that asking you will be considered foolish by my standards," Tom said once they got inside the empty compartment, effectively separating them from the other children and Mrs Cole. "But how did you acquire the money to buy that?" He gestured to the package in her hands with a sharp look, already knowing fully way that she did not earn the money through hard work or something like that. As soon as they had shut the compartment and sat down on the opposite sides, Harry hadn't hesitated to pull out a pack of treacle tarts and started munching on them as if there was no tomorrow anywhere in sight. She had even offered him some, but not being a sugar tooth, he had declined the offer.

"I bom't mow whap you'we papkin aboub," said Harry with her mouth stuffed with sweets, lips spread into a wide grin as she chewed vigorously. Tom rolled his eyes at this lack of manners, though he was far from surprised.

"Let me guess," he said and leaned his face into his hand. "You stole from one of the staff, didn't you?"

Harry swallowed loudly and said, "Mr Murphy left his coat unattended in the common room earlier today. Being the considerate girl that I am, I promptly returned it to its rightful place shortly after taking my earnings from my good deed."

"Rightful place?" He raised a suspicious eyebrow. Whenever the Potter girl behaved like this, he knew that there was something amiss to be noted, more so than usual. "Exactly where was this supposedly 'rightful place', may I ask?"

Harry shrugged. "The trash bin outside the building. It's Garbage Day today, so I doubt he'll reach it in time."

"Well, in that case," was all Tom said afterwards before he resumed with watching the landscape outside the train pass them by. Even though he was a much more compliant child than the Potter girl, especially in terms of regulations and laws that prohibited unruly behaviour of which Harry was the most prone towards, exceptions could be made as long as it did not pose as consequences for him in person. Besides, Mr Murphy's belongings were no loss to anyone other than the man himself, and the sight of him running down the street whilst chasing for the lost coat after the garbage truck had departed would've truly been a sight for sore eyes.

"By the way," Harry said, chewing off more from her treacle tart. "What did the government say about the state of the orphanage? Did they approve?"

"They did," said Tom without looking away from the window. Not even a week after that old bag had entered the premises did the report reach the directors of Wool's. Apparently, Miss Craignell had given a thorough report as to how she thought had just visited the most suitable place for any child that had been unfortunate enough to find itself without guardians or caretakers. According to her, Wool's was a place of prestigious quality in terms of hygiene, staff, behaviour amongst the children placed under their care and so on. Not even once had she mentioned the fact that some children proved themselves to be exceptionally difficult, and his eyes vaguely flashed to Harry as Tom thought about this. He didn't doubt that she was, in some way, the cause of this unexpected positivity they had received.

Harry, however, didn't seem to notice his slightly off-putting demeanour as she sat there with her sweets in hand. After the supervisor's visit to the orphanage, Harry had not elaborated with him about the true extent which the meeting with Miss Craignell had went, but if it was enough to cause even someone like Harry to render to the insufferable silence he only tolerated amongst the other children, he knew that it had had to be something extraordinarily adverse. He hadn't been one to pry, but even he was feeling increasingly curious as to what it had been that had temporarily silenced Harry that day.

He glanced over her a second time and spotted her eating her second piece of tart, much to his dismay. She truly was like a child sometimes. "If you continue to consume irregular amounts of sugar on a daily, you could end up severely overweight, with diabetes, or be rendered to some other dysfunctional state."

"Are you saying that I'm fat or something?" the Potter girl said accusatory with her mouth still full of sweets, causing bits and pieces to fall to the floor as she spoke. At the mention of this, Tom's eyes went from Harry's feet to the top of her head on intervals, scrutinizing for any round shape or otherwise unnatural amount of flesh on any part of her body. He found none, which was more of a shock than anything.

Though they were rarely permitted much sweets or biscuits in the orphanage, as there was a rule which prohibited children from snacking outside of meals unless they had been allowed to do so personally by the staff, he had numerous of times seen Harry munching on said prohibited items without consideration towards authority. As such, he was surprised – or more specifically – Shocked to note that there was absolutely nothing amiss with her exterior appearance. She was just as skinny and as petite as she had always been.

"Hardly," he answered after his thorough inspection of her. "Though it would not cause you any harm to cut it down a bit on the sugar intake, now would it?"

Instead of heeding his words like any reasonable person with any consideration for their health would, Harry merely stuck her tongue out to him and proceeded to take yet another bite from the treacle tart without breaking eye-contact with him. "Down with that," she said defiantly, her mouth still full. "I'm allowed to indulge myself with what little enjoyment I can get in life, aren't I?"

"There's a fine line between pleasure and addiction,"

"Really?" Harry blinked. "Please explain."

"The terms are actually different," Tom explained with no real interest, his eyes remained glued to the scenery outside the window. Rain had begun to descend from the sky, but he had never been one for complaining about the weather. Not to mention, if it rained, he wouldn't be expected to remain outside with the other children, but knowing that Harry had some sort of unique fondness towards it, something in his subconscious told him otherwise. "However, pleasure and addiction both depends on said individuals. For example, happiness or pleasure, if we were to use two individuals in love as an example (as foolishly as it sounds), is when those said individuals experiences fulfilment solely by being near each other and are content with what they have and with no need for anything else."

"I already knew that."

Tom ignored her remark and continued. "Addiction, if we continue to use the same said pair of individuals, are when said individuals cannot exist without each other, and may experience misery, discontentment, and annoyance when apart. That way, they begin to behave differently the longer they are separated. In other words," He paused for a moment, thinking about which words to use that would make sense to the Potter girl. "They are co-dependent to the other part until they are reunited again."

"So," Harry said thoughtfully and placed a thumb beneath her chin. "When they are together, they experience happiness. When they are apart, however, they are miserable, and because they are miserable without each other, they are addicted. It doesn't really make any sense."

"It does if their happiness is affected by either part's presence or absence," Tom said calmly. "If it were true happiness they experienced, then they ought not to feel any discomfort with being apart for a short period or so. If they are addicted, then they cannot achieve that independently anymore and are, like said, addicted."

"But, they sound just like the same thing!" Harry exclaimed. "It's only natural for a woman or a man to become saddened by the absence of their significant other, isn't it?"

"Like I said, there's a fine line between pleasure and addiction." Said Tom unmoved, not at all surprised by Harry's lack of subtlety when it came to what was on her mind. He had expected this sort of reaction from her, especially considering the subject of which they were conversing about. Love and all that wasn't something that had a special place in his heart, but he didn't expect anything less from someone like Harry. After all, Harry was a human being, and just as it was natural for two people to fall in love like already stated, it was just as natural for any other person to experience love even if they did not require a partner to achieve said emotion. Perhaps that was a different sort of happiness?

"But, then," said Harry, earning her Tom's full attention this time. "What if only one of those people were in love while the other person remained oblivious towards this one-sided affection? Would that be pleasure or addiction for that person who is in love?"

"Where does this come from?" asked Tom. "We were just discussing how your consumption of sweets should be regulated. All that about people in love was just an example I exploited to make you understand the concept."

"I know, but still, would it be pleasure or addiction for someone if they were in love with someone who didn't reciprocate those feelings?"

"That would be…." Tom found himself somewhat speechless, but it didn't take long before he could answer the girl's inquiry. "If a woman loved a man to the point where she would do anything to achieve his affections, regardless of what, it would be considered something outside of either pleasure or addiction, yet could still be considered an amalgamation of both."

"What's it called?" Harry asked, putting aside what little left remained of the treacle tart to listen to him.

"Infatuation," Tom answered slowly, weighing the words on top of his tongue. "In other words, obsession." It had been a while since he had last heard that word, mainly because he couldn't fathom such an emotion. For someone to be in love with someone else to the point where they would disregard anything to be with them with no regard towards the consequences was idiotic to say the least. He couldn't imagine anyone who would be that stupid to choose love over one's own life.

"Infatuation?" Harry said absentmindedly, thinking with a thumb beneath her chin and her face up. "So, if I wanted some sweets, but the sweets didn't want me, would that be infatuation?"

Tom couldn't help but chuckle at the girl's silliness and obvious naivety. "That would be breaking the laws of physics, amongst other unnatural things."

"Yeah," Harry said with a scoff. "We would know all about unnatural things, wouldn't we?"

"I suppose so."

The rest of the train trip went smoothly, though some of the other children were more prone to motion sickness than others. Lily Everett had to leave her compartment for the toilet several times during the trip due to her worsened condition as a result of this. However, Tom and Harry both remained completely in control of their bodily functions without anything unpleasant occurring meanwhile, which was more than what could be said for the rest of them.

A couple of hours later, they finally reached the bay which the boat would arrive on. The weather was far from being ideal for the summer, and it would seem that it was even worse by the sea. Harry held tightly onto her luggage for each time the wind would blow particularly strong whereas Tom didn't fret as much as she believed he ought to, given the circumstances. Still, she was only glad that he hadn't packed with him a snake just to scare the other children, though she would've happily gone along whatever scheme it involved had it not been for the conditions that had to be exceeded in order to join the trip.

There was one specific rule which applied to everyone, particularly Harry: DON'T CAUSE PROBLEMS DURING THE TRIP.

When did she ever cause problems, she thought to herself as she mused over that rule.

When the boat that was supposed to bring them to County Clare finally arrived, the skies had noticeably darkened since they first arrived there. The trip on the boat was even worse than the train ride, and like expected, several of the children ended up vomiting over the rail not too long afterwards. Even Harry was feeling uneasy in her stomach at this, and ended up throwing up as well a couple of hours after they departed from land. Only then did she slightly regret her decision of eating treacle tart, as it all escaped from her stomach in a matter of mere moments into the ocean. Such a waste of food.

Fortunately for her, Tom didn't leave her alone out there in the rain to suffer by herself, though he did keep his distance and express his disgust at the sight of her looking so miserably.

The marks of one true companion.

By the time they finally reached County Clare, the sky was completely dark and the rain had only grown stronger over the hours. Those had been few of the most miserable hours Harry had ever experienced, and comparing it to Wool's orphanage in general, that was saying something.

When they reached the bay, all of the children departed from the ship and were instructed by Mrs Cole to follow her to a pair of taxicabs that were anticipating their arrival. The drivers were standing outside the cabs with their hands occupied by cigarettes, but the second they spotted the children and Mrs Cole approaching them, they quickly discarded the rollups to the ground and stomped on them as if to erase any traces of their existence from the world. Subtlety weren't their strongest suits, was all Tom could think as he saw them.

A half hour later, they finally reached what appeared to be the rented cottages, which were aligned with each other side by side and not as close to the rest of the village there. From an exterior perspective, the cottages were quite charming to look at. They were hardly as low in quality as Tom initially expected, especially considering how greedy the director of the orphanage could be, and actually seemed like they could keep out the cold. When the cabs dropped them off with their luggage and drove away from the place, Mrs Cole had all the children gather up around her for some ground rules. It was visible in her face that she was tired after the long trip and did not wish to delay her sleep for longer than she would wish to.

"Alright," she began sternly. "The rules that have been established by the landowner are as follows: no talking or any other activities after nine o'clock, you will all wake up at eight o'clock precisely tomorrow morning, and if I catch any of you," her eyes flickered over to Harry for a moment before she resumed. "out of bed after curfew, or cause any sort of trouble the course of the next three days that we are here, the consequences may include being sent back to Wool's before then. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Mrs Cole," it rang from the children, much to her content.

Amy Benson held her arm up. "What if we have to use the toilet?"

"Then you may leave your room, but for no other reason," Mrs Cole answered. "Now, all of you, grab your bags and follow me." She turned her back to them and walked up the front stairs which lead to the entrance door. She pulled out a pair of keys from her pockets and tried three of them to no avail before she finally found the one that matched the lock and opened up the door. Several of the children were in awe as they stepped inside the fine place, mumbling and talking to each other as they ventured inside. Even Tom had to admit what the place was in good shape. The kitchen had fine tiles and was large enough to accommodate them all, the living room wasn't so grand in comparison but still sufficient enough, and the rest of the rooms he could care less about, though none of them were beneath him.

After they had familiarized themselves with the place, Mrs Cole gestured for the children to follow her up the staircase where they reached the second floor. Several doors were aligned on each side of the corridor, followed by a bathroom on each side. "Now," said the older woman. "You will share rooms in pair. Lily and Mary, you two will take the second room on the right over there. Toby and Matthew, you will take the second one on the left across Lily's and Mary's. Tom and Dennis, the two of you will take the first one to the left next to Toby's and Matthew's, and Harry and Amy, the two of you will take the one across from theirs."

Harry suddenly reached her hand up in the air. "I have a question."

Mrs Cole seemed even more tired now than before. "What is it now, Harry?"

"Why is it mandatory for girls to share rooms with girls and boys to share room with boys? Why can't boys and girls share rooms together?"

"Because of courtesy," said Mrs Cole shortly, clearly having had enough with the young girl's inquiries at this point. "It's not suitable for people of the opposite gender to share rooms."

Amy Benson snickered in the back, along with Lily Everett and Mary Collins. "You just want to share a room with Tommy, don't you?" she mocked, but the Potter girl didn't as much as bat an eye in her general direction, much less show any bashfulness. She seemed just as serious as she always did.

"That's right," Harry said honestly. "So, what?"

Tom didn't know whether to feel amused or slightly unnerved by her bluntness. He was no stranger towards it whatsoever, but there were times where it even surprised him as to what length she would go to in order to get her way or speak her mind.

"Harry," Mrs Cole sighed. "You will share your room with Amy whether you like it or not. Now go to sleep everyone." And with that, the older woman turned and entered another room before promptly shutting the door behind her, causing the sound of the slam to echo throughout the house more so than all of the children's whispering together did. Shortly afterwards, the other children entered their rooms and Harry was left standing there alone with Tom for a couple of more minutes.

She crossed her arms fiercely over her chest. "What a biased woman. Honestly, what's so bad about a boy and a girl sharing room together?"

"As much as I'm entertained by your antics," said Tom beside her. "You're quite naïve sometimes. A boy and girl sharing rooms together is considered unheard of by adults."

"Why is that?" she asked, looking curiously up at him. Despite being her, she was too gullible sometimes. Tom debated telling her the truth, but even he knew that it would be too much for her to handle. In the worst case, she would end up holding her ears and run screaming out the house like she'd just seen Death. Either that, or she would completely dismiss the idea like idiocy, which, quite frankly, he couldn't blame her for.

"Adult-stuff," he said, much to her confusion.

"Adult stuff? You mean like kissing?"

"Amongst other things, yes," he answered shortly.

Much to his amusement, Harry seemed completely revolted by the idea. "Kissing and that? Honestly, haven't they heard of companionship solely for the sake of companionship? Why does things like that have to be involved every time something involves people of the opposite gender?"

"That's how people are," Tom said simply.

"Then people are stupid," Harry said. "and thanks to that, I now have to share room what that stupid cow. However, on another matter," She looked at him and smiled mischievously. "Would you have been against the idea of us sharing rooms?"

"As long as you could keep quiet and let me rest in peace, then yes," he answered honestly, not really seeing any need in acting like any frivolous boy his age usually would. Ordinary boys' perspective compared to his own was quite different in terms of what was considered typical and otherwise. But he wasn't ordinary. However, he would be lying if he said that the prospect of sharing a room with Harry didn't put him slightly off. Knowing her, there was no doubt that she'd probably bother him to death before he could even shut his eyes and call it a day.

"Good," said Harry brightly, but then she sighed, suddenly remembering that she would have to share her room with the Benson girl instead. There had not been a few times where the two girls had ended up in quarrels due to their different natures. Whereas Benson was typically girly and afraid of everything and everyone that she considered filthy, Harry could care less about everything of the sort. She had once deliberately placed a worm in of the Benson girl's bed after the latter had dared to mention the fact that she was left there on the doorstep as an infant. Since then, they had expressed nothing but sheer loathing towards one another.

Harry and Tom bid each other good night and turned in for the night, not quite looking forward to the next day like they had anticipated.

The room was nothing grand in size. It just fit one bed on each side of the room and a pair of drawers to accompany them, as well as a pair of nightstands and a lamp on Harry's side. The window outside revealed that it was still quite dark outside but it didn't seem to be raining as vigorously anymore. Just as Harry had changed into her nightwear and put her glasses aside on the nightstand next to her bed, Amy Benson sat up in her bed across the room and starred starkly at her. "How come you're always wearing those ugly glasses of your, freak?" she asked.

"Well," said Harry unconcerned, not taking her words into personal account. "Just like you struggle with your hearing on a daily, I need my glasses to be able to see properly."

"I don't struggle with my hearing!" the Benson girl replied angrily, not minding the volume of her voice.

Harry let out a yawn and didn't bother to put up with the obnoxious girl more than she had to. They had never gotten along, and their friendship, or lack thereof, wouldn't magically bloom overnight. She would rather wish to pull off the petals if that metaphor was ever supposed to be taken literally. "Apparently you do, otherwise you would've listened to Mrs Cole's rule about keeping your lousy mouth shut after nine o'clock, which I'm sure we're way past by now." She then turned off the light of the lamp on the nightstand and threw her covers over her, tired enough to feel like she could fall asleep then and there without struggle.

And she would have done so, had it not been for the fact that the Benson girl didn't seem like she minded her need for rest. "You know, freak," she said. "I heard that you don't have a roommate at the orphanage because everyone despises you."

"Took you a while to discover that, did it?" Harry answered lazily, not caring for the taunts that were thrown at her. "Didn't know you had such an expanded vocabulary, Benson. Impressive, I must say, though I do believe that some silence right now would be preferable."

Though Harry didn't witness it, as Amy Benson was about to open her mouth to retort to something, no voice escaped her. Although her lips moved and she tried to utter a sound, nothing originated from her vocal chords. By then, however, Harry had already fallen asleep.

I imagine that Harry and Tom's relationship in the beginning would be strictly platonic and in no way romantic. As such, they could discuss anything without having to show embarrassment towards the subject unless it was personal for them. Love, romance, and everything in-between was not included into that category, nor was the difference between sexes either considered of vital importance. That's why they were able to discuss the idea of sharing room with one another without being embarrassed like most children that age would be. By the way, you've probably noticed that foreshadowing I included about infatuation and desire, and if you've read the Harry Potter books, you already know what it is that I'm referring to in terms of infatuation and unreciprocated feelings of love.