Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter
Warning: Fem!Harry AU, Tom Riddle AU
Chapter 3: The Supervisor
"I loathe her."
"We haven't even met the woman and you're already complaining."
"Still hate her."
"Why is she even here again?"
"To supervise out behaviour and report to higher authority in case we prove ourselves to act particularly …. Like you."
"Oi, what's that supposed to mean?"
"It means that you have to, for once in your life, behave."
"When have I not?"
Tom shot her a look and Harry returned the gesture, albeit slightly more fallaciously. The children in Wool's orphanage's ward had been lined up side to side with one another in the common room, their faces pale and slightly forced into what seemed like superficial doll-expression. About once a month, someone from the government would come to the orphanage and discuss the state of the area as well as that of the children.
Though it was easy to tell that each supervisor that was sent there could care less about what kind of state the children were in as long as they received compensation for their hard work, which was really little less than asking a few questions for each turn, the children all knew that the supervisors were not forces to be trifled with. If a child proved itself to be troublesome, unspoken things would be taken into consideration regarding its future stay at such a place as Wool's. On the contrary of what many believed, the place was far from as bad as some orphanages could be.
From Tom's perspective, it was miraculous how Harry had even managed to remain there to the present date. Each time a supervisor had arrived, odd things always tended to happen whenever they were interrogating her, such as trivial accidents like tripping in the hallway for no reason, or just being chased by some of the birds in the backyard. Granted, they couldn't have known that said incidents happened because of the girl, as they were ignorant like that, but Tom didn't object against it. Though he had always passed the "tests" with flying colours because of his demeanour, he didn't particularly enjoy the visits very much himself. Those adults were too nosey for their own good, too persistent. It seemed as if they wanted to find something to pick at, whether it was inconsequential or otherwise, just to get a higher salary. It was either that, or Tom was just cynical.
As it turned out, both assumptions were correct.
The door leading into the common room opened, and the supervisor entered. This one was a noticeably short woman with dirty-blonde hair that had been tied up to a tight bun, formal yet exaggerated chose of wardrobe for a special occasion, which included a layered pencil-shaped skirt that just went beyond the length of her knees, white button front, and a blazer to accommodate. On her neck was a thick, pink bow that stuck out like a sore thumb. Her nose seemed oddly sharpened, as if it had been adjusted several times, and in her hand was a notepad. On the woman's face was a placid smile, one that could have easily been mistaken for the stretched mouth of a toad.
Both Tom and Harry silently agreed that that was what she looked like. A toad, and for reasons unknown, Harry loathed her even more now than even before she had laid eyes on her, even with that smile on her lips.
Following after the short woman was Mrs Cole, who didn't seem any more enthusiastic about the visit than the children did. She stepped up next to the supervisor and attempted her best to smile, but it was obvious that she lacked the perseverance to do it. "Good morning, children," she said, and meek 'good mornings' and 'hellos' were heard from the children, though obviously not as vigorous as most would expect from a bunch of children. The supervisor proceeded to scribble down something on the notepad with a black pen, and judging by the strength she used, none of them guessed that what she had written was of any positive remark.
"Today," Mrs Cole proceeded, though slightly more nervously. "It's time for another inspection to see how the progression and development from each and every one of you are doing. This is Miss—"
"hem, hem," came an unusually sharp, unusually light voice. The children looked confused at each other, even Tom and Harry shared a look of mutual bemusement, before all of their eyes were falling onto the supervisor, who was smiling more now than ever before. Despite her visible attempts at making them feel at ease with her, it seemed as if none perceived this gesture as any reassuring. The way she smiled was hardly ideal for someone who was expected to work with children. The supervisor cast a patronizing glance at Mrs Cole before she turned around to face all of the present children.
"Hello, children," she said, sounding even more condescending that she looked like. "My name is Claudia Craignell, and I am here on behalf of the child services to see for myself how such young and lively children like yourself are doing on a daily."
Tom and Harry exchanged yet another look between them, this time of annoyance. Harry's mouth was stretched into a long line that somehow matched with one of her raised eyebrows, and even Tom was finding it hard not to express his disinterest in whatever the woman was selling. The other children didn't seem too happy about it either, as none of them were smiling.
"As such," Miss Craignell continued, either purposefully ignorant or just oblivious to the children's negative impressions of her in spite of her efforts in making them think otherwise. "I will have a look around today and ask some of you a few questions. There's no need to be frightened of me, dears. I'm sure we'll get along just fine."
"That's likely," Harry mumbled to herself, but apparently, the woman wasn't as dense as she appeared to be. For just a split moment, her eyes landed on Harry and ever so slightly, her smile curled down, only to instantly curl up again as if nothing had happened. Tom, however, was a witness to this. He decided then and there that whatever petty disdain Harry harboured for the woman, he too began to experience the same sensation of.
"And what's your name, dear?" Miss Craignell asked him as patronizingly as ever.
"Tom Riddle," he answered.
"And do you know where your parents are, Tom? Did you have any knowledge of them prior to coming to Wool's Orphanage?" she asked, apparently not minding the fact that the subject of parents and earlier guardians was considered taboo when speaking to a child. Though Tom didn't consider it a sensitive subject, he wasn't exactly pleased by the sort of inquiries he was receiving from the woman.
"I was born here at the orphanage," Tom said truthfully, not pausing for a single time. "My mother died shortly after naming me, and I've been here ever since. I have no knowledge of my father, nor of any other blood relatives. Otherwise, I wouldn't have stayed here." Now, in reality, that wasn't all true. If some sort of stranger had arrived and decided that Tom was something to claim, he wouldn't have left the orphanage. Unbeknownst to him at the time, Harry played a contributing role to this.
The woman wrote something down on the notepad without looking up. "I see, and how do you think this orphanage is running?"
"I would say that it's sufficient enough, at least for me," Tom stated. "We're clothed according to the seasons, our rooms are always warm, we are at the liberty to do whatever we please as long as it doesn't go against the orphanage's protocol or cause difficulties in any way, and the place is thoroughly cleaned once every week." Though he did admit to himself that there were certain aspects about the place that weren't too good, such as the likes of Mr Murphy's treatment, taking it up to someone like Miss Craignell, who seemed like she would do anything for a good name, wouldn't be for the best.
"What about the staff? How are they?"
"They make sure that we are clean and healthy."
"I see," Miss Craignell wrote something down again, seemingly a little dissatisfied because she had nothing to scrutinize, before she looked up at Tom again. "I've been informed by the staff that you are an exceptionally bright boy for your age, and that you spend the majority of your time alone in the library or with a certain Miss Harriet Potter, whom I've heard has quite the rumour for being the source of troubles around the area. Is that correct?"
At the mention of this, he couldn't help but narrow his eyes a little sharper at the woman. For whatever reason, he didn't imagine that this information was relevant to the inspection. A supervisor's work was supposed to go smoothly without the need for trivialities, and the friends of an individual surely couldn't be necessary. "I suppose that this is relevant to your inspection, Miss Craignell?"
"Of course," she said briskly, though her smile slipped ever-so-slightly. "I just have to make sure that children with potential aren't exposed to any, let's say, negative influences." The spoke the last words like they were physically straining her voice, and Tom could easily tell that the smile seemed more superficial and forced now than ever before.
Tom inclined his head towards her. "Would you mind elaborating a bit on the subject, Miss Craignell?" and with that, he proceeded to smile as well. A charming smile, a smile that could persuade even the toughest of adults to bend to his will. It had been a weapon he had learned to exploit over the years if he wanted answers that would prove themselves challenging to receive.
Miss Craignell took the bait almost in an instant and put the notepad down on the table. "Well, Tom," she said, as sugary as ever, and put her sausage-like fingers over his hand. It took his uttermost composure not to pull it away from her. "In my career, I have met many people like yourself, Tom. Young children who are evidently talented for their age. However, in order to preserve those special children, we need to make sure that they don't lose their potential by associating themselves with the wrong sort. I hope you understand what I mean."
"Perhaps I don't quite understand," Tom said simply, refraining from glaring at the woman's face. "What sort of 'negative influences' are you referring to, Miss Craignell?"
"Oh, you know," She leaned back into her seat and let go of his hand. He would have to remind himself later that day to wash his hand properly as soon as he was able to leave. However, given the circumstances, it seemed as though the situation he had been caught in was inescapable, if not a bit melancholic. If there were things he absolutely could not stand, it was people who made an unpleasant situation seem pleasant by acting as though they were enjoying themselves. He couldn't stand liars, or those who pretended to be men of truth. Judging by the woman's forced expression, she was of both sorts.
"I've checked through all of the children's files before talking with them, you see, and I must say, for such a charming young boy as yourself to be with someone as unruly and misbehaving like Miss Potter seems a bit…. Odd. Aren't there any other proper boys or girls your age here at Wool's you could stay with instead? Of course," She held her hand up as if to stop him from making any assumptions, which he was already making. "I'm not saying that you should demolish your friendship with Miss Potter, not entirely, but until she learns how to behave, perhaps it would be best to make some new friends."
So, this was the game she was playing? Tom would make sure to play it as well, but with his own rules at hand.
"I see," he said slowly, not letting his smile slip even for a moment, but there was a darker twist to it now. "You are suggesting that I find someone else to accompany until Harry has been, in other words, trained suitably. Is that so?" He didn't know why, but something about how the woman spoke, the way she talked about Harry as if she was a bad influence on him was derogatory, to say the least. He could agree to an extent that Harry was far from being the ideal sort of girl, even a nuisance when she wanted to, and there were occasions where he seriously weighed his options. However, she was an interesting girl to keep around, even if it was just for his own amusement at times, or because she was the only one at Wool's who was capable of preforming the same things which he too could.
Miss Craignell, like many others, was unaware of this fact. It was better like that, but if things came to a worse point, Tom wouldn't hesitate to use them on her if he deemed them necessary to use.
"I'm just being practical, Tom. I'm sure you understand," she said. "But I hardly understand why someone as talented as yourself ought to be around such a girl as her."
"Then perhaps you don't need to understand, Miss Craignell," Tom's voice had dropped to a cold point, even if his own smile was just as confident as ever. The supervisor's smile dropped completely to a thin line at this and it almost seemed as if she had become afraid. "The relationship between Harry and I are mutually beneficial, I assure you, and while I do agree that she tend to be impulsive, she's by no means a contributing negative influence on me. But I do thank you for stating your opinions, and I bid you a good day unless there's anything else you wish to elaborate?"
Before the supervisor could speak, however, Tom got up from his seat and exited the room, shutting the door behind him without casting a second glance back at the woman. "And here I thought Harry was bothersome," she said with a sigh and left the corridor.
"Seriously, she told you that?" Harry took a big bite of the green apple in her hands, chewing the piece loudly without shutting her mouth. The two of them sat leaned up against the tree-trunk in the garden of the Orphanage. The skies were cloudy and indicated that it would rain in not too long, but the air was warm, the ground beneath them was dry, and there were times when the sun would shine through the cracks the clouds produced when they occasionally parted.
After having told Harry about his encounter with the supervisor, she had laughed a great deal about it afterwards, especially after he had told her about how he thought the woman looked more like a toad when up close rather than at a distance.
"Yes," Tom replied nonchalantly. "Though I do agree that she has a point. You do lack certain abilities."
"The ability to behave yourself."
Harry scoffed and took another bite of the apple. "You don't act surprised."
Before any of them could say anything else, however, the sound of "hem, hem," had them both look at each other puzzled before they glanced up and saw the supervisor standing there over them, the same placid smile on her lips as before. "Hello again, children," she said sweetly, and this time, her eyes fell onto Harry. "Miss Potter, I wish to speak with you in private, if you wouldn't mind?"
"What if I did?" Harry said casually, taking another bite and chewing it even louder than before on purpose. Tom could tell by the way Harry looked as she did this, she was taunting the woman, possibly daring her to make a remark without letting it slip that she wasn't as sugary as she pretended to be. Miss Craignell lips threatened for form a frown but, miraculously enough, it didn't falter. However, neither Tom nor Harry were oblivious to this.
"It will only take a few minutes or so."
"I'm still not interested."
"Harry," Tom intervened, thinking it was better to get it done with. She shot him a look, obviously displeased with his intervention, but nevertheless decided to get up and follow the woman, who seemed pleased with the progress. But as Harry followed after her, she swiftly turned around and shot Tom a rude gesture, mouthing something along the lines of "You're dead."
Tom merely sighed to himself. This ought to be interesting.
"May I have your full name, dear?" Miss Craignell asked, patronizingly as ever. Harry refrained from producing a gagging sound, but tried her best not to make it seem as if she particularly enjoyed the woman's obnoxious presence.
"You know my name already," Harry said, waving her hand lazily at the woman. "You aren't supposed to ask answers you know the question to, isn't that so? They say it's rude."
The woman said nothing but scribbled something down on the notepad, furiously. Her eyes darted from one side to the other numerous times and Harry could tell that what she was writing wasn't anything but exaggerated. If one or two simple sentences was all that was needed to judge her personality, then Harry thought she would've ended up in prison a long time ago, or better yet, the insane asylum. She recalled Mrs Cole having mentioned that a couple of times in the past. After she asked Harry about the ordinary inquiries such as the state of the orphanage and the other children, et cetera, Miss Craignell looked at Harry and continued, whereas Harry didn't bother to conceal any dislike she harboured towards the woman.
"Now, Harry, I've heard from numerous sources that you're a particularly rowdy child,"
"That's a new one." Harry rolled her eyes.
"And that you have a tendency to get into more trouble than most children here at the orphanage."
"Is that a record?" Her head perked up.
Miss Craignell wrote something down on the notepad, muttering, "Displays – enthusiastic – approach – about – causing – problems – for – others."
Harry frowned. "Now you're just exaggerating, lady. I don't go looking for trouble. Trouble usually finds me."
"Let me ask you, Harry, are you aware of what kind of consequences your behaviour might land you with?"
"To some degree."
"The consequences may be… Severe."
Harry closed her eyes and shrugged, not really caring either way. Her dislike towards the woman went further beyond what she initially expected, and from someone like her, who loathed authority figures in general, that was saying something. "That's a shame," she mumbled and leaned into her hand.
The woman continued to scribble something down. "Doesn't – seem – to – fear – consequences – of – behavioural – issues."
Harry smirked. "I would hardly call it an issue, honestly."
"Tell me, what do you think your parents would have thought of you if they how their daughter behaved? Do you think that they would have been proud to be the parents of such a girl like yourself?"
As she heard this, Harry froze where she sat, eyes glued to the table. "You know," she said slowly, not looking up nor losing her composure. "I don't really see how this information is related to your inspection, lady. Aren't you supposed to supervise the well-being of the children and their environment rather than judging them and their friends?" She was able to recall fully well what Tom had told her.
The obnoxious woman suddenly stopped writing, as if having been interrupted by some invisible force. A solid silent moment passed before Miss Craignell put the board firmly down on the table, a loud sound echoing in the room from the impact, and she then proceeded to place a firm hand over Harry's shoulder. "When people address me, Miss Potter, they will either call me Miss Craignell or simply Miss, am I clear?" Her grip around her shoulder tightened to a painful point.
"Let. Go. Of. Me." Harry said dangerously low, glaring daggers at the woman whilst grabbing a hold of the hand that was on her shoulder, forcing it off with a little bit of effort. The woman's chubby fingers were eventually pried off her, but her smile was now turned into a vicious frown.
"I would be careful if I were you, Miss Potter," she seethed cautiously, displaying several teeth, few of which were as ideally white as most would imagine. "Considering your history and your behaviour, I'm at perfect liberty to relocate you in any way I deem fit, should you prove yourself to be a particularly difficult case."
Harry's eyes doubled in size at this. She fell back into her seat and her bangs covered her eyes, concealing them from plain view. Quietly, she said in a voice that reeked with bitterness, "You wouldn't."
Miss Craignell smiled vehemently, letting out a bright laugh. "Let's not discuss what I would and wouldn't do, dear. The government has granted me full privilege as long as I do my work efficiently, and a troubled and misbehaving child like yourself is surely of no priority to them."
Harry said nothing.
"What is it? No more witty remarks from you?" Miss Craignell purred.
Harry still said nothing.
"I'm sure that they would view it as a progress if we were allowed to take you away to a place where they're used to dealing with problematic children. With that said, are you ready to continue with our sessio–" But before she could finish, the board in her hands suddenly snapped in two, along with the sheet attached to it. Miss Craignell let out an exceedingly sharp shriek and bolted in her seat, but didn't stand up.
Harry wasn't looking as this happened, but she understood fully that the board had not been broken due to the fact that the woman's chubby, sausage-like fingers had gripped it too hard. It had happened because of her. Over the course of the years at Wool's Orphanage, whenever a supervisor would arrive and take notes on how the place was functioning, Harry had never met a woman quite like this. Though she hadn't grown any fonder over the other ones in the past, Harry decided that she loathed this one with a passion. In truth, she cared little about the orphanage itself, but if someone, anyone, would dare and threaten to take her away from the one person that she considered to be equal to herself, she wouldn't stand for that, even if she didn't admit it aloud or to herself.
But when she thought about it, would anyone at the orphanage notice her absence if she was indeed taken away? She was no stranger towards the comments of how troubled and unwanted she was, from the staff and the children alike, but she had never taken it personally. Now, however, thoughts began to swirl through her head due to that damned woman's influences.
Would anyone truly notice anything if she was gone? Would Tom? As much as she'd like to deny it, the thought of him easily forgetting her felt…. solemn.
For just a split second, her green eyes fell on top of the vehemently dislikeable woman, but she said nothing. Silence had conquered her voice, but not out of submission.
Nothing would ever be able to have Harry Potter bend over, not even this thing.
"If there's one thing I cannot stand," Her voice turned deliberately cold and as slow as anyone would expect from someone whose temper had just been warranted. "it's bureaucrats. However, liars are people I harbour particular disdain towards, especially those whose true intentions are masked by something else." Her eyes never left Miss Craignell's for even a split moment, and the supervisor's dark eyes widened as she said this. For obvious reasons, Harry was surprised over how delighted she felt upon acknowledging the fact that someone was afraid of her due to other reasons than her sheer abnormality. This woman didn't just possess dubious morals principles which involved exploiting children to her own benefits, but she was someone who pretended to be something she was not, which was, in other words, a liar.
Harry couldn't stand her kind.
"If you wish to write something down," she continued, easing up a bit and leaning casually against the arm of her chair. "You can tell the arseholes who employed you that Wool's Orphanage is the ideal place for a child, that they are dressed properly, the food his high quality, and nothing is amiss. Also tell them that you wish to be reassigned someplace else in the future on your own accord. In other words," She leaned forward in her seat and glared menacingly at the supervisor. "If I ever see you around here again, you will regret it."
At first, Miss Craignell said nothing and simply stared into space as if her attention had been captured by something else. Her eyes seemed empty and hollow like the abyss of an ocean, but soon enough, she picked up her pencil again and began to scribble down the instructed words on the torn piece of paper in front of her as if she didn't have any objection, which she didn't. Her orders had been made clear, whether she wished to follow them or otherwise. With that, Harry got up from her seat and exited the room, not looking back even once before she shut the door behind her.
For reasons unknown to her, there had been placed a heavy weight on her chest.
After the supervisor had left that day with surprisingly positive remarks about the place and children, they were all feeling the same kind of relief, the orphans and the staff alike. It seemed as though Miss Craignell had left in a hurry shortly after having spoken with Harry, and though many others didn't take any note of this, Tom wasn't as naïve as them. He had seen the way Harry was looking as she exited the room, and he could tell that there was something wrong.
"Am I supposed to feel concerned due to your lack of appetite or are you simply thinking, as unlikely as it seems?" Tom asked sardonically and proceeded to take a bite of his food, eyeing the Potter girl next to him in the corner of his eyes. Ever since Harry had returned from her meeting with the unbearable woman, he had instantly taken notice to how distant and quiet she had seemed, and coming from someone like Harry, it was as unlikely as Mrs Cole's wrinkles disappearing.
Harry played with her food, letting out an occasional sigh. "It's nothing. Don't bother asking."
Tom raised an eyebrow. Harry was rarely someone who kept quiet, and whenever she did, he grew curious. "Was it something that woman said? If so, I didn't imagine that someone like you would take it personal enough to keep quiet about. Don't tell me that you've actually taken her words into personal account? If you have, you're an imbecile."
"Well, thank you for that!" she snapped her head towards him, teeth gritted until it physically ached her jaws. Tom didn't flinch even once whereas some of the other children who were sitting close to them did, and it seemed as if the sound of Harry's voice had caused them all to render to silence. Several pairs of eyes were directed towards them and at this, Harry quickly snapped her head towards them and she growled, "What are you lot looking at?"
On cue, the other children resumed with doing whatever they were doing prior, and though some of them inevitably were still looking, few considered continuing it for long. Harry let out yet another sigh and resumed with playing absentmindedly with her food, repeatedly stabbing it with her fork. Tom narrowed his eyes at her, but not out of suspicion. "Mind telling me why you're so irritable all of the sudden, more so than usually?"
"I'm not irritable," Harry said, her voice sounding much more composed than before though with a hint of salt.
Tom rolled his eyes, though they were much more benevolent now than several moments prior. "Has it anything to do with that woman?"
"You're a terrible liar."
"Harry," Tom put his knife down and finally faced the Potter girl, placing his full attention onto her. She didn't face him in return, as her green eyes seemed glued onto her food without flickering to him even once or indicating that she was about to eat it. "You have never held your tongue before, even at the sharpest of remarks, so why are you behaving so docile now?"
He could spot from the corners of her mouth that she was willing to say something, but for each time the faintest ray of hope to hear her voice appeared, she would choose to close it again. At first, he believed that it would be best to leave her be, but then, after what felt like hours of silence, Harry turned to face him, her expression dull and her eyes somewhat…. melancholic. "Tom," she finally spoke, her voice barely above the volume of a whisper. "If I was to disappear, would you notice?"
That question had him freeze just as he was about to take another piece of his food. "Where is this coming from?" he asked. Harry merely shrugged.
Tom had never thought about it like that, or in other words, he had never thought about a world where he wouldn't be constantly bothered with the Potter girl's antics. For years now, he had always found himself near her, whether intentionally or not. In the beginning, he could care less about her and viewed her as nothing more than a bother, just like he viewed all the other children at the wretched orphanage. However, when he discovered that she could do the same things he could, talk to snakes, make people hurt if they hurt her really badly, control animals without prior training required, his interest in the girl perked.
As the years had gone by, he had only stayed by her side because she served as a useful substitute to a source of entertainment. In spite of her reckless demeanour and lack of reason from time to time, he had never been annoyed with her to the point where he truly desired her permanent absence. Maybe it just had to do with the fact that she was different like himself, but a place without her…. To him, it didn't seem like a possibility anymore. Whether it had something to do with his sentimentality kicking in or something else, he didn't know it at the time.
He said nothing for a moment, not knowing quite what to say at first. Then, he turned to look forward, staring into the air and delving deep into thought. "If you were to disappear," he began, still not looking at her. The words he muttered next didn't almost make the path to his vocals, but he didn't stop. "The world would be…. Unbearably tedious."
For the first time in what felt like a long one, Harry lifted her head and turned to look at him, an amalgamation of surprise and what seemed like appreciation was written over her face. Tom appeared not to notice and proceeded to take another bite of his food, closing his eyes as he chewed.
"Well, in that case," Harry lifted her fork again and decided to take a bite of her own food herself. "If you were to disappear, the rest of the world wouldn't be much fun for me either."
Unbeknownst to either of them at the time, those words that were exchanged would stick with them for longer than any of them anticipated.
I don't suppose I need to explain the inspiration behind Claudia Craignell's character. As for her surname, it's derived from the maiden name of said character's mother, Cracknell.