Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction based on the Harry Potter universe. All recognizable characters, plots, and settings are the exclusive property of J.K Rowling. I make no claim to ownership.
Acknowledgements: This story was co-written by myself, my editor Fezzik, and my beta Athena Hope. It was sort of a last-minute thing that was thrown together, and it most certainly would not have happened had Fezzik not started it.
For those who haven't read the summary, this is set in an AU. In this universe, Tom Riddle is a girl named Emily who is two years older than Harry, Remus's role was significantly different, there were other changes made to the timeline, and Lord Voldemort is an entirely different person. This isn't meant to be taken super seriously, so please no corrections on continuity errors. They are entirely intentional and were done to more naturally fit the order of events in this story.
Also, writing romance is not my forte, especially in short-form. Any feedback is more than welcome, and I eagerly await all of it.
With that out of the way, I hope you all enjoy, and I wish you all the happiest of holidays!
December 4, 1993
Emily had never liked Christmas, and Hogwarts was bedecked with enough decorations to cover all of England. It looked as though Gryffindor and Slytherin were trying to take over the castle, with red and green battling for dominance at every turn. The only good thing about the season was the snow that blanketed the grounds like thick, ethereal icing. The black lake had already frozen solid, and the streaming sunlight shimmered and shone upon its frozen surface as if it were but a sheet of glass. On days like today, where the snow was falling heavily and the air was crisp from the cold, she liked to sit in the Astronomy tower — legs dangling over the side — and watch the students far below. That had been her Christmastime tradition as far back as she could remember. Sitting alone, watching the other children play.
She whirled around, freezing at the sight before her. Harry Potter stood there, red-faced and covered in snow. He seemed shocked that she would be up here, alone, instead of joining the others or enjoying time out on the grounds.
"I… didn't think you'd be up here. I can leave…"
He turned around, heading for the door. Emily couldn't help but think he looked like a kicked puppy. Or like she had years earlier, before she learned to not feel stung by the rejection of the other orphans she lived with.
He paused, trapdoor half-open.
Dumbstruck, Harry replied automatically. "Ah… Happy Holidays to you too."
He turned and left without another word.
December 11, 1993
The last Hogsmeade weekend of the year had the castle vibrating with excitement and all eligible students were attending. Emily couldn't remember the last time it had been so crowded. The milling students were loud, shouting to be heard by one another over the din. She had wanted to stop by Scrivenshaft's to pick up some new quills, but it was so crowded it wasn't worth the bother. She found herself wandering around the town aimlessly, absentmindedly thinking about her plans — or rather, lack thereof — for the upcoming winter break. She eventually found that she had ended up in front of the Shrieking Shack. To her surprise, she wasn't the only one there.
Potter was sitting on a rock, gazing at the Shack with a vacant sort of expression on his face. His eyes looked clouded, as if he was peering at something only he could see. Clouded by whatever memory he was reminiscing on at the time.
Emily found it oddly intriguing to view — a sort of soft side of him she had never seen before. He didn't even seem to notice her and, for a moment, Emily thought he wouldn't at all. When she drew tentatively nearer, however, pausing when she was close enough to truly appreciate what it was she was doing, he finally looked up. Potter startled a bit, suddenly very aware of his surroundings — all lackadaisical mannerisms wiped from his face as quickly as life was voided upon impact from the Killing Curse.
"Riddle?" he asked, his tone suddenly just as intent as he was vacant a moment earlier. She merely raised an eyebrow, clearly asking a silent question. "I was just enjoying the view of the Shack," Harry said awkwardly.
"Enjoying the view?" Emily was confused, this wasn't exactly the most beautiful scenery around the village.
The Shrieking Shack wasn't quite falling apart, but one could describe it as dilapidated with great accuracy. If everything wasn't nailed shut, she was sure the door would have been blown away by winter storms several years ago. The glass on nearly every window was broken and the once brown paint was now weathered grey and peeling. Though, she supposed, the boarded-up windows did have a certain kind of charm when covered in snow. In a way, it looked somewhat like a very old, very weathered log cabin, if the log cabin in question had been designed to look particularly sinister.
Harry sighed. "Yeah. It's… quiet here. Peaceful. I wanted to be away from people, you know?"
Emily knew exactly what he meant by that — it was the reason she had come, after all — but she had no idea how to properly respond. An admission of that would be far more revealing as to her true nature than she was rightly comfortable with. Especially considering the lack of familiarity between the two of them.
She was a fifth-year Slytherin prefect, whereas Harry was a third-year Gryffindor. Emily had tried to keep a low-key demeanour for much of her time at Hogwarts, except with those who could be of use to her in the future.
Harry Potter, on the other hand, wouldn't know lowkey if it apparated in front of him — in broad daylight no less — and shouted "FIENDFYRE!" for the world to hear. He was the Boy-Who-Lived, after all; the survivor of the Killing Curse, the Gryffindor Golden Boy, and all the other nonsensical things he was called these days. The extent of their previous interactions had been her dragging Draco Malfoy away from Harry by the ear after Malfoy had done something spectacularly idiotic. Slytherin House's reputation needed to be maintained, after all. Come to think of it — how the fuck had Draco Malfoy ever been sorted into Slytherin? Seriously, he had been sorted faster than she had, which was utter nonsense, in her well-educated opinion.
"That's what I had been planning on doing," Emily spoke slowly and with great hesitation, trying to keep her voice as well-modulated as possible, not wanting to show exactly how unsure of herself she really was. It would not do for her persona of perfection to be pierced by a boy like Harry Potter. If someone like Potter saw through her facade, then surely others would be able to as well. It wasn't exactly as though he had shown himself to be the pinnacle of perceptiveness over his two and a half years at Hogwarts.
"You can… uh… sit if you'd like?" Harry offered cautiously, looking anywhere but at the girl standing some ten feet in front of him.
Emily visibly hesitated, pondering whether or not to step closer.
On the one hand, it would mean she had only to deal with one student as opposed to the horde of students milling around Hogsmeade with the subtlety of drunken idiots at 2 am. On the other hand, if she did take a seat near the enigma sitting before her, she would potentially be subjecting herself to a far more… personal conversation. Personal in the sense that a one-on-one discussion tended to be far more in-depth than those that involved conversing with a mob of idiots.
When the pause became long enough to be noticeable, she decided to take the plunge and march forward. She could always just not talk. It would be awkward, but it beat dealing with several hundred idiots all at once. One idiot was something she could deal with — she had vast amounts of practice dealing with them in small groups.
Emily's intense eyes rested upon the Shrieking Shack, seeming to try and penetrate the rough, weathered wood of the hut with her gaze alone.
"What are you looking at?" Harry asked, eyeing her speculatively.
There seemed to be an oddly knowing gleam in his emerald green eyes.
Emily turned her stare upon him, watching as he visibly began to fidget; obviously uncomfortable with her attention. "I see nothing but a neglected building that has likely been subjected to years of childish pranks. Yet, they say it's supposed to be the most haunted place in Britain."
Harry actually laughed, something that took Emily aback and prompted a narrowing of those icy blue eyes. "That's utter bollocks," he said with great amusement, seeming to take joy in her obvious confusion. She could only imagine how baffled her friends would be if they could see her. It was unheard of for her to look anything but all-knowing and in control.
"Tell me, Potter."
"Well, I suppose I could enlighten you…"
Emily's eyes narrowed, before she caught the sparkle in his eyes.
He was teasing her! The nerve of him…
"It all started in September... 1971, I think."
Emily wracked her brain — something about 1971 seemed important, familiar. Ah! Right, Snape!
"Isn't that the year Professor Snape entered Hogwarts?"
"Ah, yeah, he did. You're right." Harry seemed to fold into himself, fidgeting with his hands.
"So. September, 1971?" Emily prompted.
"Right. Four boys were sorted into Gryffindor that year. But one of those boys… he… had a secret. A big one."
Emily was confused. What did this have to do with the Shrieking Shack? "What secret was this?"
"Well, he, uh… hewasawerewolf." The last bit was said so quickly, Emily couldn't understand him.
"He was what?"
"He was… uh… a werewolf."
Emily couldn't help the look of utter shock that spread across her face. A werewolf!? At Hogwarts!? She thought Dumbledore was mental and had been for years, but this… this was utter lunacy! A werewolf as a professor last year was bad enough, but a werewolf as a student!? Allowed to run wild in a school full of magical children!? It would be less dangerous to release a dragon in the school! Well, that might be a slight exaggeration, but still. The things she could do with this information...
Harry could read Emily's thoughts clear as day from her expression. She was dumbstruck, yes, but that quickly melted away, and Harry could see the metaphorical gears turning, trying to spin this to her advantage. He couldn't let her hurt Lupin — he'd never forgive himself.
"He's not dangerous, though!" he blurted out.
"Hm?" Emily turned to face him, eyebrow quirked, smirking. "And you know this… how?"
Shit. She had backed him into a corner — he was trapped — a deer in the headlights. He stared at her as he wracked his brain for an explanation that wouldn't reveal that Lupin had also attended Hogwarts all those years ago.
"How do you know, Harry?" She slid closer to him, maintaining eye contact, a smirk still firmly plastered on her face. Harry could feel his face heating up.
"I… uh, well… that is to say…" he was grasping for any explanation he could.
"Say what, Harry?" He could feel her breath on his ear, see every detail of her ice-blue eyes…
"Gah!" He jerked backwards, trying to put some distance between them. Unfortunately for Harry, he'd sat on the very edge of the rock and fell off, hitting the snow with a gentle poof. Emily loomed over him, looking like a cat that had caught the canary. Then, she did something he didn't expect. She threw back her head and laughed. The moment was short-lived, however, as Emily seemed to realize what she'd done and quickly regained her composure.
She stuck out a hand. "Come on, Potter. The Gryffindors would try to kill me if I left their 'Golden Boy' to freeze in the snow. Besides, you need to finish telling me that story."
Emily might not have noticed, but Harry certainly did. As he took her hand, he realized her cheeks were red — redder than they should have been simply due to cold. He supposed she must be embarrassed about her slip in composure. It wasn't until later that he realised there might have been another reason for her flushed cheeks.
December 12, 1993
The Hogwarts Library
Harry wasn't sure why he was in the library so early. He'd had a nagging feeling ever since his interaction with Emily Riddle in Hogsmeade, and he wasn't sure where else to find the answers he sought.
Harry had always been good at reading people — expressions, emotions, the whole deal. It was a necessity for life with the Dursleys. But he didn't know what to make of his own feelings. He'd always disliked the company of others; crowds made him uncomfortable and the energy in Gryffindor tower was frequently overwhelming. But here he was, actively wanting to be in someone's presence. She made him feel… he wasn't even sure how to describe it.
It wasn't what he felt around Ron and Hermione, the Weasleys, or even the Gryffindor quidditch team. With them, it was a weary acceptance; he'd long since accepted they weren't going to hurt him. With Emily, though… he wanted to seek out her presence. So, he'd gone to the library to investigate — and hopefully run into one Emily Riddle.
She was one of the most studious people he knew. Not quite as obsessive as Hermione, from what he could tell. Emily wasn't seen in the library nearly as often for one thing. Of course, this could have simply been because she was more Slytherin about it and more subtle than Hermione — who was about as unnoticeable as a Bludgeoning Curse on a Pepper-Up Potion. They were very different though. Hermione studied harder than anyone he knew whereas Emily — from what he could tell he wasn't in her year at school, after all — was more naturally talented than Hermione. She understood it all without needing to study every possible minute.
He knew very little about Emily; far less than he knew about his muggleborn friend. One of the few things he did know about her, however, was that he was likely to find her in the library. Perhaps, this was simply a reflection of how little he knew about Emily. He knew she was studious — and that was about all he knew about her, really. That and the fact she often hid behind an impenetrable facade.
There was something different about her, though. Aside from the aforementioned facade and magical ability, that was. Being around her yesterday in Hogsmeade had given him an odd sort of feeling. He certainly hadn't planned on telling her about Remus, or the Shrieking Shack. She had always seemed unapproachable — ever since he had started Hogwarts he had heard tales of 'the coldest Slytherin' — yet approaching her had given him a sort of thrill that he didn't often experience.
It wasn't all that different to trekking through the traps at the end of his first year to protect the Philosopher's Stone. Admittedly, it was not quite the same feeling as fighting a basilisk with your best friend's sister's life on the line. Though, the adrenaline was there in all three situations. It probably said a lot about Harry that interacting with a pretty, teenage girl was up there with chasing Lord Voldemort through a set of traps laid out by some of the best witches and wizards in the country — if not the world.
People had always been difficult for Harry. It was hardly surprising, seeing as he had grown up largely deprived of any human interaction that didn't end with him getting yelled at or worse. It was still depressing in an odd sort of way, but he took solace in the fact he had been getting better. Hell, he was currently seeking out the company of a girl he didn't know. If that didn't show a certain level of progression from the small, meek boy he had been at the beginning of his first year, he didn't know what did.
He figured he only had about a fifty percent chance of actually finding Riddle in the library, but it was worth a shot. She definitely frequented the cavernous room from time to time, but she was often in other places. According to the Hogwarts rumour mill, nobody knew the castle better than the Weasley twins, Filch, or Emily Riddle. She could plausibly be at any of a vast number of places at any time of the day.
He appeared to be in luck today.
Large windows dominated one of the library's walls, casting bright, winter light into parts of the room close enough for the sun's rays to touch. The shelves stretched on and on, as did the work tables. The room was massive, and there were areas so far away from the windows that the winter light barely reached them.
Riddle was sitting in one of these areas; a dark corner lit mostly by torches. The only remnants of natural light that somewhat reached this out-of-the-way corner were long, ominous shadows, though the lowly-lit torches in this particular corner probably had as much to do with that as the bright glow of the sun outside did.
Books were chaotically strewn all about the area — not just on the table but all over the chairs and floor as well. It looked as though a tornado had torn through the library and tossed all of the books caught up in its destructive winds all in this one corner. Riddle herself was leant forward, her entire attention appearing to be on the ancient-looking, leather-bound tome in front of her. Her delicate, pert nose was nearly touching its weathered pages, and one corner of her lip was gently drawn between her teeth as she focused. Emily didn't even notice Harry's approach until he awkwardly cleared his throat, snapping her out of her musings with a jolt.
Her head shot up at once and her eyes looked wild. She didn't immediately reach for her wand, but Harry could feel the very air churning and he swore he could hear a crackling as if it were being supercharged with something. Harry suspected magic had something to do with it, but he wasn't exactly sure how.
"Don't do that!" Emily snapped in a hissing whisper, glaring at him as though he had just punched her mother in the face and broken her nose.
Harry shuffled awkwardly. "Sorry," he muttered, looking down towards his feet. He had entered the library with one goal in mind, and it appeared as though he had bottled it already.
Riddle seemed to take a deep, centring breath before slowly shaking her head. She had an odd expression on her face, but Harry couldn't read her. "What is it you want, Potter?"
"I… was just wondering if I could join you?"
Riddle's expression was suddenly much easier to read — it was now unmistakably one of great confusion. "Pardon?"
"I was wondering if I could join you."
Her eyes found his, and Harry felt like she was x-raying him with her stare alone. "You don't even have a book, Potter."
"I do," he assured hastily, indicating the bag on his back.
Her expression didn't change as she watched him intently, but several of the books floated up off one of the chairs nearest her and dropped onto the floor with quiet thuds. Harry's eyes were wide. She hadn't even used her wand!
"Well?" asked Riddle, her lips curving upwards in what Harry would only much later learn was satisfaction, "sit, if you'd like."
He paused for less than a second before nearly tripping over himself to get to the now-empty seat.
They sat in silence for quite some time. He had taken a book on duelling out from his bag and was half reading it. Half of his attention was focused on the girl sitting across from him, her entire attention once more appearing to be on the book in front of her. Her eyes were so intense as they swept rapidly over the page, seeming to consume the information with the same fervour one might expect of a black hole hungrily devouring helpless photons of light.
After a considerable period of time had elapsed and Emily had gone through no less than three books, she slammed her current reading material shut with a resounding snap and sighed deeply, pulling Harry's attention away from the book he was only half reading anyway.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"Nothing you could be of help with."
Harry frowned deeply. "Try me?"
She rolled her eyes. "I'm researching magic that's beyond NEWT level. No offence, but I don't think a third year is going to be able to help me with this."
She clearly decided to humour him, though her voice was practically dripping with doubt and skepticism. "I'm trying to find out how to cast the Patronus Charm. I read mention of it in a book ages ago, but I haven't actually found any instructions on how to cast it. All I know is that it's esoteric magic, which the library here is quite light on. I might have to ask Professor Slughorn for a note into the restricted section."
"You're trying to learn how to cast the Patronus Charm?" She nodded. "I can show you, if you'd like?"
Harry was grinning like a madman, and Riddle looked as though she had just suffered a concussive blow to the head. "You… what!?"
"I can cast it, kind of. I wrote to Lupin earlier this year asking if he knew a way to fight the dementors. They… make me see and hear things I'd really rather not. Anyway, he wrote back with instructions on how to cast the charm, so I've been practicing ever since."
Remus Lupin had been a good friend of Harry's parents. After his introduction to the magical world, the ragged man had shown up one afternoon at Privet Drive in the summer between his first and second year. The Dursleys had been horrified by his appearance, and they had only grown even more mortified when Remus had asked to see Harry, and whether or not he might take the boy out to lunch. It had been a fairly long-winded argument, but the Dursleys had eventually conceded, and Harry found himself out with the werewolf on several days that summer.
It was apparently somewhat due to these interactions that Remus became the Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor that September, and he had served excellently in the position right up until the end of Harry's second year. Before him, Professor Quirrell had held the position for a number of years, but he'd taken a one-year sabbatical and been ensnared by Lord Voldemort, which had led to him not returning as the professor for Harry's second year. Remus had been outed as a werewolf by Snape last June in what Harry and most of the other students viewed as a rather cold-hearted attempt to snatch the Defence Against the Dark Arts position, one the man had coveted for some time.
His ploy had been effective, as he was teaching the subject this year. Harry despised Snape with a passion but as much as that was true, he couldn't deny the man was good at his job. Not better than Remus had been, but definitely a good deal better than Quirrell — at least for the one year Harry had spent in his class. Dumbledore had brought back Horace Slughorn to teach Potions in Snape's place. He had apparently been a professor at Hogwarts for years, but he had retired about a decade earlier and lived a fairly lavish life ever since.
Harry wasn't overly surprised Emily seemed confident she could get a permission slip from Slughorn that would allow her access to the restricted section. The man had been eating out of the palm of her hand ever since his first day on the job.
"You… can cast the Patronus Charm?" Emily asked in a very carefully modulated voice.
"Well… mostly. I can't actually get it to take the shape of an animal yet, but I can sort of get a silvery shield. Lupin reckons it would be strong enough to hold off at least one dementor long enough for me to get away from it."
Emily fixed him with a hard look. "Tomorrow night," she said with authority. "Meet me in the dungeons near the entrance to the Slytherin common room." She held up a hand before he could object. "Don't argue; I know you're aware of the entrance's location."
Normally, Harry wouldn't be at all happy being ordered around like this, but he nodded with a surprising amount of eagerness. He had entered the library with the desire of spending time with this new enigma, and he had succeeded to a greater extent than he had ever imagined. Their last interaction even seemed to have broken the ice, as they spoke quietly for the next five or so minutes before Harry reluctantly left the library in high spirits.
All in all, that had gone much better than he had expected.
December 13, 1993
The Potions Classroom
Harry had always been rubbish at Potions, and something told him that fact was unlikely to ever change. He would simply have to settle for hopefully being one day less rubbish at the subject, if his assumptions were indeed correct. Potions as a whole just didn't come at all naturally for him, and the shrinking solution, in particular, was an absolute bitch.
An absolute, undeniable pain in the arse.
He had spent the entire class trying to concoct a passable potion, but he had been having very little success. He wasn't at all surprised when, at the end of class, Slughorn's voice called out to him.
"Harry, m'boy! You wouldn't mind staying behind for a moment, would you?" Harry shook his head, trying to not show exactly how much he did actually mind.
This wasn't the first time Slughorn had asked him to stay behind after a less than stellar performance. He seemed to have the delusional idea that just because his mother had apparently been some sort of genius in the subject that he, Harry, should also be a prodigy or something. Every time Harry brewed anything more substandard than his normal, admittedly rather poor attempts at a potion, Slughorn would call for him to stay behind and provide him with encouragement and tips to progress further. It never worked, but the man never seemed deterred, and he hadn't given up yet.
"You wanted to speak with me, Professor?" Harry asked after all of the other students had vacated the classroom.
Slughorn chortled. "Harry, Harry, don't be so tense, m'boy. You're not in trouble or anything of the sort."
Harry blinked. "I'm not?"
"No, no, not at all. You were far from the only one to struggle today, you know?"
It was true. The room was blanketed by a number of putrid stenches stemming from the many failed attempts at brewing. The air was thick with the rancid vapour of many failed potions, all of them coalescing and conjoining, forming something truly nauseating.
"I just wanted to pass along an invitation," Slughorn was saying.
Harry's heart sank at once. He had been doing his best all year to avoid these 'Slug Club' meetings, but he instinctively knew that he wouldn't be so lucky this time. Primarily because it would likely be on Friday — the last day of term — which meant he physically had no excuses not to attend that night.
"An invitation, sir?"
"An invitation to the little gathering I'll be putting together this Friday night." Harry internally cursed, but he tried to take a page out of Riddle's book and keep a blank facade in place. Merlin, why was he thinking of Riddle right now? Gah! "Your schedule should be free for this one?" asked Slughorn.
Harry internally sighed, but nodded. "Yes, sir."
"Excellent, marvellous, truly spectacular!" Slughorn clasped Harry on the shoulder, as a proud father might do to their son after they had scored particularly well on an end-of-year exam or something similar. "I'm sure you'll have no trouble getting a date for the occasion."
Harry's jaw fell so fast he was somewhat surprised it didn't clatter to the floor. "A d-d-date, Professor?"
"Well, of course, m'boy! Why, it wouldn't be proper to show up to such a gathering without one. There's going to be all sorts of interesting folks about. Important people, Harry; very important indeed."
This party had swiftly turned from something undesirable to something Harry legitimately feared. He was sure Slughorn had waited until now to tell him solely because it would ensure he didn't have enough time to worm his way out of attending, but this… this was not going to be fun.
Harry had no idea what the hell to do, let alone who to ask to go with him. How in the flying fuck was someone supposed to just, ask somebody to be their date?
And why the hell did the only face that swam to the forefront of Harry's thoughts belong to a tall, pale, Slytherin prefect — one who wouldn't attend such a thing with Harry if her very life depended on it?
Merlin, what the fuck had Harry gotten himself into?
Later that night, in an abandoned classroom located in the dungeons…
The Hogwarts dungeons had a slightly different feel to the rest of the castle. The air was permeated with an ominous sort of atmosphere that set them apart. The low flickering of the torches and the long, sinister-looking shadows they cast only added to the eerie mood.
Harry certainly felt every bit of it as his footsteps echoed loudly against the ancient stone floor. With every step closer he took to the seemingly mundane wall that subtly concealed the hidden entrance to the Slytherin common room, he felt more and more uncomfortable.
This was an entrance he, a Gryffindor, was absolutely not supposed to know about. If Slytherin House knew he could stumble into their common room nearly at will, he would have to be ready to defend himself from attacks around every corner. Slytherins were notoriously private and ruthless when it came to keeping secrets. That thought also caused another to rise — one he hadn't thought on since the matter had first come up in the library.
How the fuck was Emily aware of his own knowledge pertaining to the Slytherin common room?
He didn't think about it for long, partially because cognitive thought seemed to be insurmountably challenging when one's anxiety was rising faster than a surging Firebolt. It also didn't help that when he did draw near to the aforementioned wall, he noticed the girl he was searching for was waiting for him. She didn't really look any different than usual, but there was an odd sort of intensity in her eyes. From the very limited amount Harry knew about her, he was pretty sure the fact he knew the Patronus Charm and she didn't bothered her about as much as the new-found information regarding Sirius Black bothered him.
Wordlessly, Emily led him down several corridors — many of which he hadn't seen before — and into an abandoned classroom so deep in the dungeons, Harry suspected they weren't far above the catacombs he'd fought Quirrell in at the end of his first year.
As soon as they entered the room, Emily withdrew her wand in a whirl of motion and aimed it at the door. Without need for words nor wand movements, she fired off spells towards the door in succession so rapidly, her casting might as well have been gunfire.
"The Patronus Charm," she prompted.
"Right," said Harry, suddenly very uncomfortable now that the actual moment had come and he was the centre of Emily's attention. "The Patronus Charm. The incantation is Expecto Patronum, but the tricky bit is what you do while casting."
"It's esoteric," said Emily, "so I'm sure there is something involved pertaining to emotions."
Harry nodded. "You need a happy memory. It has to be a strong one, too. Just something that's positive isn't good enough. It has to be genuinely joyful."
Emily's frown spoke of more implications than Harry could ever possibly glean as he demonstrated the correct wand movement a number of times.
Finally, she raised her own wand and took a centring breath. "Expecto Patronum!"
Silvery vapour flowed from the tip of her wand, twisting and coalescing into a shapeless blob of pure energy. Slowly, the blob began to shift in shape until it resembled the same silvery shield he himself had conjured.
He looked as though he'd been slapped.
She had done that on her first attempt? Really?
Despite his own incredulous and awe-filled feelings on the matter, Emily did not look at all pleased. "It's supposed to be an animal, isn't it?"
"It eventually is, yeah. You've still managed as good as I can do on your first go, though."
She didn't look at all relieved. "It's not good enough," she said, raising her wand again.
Her next attempt failed to produce an animal, as did the one after that, and the next. On and on the process went. With each attempt she considered a failure, Emily's facade began to slip more and more. It was clear the partial success was not at all fulfilling and that her inability to perfect the charm was making her mental.
Even Riddle had to eventually admit defeat as they both left the room several hours later, one looking far more bothered than the other.
"You're going to keep practicing until you get it, aren't you?"
Riddle raised a challenging eyebrow in question. "Are you not going to?"
He knew immediately that she had him, so he only nodded, not wanting to verbally concede the point. "I just can't get the memory bit."
There was an uncomfortable silence before Riddle spoke, surprising him with her soft, quiet tone. "Me neither."
Harry glanced sideways at her. Her visage was completely impassive, but the spark of frustration in her eyes was no longer there. Instead, there was an oddly vacant look.
Harry's heart rate quickened as they drew nearer to the Slytherin common room — the point where he knew he would be leaving her. There was a brief moment during which he thought it would have been thematically appropriate to do something. He wasn't exactly sure what, but the odd, wistful look in her eyes had struck a chord within him.
What he actually wound up doing was certainly not one of the responses that was at all thematically appropriate, and it was possibly more Gryffindor than charging at a giant, killer snake with a sword the length of one of the thing's fangs.
Riddle's head snapped towards him. "What?" she asked in incredulous confusion.
Harry had taken the plunge now. There was nothing for it; he would have to continue on his current trek.
He took a very deep breath, resembling in that moment a muggle diver who was about to attempt the deepest dive mankind had ever seen. "Do you want to go to Slughorn's party with me?"
At first, Riddle didn't answer. They had drawn so close to her common room that Harry was actually quite sure she wouldn't answer at all. Right before she stepped through the entrance, she turned back to him with a blank expression and gave him a quick nod. She disappeared from sight a mere second later.
Harry's heart would have leapt into his throat had he not been so utterly confused.
What in the name of Merlin had just happened?
December 17, 1993
The Office of Horace Slughorn
Harry and Emily walked in tandem down to Slughorn's office in a very awkward fashion. Harry felt far too nervous for such an occasion. He wasn't sure what was louder to him — the echo of Emily's heels clicking against the smooth stone floor of the castle, or the sound of his own heart beating and the way he could hear the blood rushing in his ears.
When they did get to the office in question, Slughorn was waiting for them, resplendent in deep, emerald robes. As he saw the two of them, his eyes lit up like a miner who had struck gold.
"Oh, what do we have here?" His eyes were dancing with an odd sort of light as he beamed at the two of them. "Two of my star pupils coming together? Excellent!" The two of them exchanged hesitant looks. They were pretty sure the professor was too caught up in his state of euphoria to even notice. "Come now, come now," he said, "so many interesting people for you to meet."
Harry's nerves only intensified as a solid block of guilt slowly took form in the pit of his stomach. He wasn't sure how long Slughorn led them around the magically expanded room, introducing the pair to what must have been every semi-important person in Magical Britain. They met authors, theorists, businessmen, politicians, Quidditch players, and even duellists. Harry was pretty sure meeting the duellists had been the only part Emily had actually enjoyed, maybe a few of the theorists, but several others had clearly annoyed her.
After what felt like an eternity, they managed to excuse themselves, citing the need for a drink. Harry sighed in relief before his heart rate began quickening as he suddenly realized he was, somewhat, alone with Emily again. Alone if you ignored the hordes of people gallivanting all around them, but alone in the sense that nobody was listening in on their conversation.
"I'm really sorry about all of this," said Harry, trying his hardest not to stare down at the floor. "I should've warned you this would probably happen. I understand if you want to leave now or—" he just about leapt out of his skin when he felt a cool hand grasp his tightly. Glancing to his right, he saw that it was indeed Emily.
"I'm not stupid. I knew you were going to get carted around the room like some sort of trophy. It's also not something you can help. Don't be a fool. I came with you knowing all of that. Just because I was right doesn't mean my decision is going to suddenly change."
Harry's eyes were about as wide as saucers, but he nodded quickly, allowing himself to be mostly led to the table containing beverages and refreshments.
"Have you ever had alcohol?" asked Emily, holding up a pristine bottle of what appeared to be wine. Harry shook his head and Emily smiled, pouring them both a glass and handing it to him.
The taste was strong but vaguely fruity. It was far from the best thing Harry had ever had, but it wasn't bad. More than anything, he revelled in the feeling of warmth that started in his chest and spread outwards, expanding like a balloon of fire being rapidly inflated inside his very chest.
He reached for the bottle to have another glass.
Before he knew it, Harry wasn't quite as steady on his feet. Emily had only had one more glass, and she seemed to be looking at him with something akin to amusement.
Before she could say much more, Slughorn was upon them again, practically begging the two of them to meet the new arrivals — all of whom had apparently been dying to meet the Boy-Who-Lived and the most talented student Hogwarts had seen in decades. Harry wasn't entirely sure he would have been able to allow himself to be carted around so politely this time, but Emily accepted Slughorn's 'offer' with all the poise and grace one might expect from a long-serving queen.
She didn't let go of Harry's hand, which was merciful, for he felt himself becoming slowly and steadily less sure of himself as he moved around the room, feeling somewhat like he was viewing everything from a third-person's perspective.
Emily seemed to realize that her date was steadily slipping away from her. She surprisingly didn't seem too upset as she excused the both of them on Harry's behalf in a manner that was smoother than the finest of silks.
She led him from the office and as soon as they were out the door, she released his hand. For a split-second, Harry's appendage felt as though it had been submerged in icy water and as though all the warmth the flesh had ever felt had been stripped away in one, cruel moment. The warmth returned an instant later not only in his hand, but in the rest of his body as Emily's arm wrapped firmly around him, steadying him and allowing her footsteps to quicken.
"It will be easier this way," she told him. "It would have taken ages to get you to your common room otherwise."
"Shit," Harry muttered, not at all looking forward to climbing all the way up to the seventh floor.
Emily actually laughed; it was only the second time she had done so in Harry's presence. The first had been in Hogsmeade after he'd fallen to the ground while trying to not sit too close to her. He wasn't sure what it said about Emily that both times she had laughed whilst with him, it had — at least somewhat — been at his expense. Tonight also showed just how far they had come in under a week. Harry had gone from not being at all comfortable sitting close to her in Hogsmeade, to practically leaning on her as she tenderly led him through the halls of Hogwarts.
"I'm coming with you to your common room, you dolt," said Emily. There was an odd, light note in her voice that Harry couldn't place. He had heard Hermione speak in a similar way, usually when he or Ron had said or done something that could possibly have been viewed as endearingly stupid. "You would fall down the stairs and never get up if I didn't."
There was a part of Harry that wanted to argue, but the small bit of his brain that still clung desperately onto any rationale he had at his disposal realized exactly how correct Emily was, so he held his tongue.
"I've done it, by the way," Emily said after another few minutes of walking and after their first set of stairs had been successfully traversed without peril.
"Done what?" asked Harry.
"I can now cast a fully corporeal Patronus."
Emily's laughter rang out once more, but she answered before it could stretch on for too long. "Corporeal. It means that the Patronus has a definite shape beyond that of a shield."
"What is it?"
The question was perhaps more personal than Harry realized, having not entirely yet understood how a Patronus chose its shape depending on who cast the charm. If he had understood this, he may have realized what a monumental moment it was when Emily slowly answered. "A saw-scaled viper."
"A snake?" Harry asked dumbly as they ascended yet another staircase. Emily's arm tightened around him when he very nearly lost his footing.
"A snake, yes. One that is very aggressive over its own territory."
The way she said that sounded somehow important, but Harry was far too gone to comprehend it correctly. "I wish I could cast one properly," he said morosely, looking down at the floor as they once more stepped into another lowly-lit corridor.
It seemed less bright than normal. The torches hadn't been that dim before, had they?
"You'll get it," said Emily, gracing him with a smile that seemed far brighter than the torches as the two of them neared the entrance to the Gryffindor common room. "You just need to find a happy memory."
"How'd you do it?"
She frowned. "That's a very personal question."
"Sorry, I just—"
"It's alright," Emily placated. It seemed to take her a long time to finally come up with an answer and by the time she did, they were closing in on the drunken portrait of the Fat Lady. "I just sat down and thought about what really made me happy. Once I worked that out, I isolated the strongest memory associated with that thing."
They were standing outside the common room now, and Emily finally removed her arm from around him. Harry stumbled for a moment and her hand landed on his shoulder to steady him. Without thinking, he clutched it like a lifeline, looking a bit up into her dark eyes with an intense look that Emily had trouble placing.
He suddenly noticed many things about Emily Riddle he had never noticed before. How he did so while completely plastered, he would never know. He noticed how her eyes were usually withdrawn but tonight had been perpetually sparkling with all sorts of various emotions. He noticed how there was a small scar on her left cheek, about two inches below her eye. He noticed how her hair seemed to flow majestically down her back, always cascading in the perfect form despite the situation.
Before he knew what was happening, Harry was tilting his head up and rising a bit onto his toes to lean towards her. Riddle's eyes widened for a moment and she visibly hesitated. She too leant forward for a second but just as their lips were about to meet, she sharply jerked her head back, shaking it slowly as if to clear it.
"Good night, Harry," she said softly, turning on her heel and marching swiftly away down the corridor, leaving a very confused, very drunk Boy-Who-Lived in her wake.
December 25, 1993
Just Outside The Great Hall
The Christmas feast had been an unmitigated disaster. The Weasley twins had tested one of their newest products — apparently it was supposed to create a Christmas-themed indoor fireworks display — and the resulting explosion had somehow managed to blow a hole in the Great Hall's ceiling. The professors were beside themselves, trying to ascertain how on earth it had happened. In the meantime, the 30 or so students still left at Hogwarts were left to finish the feast in their respective common rooms.
When Harry left the hall, he wasn't sure he wanted to retire to the Gryffindor common room with the Weasleys — sans twins, who were being chewed out by an irate Professor McGonagall.
Halfway to the tower, Harry realized how much he truly didn't want to witness the chaos that was sure to be taking place there at that very moment. The sound was sure to be overwhelming and he wasn't sure his anxiety could handle the full force of the Gryffindors' Christmas cheer. Harry turned towards Ron, caught his eye and made to speak but Ron cut him off before he could.
"Go. I'll cover for you."
Harry nodded his thanks and slipped under his invisibility cloak. As the crowd passed him by, he pressed himself up against the wall and wondered where he could go for the evening. The Shrieking Shack would require him to leave the castle so that was out. He could find an abandoned classroom, but with his thrice-damned luck, he was likely to get sniffed out by Mrs. Norris and Filch. He stood, invisible and pondered this for several minutes. Even once the corridor had cleared, he still had no idea where to go for the night. His thoughts were as clustered and chaotic as the space around him had been just moments earlier.
Harry sighed, defeated, and turned back towards Gryffindor Tower. If there was nowhere for him to hide out for the night, maybe he could just sneak into his room with little fuss.
Harry realized he was no longer alone just as he reached the seventh floor. Emily Riddle was exiting a secret passage ahead of him. Harry paused, perplexed. The Slytherin prefect had no reason to be on the seventh floor. As he watched, he realized she was heading straight for him and the stairs that led back down to the Great Hall. He was sure he had been caught, but at the last moment, Emily ignored the stairs and walked straight past him.
Where was she going?
Harry was even more confused than before. Not only did she have no reason to be on the seventh floor — especially at this hour of night — but she wasn't even walking towards anything. As Harry watched her walk away, he realized two things. The first thing he wasn't quite sure how to process, so he resolved to think about later. The other was that he could unravel a bit more of the mystery surrounding Emily Riddle if he followed her right now.
They hadn't seen each other since Slughorn's party, and Harry was pretty sure Emily had been purposefully avoiding him. His memory got a bit faulty near the end of that night, but he was pretty sure he remembered trying to kiss her and her pulling away. More than likely, that meant he had made a complete and total ass of himself. She probably didn't want him to be near her after that, likely thinking him some sort of sexually charged pervert. Now, whilst completely invisible, Harry could follow her and potentially glean some of her inner workings. Knowing how she was thinking may help him in hopefully resolving the damage he had caused, and this seemed as good a chance as he was likely to ever get.
Unable to resist the temptation, Harry followed the prefect down the hall, in the exact opposite direction of his previous destination.
Harry didn't even get to follow Emily for a hundred metres before she stopped walking.
"I know that you're following me." Her voice was soft, yet somehow also cold and aloof. Harry froze. "Come out. Now." Her tone brooked no room for argument, as if the wand that instantly appeared in her hand hadn't already made that clear.
He slid off the cloak, trying to look as innocent and nonthreatening as possible — which wasn't hard, he was barely 90 lbs soaking wet.
Emily's blue eyes widened minutely before she schooled her expression back to neutral. "Didn't want to retire to Gryffindor Tower and continue the festivities? That seems most unlike you."
That stung. Harry thought they were tentative friends — maybe even more — and here Emily was, proving she was just like the rest of them.
"You don't know anything about me, Riddle."
Try as he might, Harry couldn't mask the slight twinge of hurt in his voice as he brushed past her, set on returning to his common room. He was stopped, however, by a hand on his arm.
"Potter…" He scowled. "...Harry," she amended, "you don't want to go back to Gryffindor Tower."
It wasn't a question, but a statement.
Emily thought about the strange relationship they had — she was loath to call it friendship, she didn't have friends. Harry, though — he was different. Maybe she could trust him, and she was just going to try her absolute best to forget what had almost happened during their last encounter.
"Come on, Harry."
He stared at her. "Huh?"
"I'm not offering again." She tapped her foot impatiently.
Rationally, Harry knew that more thought probably should have been put into the decision to follow a largely unknown girl alone in the middle of the night. Particularly after their last encounter outside of the Gryffindor common room just over a week ago.
But Harry had never been a rational thinker.
Most things he had done in his life had been stark juxtapositions to exactly what the rational decision in those moments would have been. He seriously wondered whether any other witch, wizard or muggle alive had kicked rational in the dick as much as he had in the last three years. For all of his faults, he was very good at that.
So naturally, he followed in the older girl's wake without question, noticing that they were actually walking in a direction that could — if they went through a secret passageway — lead them back to Gryffindor Tower.
But they didn't take the secret passage in question, nor did they return to Gryffindor Tower.
Instead, they marched on, only stopping in front of what, to Harry, appeared to be a completely blank stretch of wall. There was nothing remarkable about the corridor at all, save for the rather… eccentric tapestry of a barmy-looking old wizard trying and miserably failing to teach trolls to tap dance. It was actually rather comical, though it didn't ease the nerves that were now arising inside of Harry.
The expression regarding butterflies in one's stomach was not at all potent enough to explain how Harry felt. Perhaps it would have been more accurate to say he had pterodactyls in his stomach, viciously attempting to escape the confines of their fleshy prison.
Riddle was either completely unaware as to his inner thoughts — which was a reality he viewed as being unlikely — or she was simply too polite to say anything about it.
Or, perhaps, she was simply too caught up with pacing back and forth in front of a wall. For a moment, Harry thought she had led him all this way simply to make him look like an idiot. Then, the blank wall was no longer blank at all. There was a door there now, one he had most certainly never seen before, and whose appearance caused him to gape at Riddle like a fish out of water.
Her lips twitched. "I don't need a cloak to find all the secrets this castle has to offer." She reached out, took the handle, and opened the door, leading him into a room he most certainly had not been expecting to enter; a room he had never seen before.
The room was darker than what Harry was typically accustomed to, being lit only by a small number of lowly shining torches dotted sporadically throughout the room, as well as a centrally located fire that glowed just slightly brighter than the torches. Despite the lack of light, the room was certainly warm, and it had a homely sort of feel.
It was large and rectangular, and it looked like a cross between a living room and a library. Much of the walls were dominated by bookshelves, but there was a comfortable-looking sitting area as well. With the exception of the merrily crackling fire, the room's centre was vast and empty.
Riddle gestured vaguely in the direction of a large, soft-looking sofa, and Harry took a seat. As he did, he thought to himself that, given the occasion, the only thing the room was missing was a Christmas tree.
As soon as the thought crossed his mind, one appeared near the fire, standing tall and perfect, now dominating much of the room's centre.
Riddle frowned, but didn't immediately elaborate as to why. "I'm assuming you were following me for reasons other than you not wanting to get caught up in the obnoxious chaos of your common room?" Harry blushed and looked away, which only signified to Emily that her assumption had been correct; not that there had been any real doubt in her mind. "How much of the night do you remember?"
"Enough of it to sort of remember how it ended," Harry said quietly, looking anywhere but at the girl seated next to him. "For what it's worth, that wasn't something I was planning. It just sort of… happened."
Riddle's lips twitched. "For some reason, I get the impression that most things you do aren't entirely planned out." Her lips were now curved into a full-blown smile. "You might be the Boy-Who-Lived, but you're certainly not the Boy-Who-Comes-Up-With-Reasonably-Well-Thought-Out-Ideas."
Harry was stuck somewhere between amusement and bitterness. "You don't know the half of it," he said darkly.
"Don't I?" asked Riddle. "I think you would be shocked at the things I know, Harry." Harry squared his shoulders and rose a challenging brow. "At the end of your first year, you got past the three-headed dog in the third-floor corridor and went after Quirrell. My guess is that you stopped him from stealing whatever the hell the old fool was hiding under the trap door."
Harry's eyes bulged.
"In your second year," Riddle continued, "I would be willing to bet much more than I own that you saved Weasley's sister and closed the Chamber of Secrets."
She smirked at the dumbstruck look on his face. "Come on, Harry, that one was pretty obvious. You go missing with Weasley just hours after his sister is taken. Next thing we all know, you're back and receiving an award for special services to the school. It doesn't exactly take a deductive genius to put together lego pieces.
"I'm assuming you planned absolutely none of that at the time," she continued, bringing the conversation back to where it had started. "I'm also sure you didn't plan on following me, but I'm well aware you're not upset that the opportunity presented itself."
Harry's mouth went dry. Hermione was intelligent in the sense she could memorize facts and figures at the speed of light. Riddle was different. He'd heard the older students say that she was a genius, but this was the first time it was becoming obvious to him. She was connecting all of these dots faster than he could formulate a reply, and he was quickly wondering whether or not he would ever be able to formulate a reply at all.
"I also know that you didn't plan on trying to kiss me," said Riddle, "but I also know you weren't disappointed when the opportunity presented itself."
Harry felt more trapped than he ever had at the Dursleys. Riddle was leaning towards him now, her eyes glowing with an animalistic intensity he hadn't yet seen within them. Her posture was straight and imposing, and all of her features were leant in, tightly wound, and ready to strike. She was the perfect image of a predator who had just cornered a particularly interesting bit of prey after a very long, very intriguing chase.
The chase was now over, and Harry knew it. Riddle seemed to know him better than he knew himself! How the fuck was he meant to come up with any half-decent reply when she knew what he would say before he even thought of it, let alone said it.
Riddle's eyes sparkled with just as much amusement as intensity. "Come now, Harry. We both know I'm right. Alcohol doesn't change you; all it does is show who you really are."
She leant even further forward, and Harry was suddenly pinned against the back of the couch, with Riddle looming slightly above him, peering down at him. He was sure she could hear the rapid pounding of his heart.
"I also know that we're not that different, much as we both loathe to admit it." Harry wanted to interject, but he didn't dare. He simply let her continue speaking.
"I was raised by muggles who hated me after my own father abandoned me and my mother wasn't strong enough to make it through childbirth. I was treated much like you were, I imagine. Oh, really," she said when his eyes widened further, if such a thing was even possible. "Surely you've realized by now that I'm far more perceptive than others? You're the Potter Heir by law, yet you traipse around this castle wearing battered glasses? You enter the train each year with a trunk that looks seventy years out of place and as if it's been through an air raid? No, Harry, I can see what's happened. I can see how similar we really are."
"Which is why I'm going to do us both a favour. Two for you, because I have an odd feeling that you, like me, might find the memory truly needed to cast the Patronus Charm in something more… sentimental."
To Harry's complete and total shock, Riddle lurched forward suddenly and before he could so much as move — still being flattened against the back of the couch — her lips had smashed against his.
Heat exploded outwards from his chest like a muggle firework had been set off inside his very stomach. Stars danced in his vision as the very limited amounts of coherent thought he had left were completely voided with the suddenness of a well-disguised land mine. He couldn't think nor move until, ten or so seconds later, Riddle placed one hand on each of his shoulders and used him to push herself backwards, smirking at him with such mischievousness that she might as well have been the personification of Lilith.
"Now," she said softly, grabbing his hand and dragging him to his feet, "cast the charm."
Dumbly, Harry withdrew his wand and numbly raised it into the air. He didn't need to think of a happy memory, for he was already brimming with warmth and he intuitively knew what was about to happen seconds before it finally did.
His voice was little more than a whisper on the wind, but it mattered not, for blinding, silver light exploded from the end of his wand. It wasn't like before, when silvery vapour would slowly protrude from the instrument and contort into a poorly shaped shield. It was blinding, spine-tingling, and immediate, as light and power surged from his wand, shining as bright and proud as a stunning supernova before, all at once, it changed.
Standing before Harry as proud as the light had shone just seconds earlier was the most majestic creature he had ever seen. And, after conversations with Remus he probably shouldn't have realistically been having, Harry knew exactly where his Patronus had stemmed from.
Prongs was born again, in a sense.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and was roughly spun around, looking slightly up into the blazing eyes of Emily Riddle as she leant forward.
This time, he willingly and knowingly reciprocated the gesture, and his chest grew even warmer.
Again, I am well aware that a lot of this does not line up canonically in the slightest, and I would just like to once more remind everyone reading that it isn't supposed to. This was just done as a bit of fun, and I hope you all enjoyed it for what it was.
If you did, I would appreciate you checking out my other stories, as a lot more effort frankly goes into those ones. I also have a Discord server where you can read all of my chapters early, an official website, and a P*T*E*N page. If you feel inclined to support me through any of these platforms, it would be very much appreciated. I can also be found on YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram. The former is used to post audio versions of my work, and the latter two are used for live updates and the like.
Follows, favourites, and especially reviews are welcome. I tend to write large-scale fantasy, adventure, and mystery, so this is a bit different, and I'm sure there is much I could improve upon.
Happy Holidays and happy reading!
Hope you liked this, guys! It took on a life of its own as we wrote it together. -Fezzik
It was definitely fun to do! I'm trying to make both of them contribute to a blog post about it to showcase to you more about how and why this one-shot happened. -Athena
Thank you to my lovely Discord Editors Asmodeus Stahl and Parhelion Solem for their corrections/contributions this week.