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His second birthday at Hogwarts was equally as underwhelming as the first, but this time his present hoard had tupled[1] in size. Owls from various families both in Slytherin and not had graced his table during meal times and delivered delectables from all across Europe. He even had some fanmail, of all things, from normal witches and wizards who had heard all about the trial (something which Tom had begun to feel was dying down), and who wished to know where to send Ximena's gift, for every time they tried to send something, it was always sent back: their owl not being able to locate her. Once she was back at school, the letters had arrived in a quick fury, and left her half buried at the front of the Slytherin table line, looking like she had never seen so much paper and presents in her life, which Tom guesses is very accurate.

Unlike his own hoard of letters from those who had kept up with the trial, however, more than a good fistful of hers were howlers. Heeding the advice he had received from Hedwig, Tom had scanned his mail thoroughly for any jinxes and unusual magical signatures. Out of, say, a hundred, he would have guessed that five or so were negative or meant him harm. In contrast, Ximena seemed to have a negative to positive ratio of sixty to one-hundred. He had watched as Elle, Martha, and Nemesis helped sort through a good portion of the mail before finally giving into Ximena's request to simply get rid of it all...Even if there were good packages within the bunch. This went on for the full day before Slughorn had had enough harassment of one of his students, and cast a proper repelling charm for Ximena's mail.

As usual, Ximena had appeared easily detached from the situation; the novelty of being (quite literally) buried in letters worn off after about twenty seconds. Tom can't understand her level of passivity. The idea of letting events wash over you without a fight. He knows she has fight in her. He's seen it. You just can't be a Slytherin without fight. It's impossible.

He didn't (and doesn't) expect Ximena to invoke a journey of retribution against the correspondence that meant her harm, but...Shouldn't it be in the back of her head? The want to expel justice on those who have wronged her? It's a natural and fair way to feel...It can't just be him who feels that way.

Tom wonders if she remembered it was his birthday this past New Year's Eve.

Several other Slytherins, as mentioned, had remembered. He's set aside the various birthday and holiday gifts in a safe place (with a hex trap set in case anyone gets any ideas), sorting them by level of usefulness (the candy is eaten but useless. The books are read and useful). When he sets early to bed, he'll take them out and mull over a text behind the privacy of his drawn bed curtains. It's close to nostalgic, as he had done similar when he was still at Wool's, a few weeks before departing for Hogwarts for the first time. Settle down in his creaky bed on his flat mattress, turn on the torch, open up one of the secondhand textbooks, and nibble on a snack he had snagged from the kitchen when no one was looking.

The house elves know him well now. Have known him well for the past few months. Know all his favorite treats and meals. More often than not, he doesn't need to search for what he's in the mood for during feeding time because it's almost always prepared for him, appearing just as he sits down to eat. It's excellent service, and it deserves to be rewarded: he doles out compliments to the creatures, and they soak it in as if they were beggars receiving gold. It reminds him of the way his attention affects some of his classmates. Makes him feel like a God.

Of course, not all of his classmates treat him with such reverence. But that's only a matter of time. Many still think age makes them superior to him. They talk down to him like he has trouble understanding simple concepts. Even Elle has fallen victim to this sort of treatment of him: viewing him as a harmless little snake with a fascination for food. Something to be coddled and protected.

Which is why it's disarming seeing how perceptive she can be.

"You've been so quiet during our cooking times, even when Ximena's not here...If something's bothering you, I'm happy to help. It's what I'm here for." Yes, it is, isn't it? Elle is his Puff, and his senior. That's how it's supposed to be.

A pause. He looks up at Elle in the way he does to adults when he's trying to look innocent and vulnerable, "Well," His voice cracks, fuck, and Elle pretends not to have heard it. Instead, she stands at attention, hands moving from her plate to her lap.

He clears his throat and hesitates, not because he's trying to pull an act (well, not just because), but because he genuinely doesn't know how to phrase it, "...Someone is...mad at me." He thinks. She never actually said the words 'I am mad at you' to him, but, "I'm not sure how to fix it." He's tried waiting it out, but he's not actually sure what the appropriate amount of time is to wait for a friend to speak with you again.

Elle hums, and she's never looked more like an elder sister, "Have you tried saying sorry?"


"Whenever my brother or cousin stumble in a relationship, especially close friendships, I find that an apology hardly passes through their mind as reasonable action. Not sure why, really, it would be the first thing that comes to mind for me." He can't relate, "I don't know why it's so hard to ask for forgiveness...But I've seen the two of you before your little, ah, spat--You're speaking about Ximena, right? It's very noticeable. " Really? Because no one's mentioned it thus far, "You two were close, it was like watching two peas in a pod." A hum, "I think...You see, Ximena is more sensitive than you think." That's what he's been lead to believe, and the thought of someone else knowing more about her is...bothersome, "She's still just a child, but I guess we all are. And little things get to us sometimes." Or bigger things, "...When it comes to apologies, it's not about what was done, but the fact that the person who got us upset wants to atone. Usually. At least, that's how I see it."


"Just...apologise?" His tongue almost struggles over the words as they leave his mouth. It's so...simple. Why would someone forgive with just an apology given? Without reparations? Payback? Bribery? Incentive?

"It's hard, I know." Does she, though? "My mama always used to tell me that it's harder to apologize to someone when you don't like yourself very much. And that's true for me."

That's silly. If you don't like yourself, who will? "I like you."

Elle chuckles, shaking her head, "I appreciate that. Friends should like each other." Yes, it's why Ximena being distant from him is such a hindrance to his plans. "I don't think she would tolerate your presence if she didn't like you." That's...debatable. A part of him isn't one-hundred percent sure that she doesn't completely block him out and forget he's there when around.

"Pris?" She calls the familiar house elf, "Would you kindly make some hot chocolate for us, please? Milk for Tom, hot water for me."

He sips the comforting drink, not as good as the one Ximena had so long ago, watching Elle continue the rest of her dish.


Being thirteen isn't much of a difference from being twelve. Upsettingly he still hasn't gotten his growth spurt that's graced a load of other boys at Hogwarts, but he doesn't need height to be intimidating though it would certainly help.

He looks ahead of him at the group of mixed students (and how is it that they're always within his line of sight when he's brooding about them?) where a few third and fourth year boys were standing--Fuck, even some second years are surpassing his height. Evan is an inch taller than him. Katux, Dion, and the rest are a few centimeters above him too. And yet he still has them under his thumb. He leads them when talking together in the halls and is the one to speak for them when a prefect asks what they're up to.

Now if only others would physically look up to him as well as figuratively.

His growing pains aren't pains so much as inconveniences. Overnight, he feels like he grew a whole foot (it was only 4 centimeters), and now the end of his robe lifts up over his ankles, which is apparently entirely improper for a boy his age, and Evan doesn't at all hesitate to say that only boys ages six to nine have robes that fall right above the ankles. The prat. It's not enough that his clothes fit uncomfortably and he doesn't know any incantations to fit them to his body. It's not enough that they're of a visibly lower quality material and of a cut that's long gone out of style.

He has to pretend to be into sewing, and borrows materials from some upperclassmen in the Casting and Textiles class on altering cloth and clothes. Claims it's a personal project. A gift for someone.

When alone in the common room, he lays out the second robe he has for when the one he's wearing is dirty, and mouths the incantation before doing any casting. Practices whisking his wand about in the correct manner that the diagrams show. Swish and a dab. A star pattern and a stab. Mind the material your cloth is cut from. Enunciate.

His first attempt bears fruit, though the sleeves are much longer than need be. Unhindered by this, he cuts off the excess and saves it in his trunk for good measure, singeing the ends of the robe in lieu of any sewing materials. After that, he works at widening the sleeves themselves to loosen them up from their stiff tightness (getting dressed is getting harder every day). At first, he believes that the spell didn't work, up until he lifts up the sleeve itself to try and stretch it out: the magic has made the material elastic in nature rather than go up a size, and for now, that will have to do. He'll fix it when the charm wears off and it returns to being a rigid fabric.

At the bottom hem of his robe, he hesitates: wonders which spell would be best. Just lengthening the fabric wouldn't do any good, his gait has gotten longer since he grew. He'd trip up or feel constrained if the robe's hem kept it's circumference.

Tom moves his want, expanding the hem of the robe by a good few inches before going in and applying the lengthening charm. For good measure, he studies the chapters in the book on adding defensive layers into clothing, and with white chalk, he marks out runic symbols along the seams of his shoulders, back, and breast that are to alert him when an enemy is nearby. On the hem of his robes are anti-tripping sygils. It'll have to do until he can scrounge up a needle and thread.

When he puts the robe back on, it fits well. Looks inconspicuous. He repeats the process, to a neater degree, with his other robe.

He wonders how long he'll have to hide his poverty before he can rise out of it.


The longer he lives, the more Tom finds himself in peculiar situations. Nevermind the situation of having a complete stranger some to visit you in your room at the orphanage and tell you that you're a wizard. At this point, that seems normal. Mundane. This situation weaves together threads he never thought would be tangled up in each other.

He looks up and around the table he claimed in the library, at the furthest corner in the east wing, deep in the Defense section. Starting from his right, counter-clockwise, is a line up of a strange assortment of witches: Hedwig, Evan, Nemesis, Mali, Adam, Ximena, and Martha (he remembered her name this time). It had started when Tom was minding his own business, sifting through some study material. Adam had shown up with Mali in tow--The two talking about music of all things. One thing lead to another--Ximena joined their group (searching for her Puff). As did Martha. Nemesis followed suit, and soon after, so did Evan and Hedwig.

As arrogant as it sounds, he feels akin to a star: his gravity attracting others around him. Even if he's not the leader in this conversation. Even if he's only listening. Waiting. Observing.

"--Every week it's something new with y'all here" Adam gives out a heavenly laugh. He can practically feel Ximena's heart pattering at the sound of it, "House conflicts and duels, sacred blood and allegiances...I was serious when I asked if y'all ever play. My offer to lead a game of soccer is still up."

"Soccer?" Nemesis questions.

"Football." Martha offers.

"Chasers only, broomless Quidditch." Mali corrects, and the other purebloods at the table understand.

It's then that everyone at the table seems to realize that not everyone shares the same blood status--Or even the same class. Finally. It's taken them long enough. There's then a strange tension that rises: where half of the people aren't aware of the tension at all, and the other half is trying to figure out if the tension is worth being tense over. The people who are worried don't realize that the others don't have ulterior motives. They're harmless. The tension is harmless.

"Sacred Twenty-Eight still causing melodrama?" Adam asks.

"It's certainly thrown lots of proposed engagements off." Nemesis sighs, "Selwyn's heir is demanding a better fiancé than the one they have, for example."

Evan snorts, "Typical. Not honoring a contract is just like a Selwyn--You don't have any contracts drawn up for you yet, right Nemesis?"

Tom notices her stiffen a bit before she answers, "Not at all. My family is a little more relaxed with such things." She clears her throat, "I'm, of course, expected to fulfill my duty as a witch of noble blood, but my father has a soft spot for me." Her tone of voice lightens up at the thought, "I am his youngest, after all."

Hedwig rolls her eyes. Mali and Evan chuckle.

"I suppose it'll be your children that he spoils rotten then, as opposed to the rest of your sisters?" Evan says, and Tom can't pin down the tone his voice takes on. Is it condescending or assuming? Is he relating to her or hoping for a particular answer?

"Well," Nemesis flushes, "I mean--I don't want to say I'm the favorite...A seventh daughter doesn't often have much to pass on to her children, does she? Unless she marries well."

Tom keeps from scoffing. 'Doesn't have much' for witches of Nemesis' class translates to enough to feed, house, and clothe a family of six in London for ten years, he's sure.

"More than what a seventh Rosier daughter would have." Evan comments, the non-purebloods looking on with interest, "You Fawleys pool your resources together, correct? Very communal, like the Blacks. My family isn't like that. Everyone is expected to be a separate conjugal family under one name."

"A confederacy." Mali titles, intrigued, "Separate affairs until you need to band together."

"A bit more political than I was going for, but yes." Evan almost looks affronted at being addressed by Mali--Tom remembers then that he's the only Slytherin he knows without a Puff. Does his distaste for other houses spread to them as well, regardless of tradition?

He continues, "When I marry and father children, I'm expected to tend to them alone, and leave the rest of my extended family to their business."

"Family full of love I see." Adam teases, and Evan laces his fingers together on the table, almost defensive.

"Love comes in all forms." The thought of Evan lovingly calling his parents Papa and Mummy is a foreign one, though, "The Rosier way is through support and respect of privacy. Once my children are grown and out of the house, their lives are their own."

"That's the dream--The way it should be." Hedwig nods her approval, much to the amusement of the two upperclassmen at the table, "Stay out of my fucking business, and all shall be merry."

"You wish to deny Mr. and Mrs. Acwellan the delights of knowing their grandchildren, then?" Evan comments.

"I wasn't raised to be a mother, I was raised to usurp. Thank Gods."

Nemesis frowns, "You don't want to be a mother?"

"Fuck no."

Mali and Adam don't hide their cackle. Evan raises a brow at Hedwig's claim.

"I was raised to be a mum." Martha shares, her hands folding over each other, not looking offended at Hedwig's aversion to motherhood, "Cook and clean and serve with a smile on my face. To go forth and multiply as the good Lord says." She winks at Ximena, who stifles a smile. Catholics. "It's hard to say if I really want to have a family or if it's just the good ol' way I was raised. Still, I gotta admit, babies are cute little buggers."

"Only because you don't have to take care of them." Mali says, pointing a finger, and the purebloods nod their heads along.

"No, I do!" Martha shoots back, "I'm the oldest daughter, so I'm practically a second mom." She starts counting on her fingers, "My siblings, my cousins, my nieces and nephews...I've helped raised and watch them all."

"Oh Baker," Nemesis looks scandalized. Terribly worried, "That's awful!"

"Why?" Adam tilts his head, "My family does the same. I've been known to watch some lil cousins when adults are busy drinkin'. My older sister and I have changed more diapers than I can count."

"You're both being treated like damn house elves." Hedwig interjects, "Do you at least get rewarded for your work?"

Martha laughs, "That's so silly--Communal upbringing is normal! We don't have the funds for servants or nannies, why would we trust our children to strangers when we can do the job ourselves?"

Adam nods, "It takes a village. Besides, it builds grit. Prepares us for our own families and all that." He leans back in his chair, "At this rate, I'm ready to head an entire tribe--Which is exactly how big my mama wants my family to be." He snorts, and Tom remembers his comments on his mother from a few weeks ago.

"Ugh, your mom's askin' for grandchildren already too?" Mali chuckles, either not noticing or ignoring the bemused looks on the other purebloods' faces, "It's like the moment you hit puberty, they strike." ('Well yes, what are they supposed to do?' Whispers Evan into Nemesis' ear) "I didn't realize communal raising happened outside my sphere. You wanna be a pop, Adam?"

"I guess." He shrugs, "I like kids. And I'm good with them. Guess I just wanna have some more fun before I settle down."

"Ugh, you're such a boy." Martha teases, lightly slapping Adam's arm.

"Such a Muggleborn boy." Evan corrects, though Tom's not so sure there aren't warlocks who feel similar, "If I started feeling that way, my grandmother would appear before us all and sever my head from my body."

It's not a joke, but the people at the table still share a laugh at the imagery.

"It's always duty with you guys." A shake of Adam's head, "What about you, Gat, you're in the middle of all of us here: have plans to build up that Riddle Dynasty?"

To Tom, the idea of procreation, while necessary for the survival of the (oftentimes pitiful) human race, feels messy. How anyone in the current political climate (Muggle or Wizard) can think that bringing a child into the world is a good idea is beyond him. There's already too many overcrowded rooms at Wool's (his not included thanks to his reputation) and too few workers to spread over such large responsibilities. It's hard to imagine how much worse it'll get once the casualties from the war start bringing in new orphans and foundlings. Children whose families can no longer afford to keep.

People shouldn't have children if they die before getting to raise them. If they don't have the means to care for them.

Still, to be safe, he gives a shrug, "I haven't thought about it." He's barely thirteen, there'll be plenty of time to dodge such frivolities later.

"Aye, I can fucking see it now: Tom Riddle changing nappies and burping crying babes over his shoulder." Hedwig snorts, switching up her crossed feet on the table, "Raised Muggle or not, you wouldn't be able to handle another living being without the help of a house elf or three--You're not like these fuckers." Her chin gestures to Martha and Adam.

"There's no shame in using house elves, Hedwig, I was raised by them as were all my sisters." Nemesis, affronted, counters Hedwig's teasing, "I'm sure Tom would be a fine father."

Quietly, he's not so sure if he imagined it, he hears Hedwig scoff. He ignores it.

"And you, 'Mena?"

Eyes turn to look at the silent witch. More and more she looks like she's getting properly accustomed to attention.

A hesitation. Unintentionally, he leans in.

"I don't really know. The idea of having a family is nice, but I was groomed to become a postulant and nun." Her fingertips drum on her lips, "Perhaps if I adopted. Or had one child. It would be easy to support a two-person household."

"--What do you mean?" Nemesis sounds worried, but when does she not? "You...You would be a parent by yourself?"

Ximena nods, not seeing the issue, and not seeing any reason to continue talking. A silence falls over their table. Nobody can ruin a mood quite like Ximena.

"Adoption is a fine idea." Tom finds himself saying before he can even think, "The orphanage I grew up in is crowded as it is without people coming to look for children to replace their lost ones. Or a live-in servant. It's noble. Wanting to give one of them a real family."

Evan and Nemesis quickly agree, followed by Martha and Adam. Hedwig doesn't make a crack at a joke, and Mali hums in thought.

Ximena, rather than looking grateful for the smoothing over of the topic, looks surprised that he addressed her. As if she had forgotten he was...No, he doesn't want to think about that. She's just surprised that he acknowledged her. After all, it's been a good few weeks since she told him to…

The conversation sparks up again. But Tom can't hear what they're saying. It sounds muffled to him. All he can concentrate on is the steady, fragile eye contact he holds with Ximena.
♠ ♠ ♠
[1] A word I'm not "using right", but that's how language evolves. In math, you go single, double, triple, quadruple, and so on, and when you get to the numbers that aren't used as often, one usually has to guess the correct word for it by finding the Latin prefix for the number and adding on 'tuple'. I wanted to use tuple to signify that Tom's presents had grown significantly since last time, but he doesn't know how much exactly. It's a hyperbole phrase.

I know it's popular to make Tom hella tall and shit, but the thought of him being short as a child/teen is hilarious to me. Also like...if he's seriously underfed/malnourished as I've written him to be, it only makes sense. Also also: couples where the lady is taller than her man are best...I mean, if these two ever get together...ehem

I had a whole long section where I wrote in detail how the group at the end came to be made, but honestly, it was just fluff. Just filler. It was nonsense. This chapter was going to be shorter, but I felt like I was cheating y'all out of something so...

It's come to a point where either I update with short chapters but more frequently, or longer chapters, but beyond my personal limit of 4 weeks...I think I'll try to write more frequently, but we'll see what happens.

Another oops I forgot to mention: theaspiringcynic pointed out that Ravenclaw's animal isn't a falcon, it's an eagle…….idk where I got the notion that it was a falcon, but I guess that's just another little divergence for this fic. Or maybe I should just change it now and pretend it's always been like that without actually fixing it in the previous chapters.

FINAL NOTE: I started another fanfic, lmao, it's currently on Quotev,, AO3, and WattPad. It's a typical Sirius has a daughter plot, but you know me, I like to make tropes my own. It's called "The price of this wreath is yourself!", and it's a ficlet style story with short chapters. Check it out (: