Disclaimer: Horace Slughorn and
Tom Riddle, and their world is the exclusive property of JK Rowling. And to be
honest, she’s welcome to them. Having Tom on loan was scary enough.
A/N: Many thanks to my
wonderful beta, Lone Astronomer and to all the 87 Rolls of Parchment
readers who commented on the original version of this.
Horace leaned back further into
his comfortable arm chair and with two fingers fished for his last piece of
crystallised pineapple. He would have to buy another box next weekend. Or else
hope that someone else would. Horace sighed. Faustus Lestrange had bought him a
box of peanut brittle last week. Peanut brittle! Slughorn had been most
disappointed in the boy. If he truly wished to get anywhere in politics he
would have to be more discerning than that. Slughorn licked powdered sugar from
his fingers. Of course, they all seemed to want to get into politics this year,
even little Fenrir Greyback who really didn’t have the subtlety. All of a
sudden everyone was eager to change the world. The backlash from the recent
Muggle Rights Bill had stirred a great many Pureblood families into a sharpened
political awareness, and Slughorn wasn’t surprised it had rubbed off on the
children. Still, it made the career sessions, ordinarily one the most interesting
times of the year, rather predictable. Slughorn picked up his schedule again, running
his eyes over the list of candidates still to see. Mildred Parkinson… oh dear,
that girl hadn’t a spark of originality in her. And that oaf McGibbon, perhaps
he could persuade him into the security troll line. He certainly had the build
for it. And this afternoon….
Horace stopped, smiling. This
afternoon would be an interesting experience. If Horace had learned one
thing in his five years as Head of House, it was that there was always one
student capable of surprising him. True to form, Slughorn heard a quiet tap on
“Come in!” Slughorn called,
hastily crumpling the empty pineapple box into the bin. The door opened, and a
dark haired boy entered with a charming hesitancy.
“Tom, my boy! You’re early.”
“I’m sorry, sir, but I was
eager not to miss any more than I could help of Professor Merrythought’s class,
and I knew that you would not be busy at this time.”
“Have you had your lunch?”
“I asked one of the House Elves
to fetch me a sandwich.”
Slughorn nodded appreciatively
at this. The boy was alert. He knew exactly how Hogwarts was run and how he
could exploit this knowledge to his advantage. It was hard to believe he had
been brought up by Muggles.
“So, my boy, have you given any
thought to your future career?” Slughorn asked.
“A little,” the boy said
Slughorn smiled, amused. An
ambitious lad like Tom, he was sure, would have given little thought to
“To be honest, sir, I have not
found any career yet that I feel would be suited to me. I was hoping you would
be able to give me some advice.”
The boy spoke so earnestly that
Horace felt quite flattered. A boy like this with such brains on him could
certainly make quite a mark whichever direction he went in. It was rather
satisfying to know he still felt dependent on him, Horace Slughorn.
“Well, now,” he considered
aloud. “You’re a bright boy, Tom, no doubt about that, ambitious, too. You’ll
be looking for a challenge, am I right?”
The boy nodded. “Yes, sir.”
“Your skill in potions is quite
exceptional. Have you ever thought of going in to research?”
“I had considered it.”
“It’s a fine line of work for a
boy like you, academic and practical. And, of course, there’s the chance of
making your name as the discoverer of some life-saving new potion, or charm if
you feel that’s more in your line.”
Tom’s eyes glowed briefly at
this idea, but then he frowned. “Don’t you need an apprenticeship for that sort
“Well, yes, that could be
considered a drawback. It would mean seven years under a qualified worker with
reduced wages, but still you can learn a lot in that time. If you like, I could
put in a word for you with Elspeth Mercer, you know, inventor of the
Forgetfulness potion, or Hector Dagworth-Granger-”
“It seems rather a waste,
though,” Tom said thoughtfully. “Serving someone else all that time instead of
doing your own research.”
Horace smiled indulgently. “You
must have guidance, my boy.”
“I always learn best when I
teach myself,” Tom dismissed.
“I hope not, my boy, or else
all my hard work with you has been in vain,” Slughorn said, amused. The boy had
the grace to look abashed.
“Oh, I didn’t mean you, sir.
I’ve learned an awful lot from my professors at Hogwarts, and I’m grateful,
“You don’t want another seven
years of it.” Slughorn laughed. “Well, I can understand that, Tom. And, of
course, I’ve heard you study a good deal alone. Vera Libergrath used to
complain you never left the genealogy section in the library.”
“Did she?” Something told
Slughorn Tom’s smile was not quite genuine, and there was a reddish flash in
“Well, yes,” Slughorn said,
feeling little disconcerted. “Well, nothing wrong with that. The history of
Pureblood families is quite fascinating to read about.”
“Yes, isn’t it? Did you have
any more suggestions to make regarding my future, sir?”
“Er, yes,” Slughorn said, with
the uncomfortable sense that in spite of all superficial deference on Tom’s
part it was not Horace who was controlling the conversation. “Well, Galatea was
telling me how good your defence work is. Ever thought of becoming an Auror?
They’re quite exclusive in their selection program, of course, and you would
have to do some extra years of training, but that shouldn’t be any trouble, not
for a boy like you….”
“I don’t think I’d like to be
an Auror,” Tom said, decisively. There was the faintest hint of amusement
playing about his mouth.
“No? It is rather dangerous
work, although Galatea informs me that your shield charms are quite remarkable.
If you’re sure?”
Tom nodded, still with that
almost-smile pulling at his mouth.
“Well, how about politics?”
Slughorn inwardly sighed. Still, if anyone could reach the top of the tree in
that particular field, it was Tom. The boy was charming, and most intelligent.
Slughorn had always fancied being a personal acquaintance of the Minister of
“Perhaps,” said Tom without
“I have some brochures here for
the various departments. Read them, and see what takes your fancy.”
Tom accepted the leaflets
docilely. “The thing is, sir, whatever career I choose I still mean to take the
full range of courses offered at Hogwarts.”
“Well,” said Slughorn,
reluctantly. “There may be some problem with that.”
Slughorn got on rather well
with all his colleagues, and indeed, was known to spend many happy hours
debating the relative merits of Muggle sweets with the Transfiguration teacher.
Today, however, he felt he positively disliked Albus Dumbledore.
“Professor Dumbledore, you see,
has been raising doubts about children being given Time Turners to help them in
their studies. I don’t know why; he’s never mentioned it before – although,
mind you, I’ve only ever known of one incidence of it happening. Still, it
seems he’s worried about students misusing them.”
Tom’s eyes flashed. “Do you
think I’d misuse them, sir?”
“Oh, no, of course not, but
Albus can be such a fusspot, you know, and Professor Dippet thinks very highly
“Does he?” Tom looked
thoughtful. “Well, at any rate, I’d better be going, sir. I’ve already missed
the first ten minutes.”
“Of course, my boy,” Horace
said genially. “Come and see me any time, you know, any time you please.”
The boy nodded gratefully and
“Oh, I almost forgot. I brought
you something, sir,” Tom Riddle rummaged in his bag and brought out a white
cardboard box tied with violet ribbon. Horace smiled widely.
“Why, thank you Tom, this is
kind. And I hope you will be attending our little meeting on Friday, I thought
we might continue that discussion on invisibility charms we were having last
“Of course,” Tom smiled. “I’m
looking forward to it.”
After Tom had left Horace made
quite a business of untying the violet ribbon and picking a small sugar covered
square from the box. Popping it into his mouth Slughorn closed his eyes,
savouring the taste. Crystallised…ginger. Slughorn opened his eyes again
abruptly. It seemed Tom Riddle did still have some things to learn, after all.