"For many months now, my new target has been- you."
-Harry Potter and the Chamber Of Secrets
Ophelia was temporarily too flabbergasted to say anything, so she simply stared.
"Riddle, I'm not sure how to put this gently, but I'd sincerely rather French kiss a dementor than be your friend."
Too late, it occurred to her that she'd said that aloud. She ducked her head in embarrassment.
"Curiously enough, I think that's the first honest thing you've said to me," he said, an indecipherable look on his face.
"Er, I didn't mean it like that," she mumbled, rubbing her neck awkwardly . "I may have exaggerated... a bit."
"I'd like to see how else you could mean it," he mused.
Unsure of what else to say, Ophelia busied herself with warming he hands.
"As I've already laid out the benefits of such an arrangement, please, explain what concerns you."
Ophelia didn't say anything. Words would not have improved the situation, and only stood a chance of making things worse, so she kept silent.
"Would you tell me what I've done to offend, at least?"
"It's not you," she admitted at last, albeit grudgingly. Waving a hand through the air, she continued, "You just remind me of someone I don't like to think about. Besides, I don't really do friends."
"Oh?" His eyebrows rose imperceptibly. "Tell me, who do I remind you of?"
Ophelia took a step back and, just to give herself something to do that included not looking at Tom, began petting the thestrals again. She wished Rubeus would get back already.
"It doesn't matter. You're not him. I know that."
And she did, even if sometimes it was hard to remember. Just looking at Tom gave her the same powerful, all consuming feeling that Ophelia got from being around her uncle. The feeling was indescribable, like looking out over a thunderstorm from a mountain top. You know you're apart of something big and possibly dangerous, but it still inspires awe to the darkest depths of your soul.
"Obviously. I don't work this hard just to be someone else."
That made the beginning of a smile touch her lips. "Why do you work so hard, then? Obviously you're ambitious, but what for?"
The question seemed to surprise him. A guarded expression fell across his face.
"Why bother acting like I'm less than I am?" he countered pointedly. "If I can be the best, then I will be. I'll make sure the whole world knows my name one day."
Ophelia didn't doubt him.
She knew she saw a darkness in him, but, then again, there was a darkness in herself, too. What made him different was that the strings of destiny pulled harder on him than they did on others. Just like her uncle. Tom had such a potential for good, like Dumbledore, or evil, like Grindelwald, he only needed to be guided the right way. Perhaps he was leaning slightly more Dark, but that was because of the influences surrounding him. Obviously, he wasn't completely rotten, though, so there was still hope. He didn't need to stop those guys from harassing her that first day they officially met. If Ophelia could make him sway good, then perhaps it would make up for everything she wasn't able to do in the past, for not even trying to stop her uncle while she could have, and for running away like a cowards. As foolish as it sounded, she felt like she owed it to the world. She could spend her whole life atoning and it still would never make up for what she'd spent half her life apart of,
And if she was completely honest with herself, she sincerely needed a friend.
"Alright, Rid- er, Tom." she empathized his name, unsure of how she felt about it on her tongue. "I accept your proposal. You're on."
The corners of his lips turned up slightly, not quite into a smile, but in a way that showed he was pleased. Already, Ophelia was regretting her decision.
"To a fruitful beginning."
When he held out his slender hand, Ophelia hesitated only a beat too long before clasping it. He was surprisingly warm and his grip was firm. In the same way she hesitated a moment too long before shaking, he held on too long before letting go.
The cunning glint in his eyes foretold he had ulterior motives to their deal, but, then again, so did she. Although it was obvious neither trusted the other, more meaningful relationships had been built much on less.
After all, Ophelia thought to herself, as the old saying goes, keep your friends close...
"No need to look so worried," Tom added, at last releasing her. "I probably won't hold you to your promise."
"To french kiss that dementor, naturally." With a satisfied smirk, he turned to leave. "I'll definitely be seeing you again soon."
Possibly the most jarring part of that exchange, Ophelia decided as she watched him make tracks through the snow back to the castle, was that Tom Riddle had made a joke. Or, at least, she hoped it was a joke, and not a thinly veiled threat. Before she could ponder the potentiality of the latter, Hagrid emerged, larger than life, from the massive double doors, carrying his own impressive weight's worth of meat for the thestrals.
It's only just come to my attention that what I've been using to show I'm cutting to a different scene hasn't been showing up? Yikes, that must have made things a lot more confusing. Sorry about that!