Each chapter will begin with a quote either by or about Tom Riddle from the original books that relates to the chapter, and the chapters will rotate narrators between Tom and Ophelia, starting with Tom for chapter one, then Ophelia for chapter two, etc... Thanks for reading!
"I know what you are known as . . . but to me, you will always be Tom Riddle. It's one of the irritating things about old teachers. I'm afraid they never quite forget their charges youthful beginnings."
Tom had never seen a more pathetic looking girl in his life, he thought, as he watched a pair Slytherin Seventh Years toss her book bag tauntingly back and forth over her head while she tried desperately to reclaim it.
"Please!" she pleaded, throwing herself at the boy, who held the bag far above her head. "You're going to make me late for Potions!"
She had Potions next, too? Tom racked his brain, but still couldn't remember ever seeing her in his class. How peculiar.
"Get off me," the boy snapped, smacking her away.
She stumbled back, losing her balance from the force of the hit and landing hard upon the floor. Gingerly, she ran a careful hand along the length of her reddening cheek, wincing slightly at the contact.
"Oh did the little baby get hurt," the first boy simpered. "You deserve that for not backing off when I told you to. In fact, maybe you deserve another!"
He raised an arm threateningly.
"That is enough, I think," Tom interjected coolly, stepping out of the shadowed corner he'd been observing from. "Get to class or I'll be forced to assign you both detentions."
"Oh, relax, Tom," the other boy protested. "It's only Ashwood."
Tom blinked. Were they really challenging him?
"I will not ask again, Penburry, Chaucer. Release the bag and leave."
Presumably sensing the dangerous edge to his voice, they dropped the bag as though it were ablaze, muttering their apologies. Satisfied, Tom turned around in time to pretend to be surprised by Professor Slughorn bustling down the corridor.
"Good work, Tom! I always knew you were a good boy, coming to sweet Ophelia's rescue like that!" Slughorn boomed. Good. He had noticed, Tom thought privately. If it would endear him more to his professors, then helping this girl wasn't a complete waste of time after all. "I'll have to give those two boys a stern talking to, to have members of my own house behaving so disgracefully..."
Ignoring his loquacious head of house, Tom turned back to the girl, Ophelia, and offered her a hand up. Slughorn would eat that chivalry up, and maybe even spread word to the other professors of his good deeds as well.
Ophelia had other plans, however. She looked at Tom's hand as though it were a terrifying spider and leapt to her feet of her own accord, backstopping several feet to put some distance between the two of them.
Tom blinked. That was certainly new. Tom was well aware that that most girls would kill to receive as much of his attention as this Ophelia girl was receiving, yet she acted as though the thought of touching him repulsed her, despite the fact that he had just come to her aid.
Before either Tom or Ophelia could make a move, Slughorn, the oblivious fool, stepped between the two, placing a thick, expensively robed arm around each of their backs. Tom noticed Ophelia fight the urge to jump away from the contact.
"Let's go, shall we?" Slughorn guided them down the hall to his classroom at a quickened pace. "We wouldn't want me to be late to my own class, nor we would I want my two favourite students to miss a second of my class. We're going to have a great deal of fun today, you know."
Two favourite students? Tom looked over the professor to get a better look at Ophelia, who seemed deadset on avoiding his gaze. She was one of Slughorn's favourite students? Her? How, then, had he never even seen her before? Was this just more of the professor's hyperbolic flattery or actual fact?
"And here we are, in you get." Slughorn ushered them in first, before making his way to the front of the room.
As he expected, one of Tom's devoted friends had reserved him a seat near the front. The only other seat available was at a table beside his, a mere arms length away, and Ophelia seemed to realise this. As he settled into his bench, he noticed her walking directly across the room to the far back corner to converse in low tones with one of her fellow Gryffindor classmates. After a short, but intense, conversation, the other Gryffindor, a girl named Delia that Tom knew fancied him, collected her things to slide into the seat beside his, while Ophelia fell into Delia's former bench.
"Hi, Tom!" Delia greeted brightly, all too pleased with her changed circumstances.
From the corner of his eye, Tom could see her batting her eyelashes in what he presumed she imagined was a coy manner, but really just made it look like she had gotten a bucket of sand tossed in her eyes. Sighing internally, he turned to her and returned her greeting politely, hoping she would allow him to work without further distraction.
He was wrong.
"Tom, could you help me?" she asked, twirling her hair in ringlets around her pointer finger. "I'm afraid I don't even know where to start."
"Reading the directions might be a good place to begin," he said evenly, clenching his fist under the table where no one could see.
She pouted, disappointed, but, to Tom's growing annoyance, she wasn't a quitter. "I know that, Tom. What I mean is, I don't understand the directions."
Tom thought internally that that sounded like a problem that had more to do with her reading ability than it had to do with him, although he kept those thoughts to himself. Instead, he raised his hand and waited for Professor Slughorn to come bustling over.
"Yes, my dear boy?"
"I'm afraid Delia is having trouble understanding the directions, Professor," he said, inclining his head to the embarrassed looking girl to his right. "I would have loved to help, but I don't think I'm qualified and I would hate to lead anyone astray."
The lie came out as smooth as silk.
"I think we both know you wouldn't be leading any students astray Tom," Slughorn stated, winking conspiratorially. "But I understand your concerns. What is it you don't understand, my dear?"
Slughorn leaned over a flustered Delia to help, giving Tom the peace he desired for the remainder of the class period. She didn't bother him again.
The class was over all too soon. Slinging his bag over his shoulder, Tom made for the door, but was stopped by a voice so faint he thought he had imagined it.
"Pardon me, but, um..."
Tom turned to discover the source of the noise to be Ophelia, shifting awkwardly from foot to foot, as though she would rather be anywhere but there. He had nearly forgotten about her.
"Yes?" Tom prompted, trying hard to mask his impatience.
"I just wanted to say thank you for what you did earlier," she explained breathlessly. "You didn't have to help me, and I don't want you to think I'm not grateful... So, er, thank you, I guess."
Before Tom could utter another word, Ophelia darted for the door as fast as her legs could carry her, as though fleeing a chimera, or his basilisk, but she wouldn't get away that easily. Her peculiar behaviour had piqued Tom's interest. Soon, he was in front of her, blocking her way.
"It's my job." He scrutinized her as she looked literally everywhere else but him, eventually focusing in on a point a few inches to the left of his ear. Tom nearly rolled his eyes at her blatant attempts to avoid meeting his gaze. "I'm a prefect."
She mumbled something that vaguely resembled "I know."
"I beg your pardon?"
Ophelia scratched the back of her head uncomfortably. "I said I know. I'm a- I'm a prefect, too. We've actually been going to the same prefect meetings all year... and the same Potions class, and Defense Against the Dark Arts, and the Slug Club..." her voice trailed off as she listed everything.
The more he heard, the less inclined Tom felt to believe her. Surely he would recognise her from at least one of those places? After all, there were only eight prefects! He tried putting a face to the female Gryffindor prefect, and soon realised he couldn't. He could name all the other prefects and envision their faces, even their personalities, yet the girl for Gryffindor was utterly vacant in his mind.
"How come I have never noticed you before, if you are indeed a prefect like you claim?"
Still averting his gaze, she dug around in the pockets of her robes, until Tom thought she actually had the audacity to ignore him. Finally, she smiled to herself in satisfaction and she pulled out a shiny badge branded with a large P down the middle, holding it up almost guiltily.
"I am a prefect, but people don't usually notice me. I just fade into the background." She dropped her face to the ground, muttering, "That's probably why you didn't notice me, either. I actually prefer it this way."
The bitter edge to her voice implied otherwise, but Tom didn't press the point. He didn't care in the slightest about her feelings. Feelings only complicated matters.
Cocking his head to the side, he stated, "Since you are a prefect, you had just as much authority over Chaucer and Penburry as I did."
It wasn't exactly a question, but he still expected an answer.
"Yeah, well..." Ophelia huffed out a weighty breath that may have been a weak laugh. "I don't really like flaunting my authority for my own sake. I'd rather not make waves."
Tom couldn't relate. As far as he was concerned, it was a weak mindset to work so hard to gain power only to not take full advantage of it.
"What, then, do you propose is the point of power, if not to rule those weaker than you?" Tom found himself asking, despite seeing the futility in asking such a question. It didn't matter what she thought.
"I find the most powerful men are the ones who gain power only to give it away freely," Ophelia stated firmly, all timidity temporarily gone. "Like Professor Dumbledore. He doesn't need to go around flaunting his power or hurting people to prove he's great!"
Tom got the impression she was thinking about someone in particular, based on her clenched fists and the slight tremor in her voice where anger got the better of her, but who? Did she somehow know of his own ambition? That couldn't be possible, he reassured himself. He was very careful about how he presented himself around school, so this girl had no reason to call him out.
"Is Dumbledore really that powerful?" Tom challenged. "After all, isn't he the only one everyone says who can defeat Grindewald and bring piece to our southern neighbours? Why avoid challenging him if he could win?"
"It's not that simple," Ophelia protested, taking a step back to match each of Tom's steps forward. "That matter is... complicated."
Tom continued as if she hadn't spoken. "Unless Dumbledore is too much of a coward to face Grindewald. So much for being the pride of the brave Gryffindor House-"
Only when his face snapped to the side and he registered the stinging in his cheek did Tom realise that he'd been slapped. She actually slapped him!
"Don't you dare say another word! You know nothing," she ordered furiously, holding the hand she had just used to assault him close to her chest. Almost immediately, however, her expression morphed from anger to fear, her eyes widening in alarm and mouth going slack as she realised what she had done. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I'm just-"
She shook her head, not bothering to finish the sentence, before fleeing the classroom with all the swiftness of a rabbit fleeing a ravenous snake. Tom was still too surprised recovering from the slap to stop her.
She didn't know it yet, but this conversation was far from over.