penknife (penknife) wrote in hp_crossovers,
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FIC: Curiosities, XMM/HP, Tom Riddle/Erik Lehnsherr, R

Title: Curiosities
Author: Penknife
Fandoms: X-Men movieverse/Harry Potter
Pairing: Tom Riddle/Erik Lehnsherr, sort of
Summary: Tom meets Erik, circa 1950. It's an educational evening for them both.
Rating: R

Curiosities

It was three days into the voyage, and the American still hadn't shown himself. Tom was growing bored. It was becoming tempting to say to hell with secretive Americans and Apparate straight back to his warm chair by the fire at home.

He should never have agreed to this. He'd been flattered to get a letter from an American wizard who'd apparently heard of him across the pond, and displeased but not entirely surprised by his insistence on Muggle post and Muggle transportation. In Tom Riddle's experience, any wizard worth talking to had enemies.

This one apparently took caution to the point of paranoia. Or had stood him up entirely. And there was no way of knowing which.

Tom left the clatter of the lounge and stalked around the nearly-deserted deck, brushing at his coat where Muggles had brushed against him. An angular, dark-haired boy was leaning on the rail, watching the water. Tom almost walked past him until he saw the watch chain coiling and uncoiling around the boy's wrist like a snake.

Maybe he'd found a kindred spirit.

He stalked up behind the boy. Older than he'd thought at first sight, perhaps as old as twenty. Tom wasn't the best judge of Muggle clothes anymore, but his coat looked thin, his shoes scuffed. He had sharp strong bones. The watch chain crept under the sleeve of his coat as if seeking the warmth of his skin.

"Nicely done," Tom said. The chain fell with a clatter. Tom flicked his wand from inside his pocket and murmured under his breath, levitating the chain up to a level with the railing. "You dropped this," he said.

The boy caught the chain out of the air and turned to look at him. His eyes were very blue. Tom was glad the boy wasn't a Muggle -- the pretty ones always made him feel a bit dirty.

"Who are you?" he said.

Tom started to say Lord Voldemort, but that was incautious. For all he knew, the boy's family were in thick with Dumbledore. Although the boy wasn't English.

"Tom Riddle," he said, the words tasting bad in his mouth.

The boy shook his head. "I don't think so. What's your real name?"

Tom smiled.

"All in good time," he said. He held out his hand. After a moment's hesitation, the boy shook it.

"Erik Lehnsherr," he said.

Tom considered the possibility that this was his contact, and quickly dismissed it. Too young, and the accented English was Continental. He wondered what he knew. He liked the idea that he was gaining a reputation.

"Sea travel is so boring, don't you think?" Tom said. "Come and have a drink with me. I won't bite."

They found a corner table in the lounge to talk. Erik took the corner seat and made it obvious he saw the table as a barricade between himself and the world. Tom wondered where he'd gotten so nervous. Surely not the war. Grindlewald had been (disputably) in his grave since Erik was a schoolboy.

Tom tried to buy them drinks. Erik insisted on paying for his own, with a raised eyebrow that made Tom smile. At least the boy wasn't entirely innocent. That was promising. He drank his vodka tonic far too fast, although when he was down to rattling ice he pushed his glass away. Tom sipped a single glass of wine.

"So how did you get stuck on this God-forsaken boat?" Tom asked. Erik shrugged.

"I'm on my way to America. To school."

Tom frowned. "You can't still be in school."

"College," Erik said. He was only half-watching Tom; mostly he watched the room, turning his fork over in his hand as if he planned to use it as a weapon if necessary. Tom wondered exactly how. He shook his head instead, cheerfully.

"Americans. Expecting you to spend half your life in university when there's so much to do."

"Such as?"

"Rule the world," Tom said, and smiled to make it a joke, showing his teeth.

Erik smiled back. It wasn't a very nice smile.

"And what would you do if you did?"

"Arrange things better," Tom said.

"Of course."

"You don't believe me," Tom said.

"I've seen where that leads," Erik said.

"In Germany?" Tom said. "Surely that's nothing to do with us."

"Perhaps it's nothing to do with you," the boy said, and pushed his chair back from the table. "I'm tired. If you'll excuse me."

Tom watched him go, and tossed some money on the table for the tip. He liked to stay to watch the waiter's confusion when it evaporated, but not just now.

He caught up to the boy in the corridor.

"I'm sorry," Tom said. "I didn't mean to bring up bad memories."

"You are excused," the boy said. "Now I--"

"Let me make it up to you," Tom said. "Have a drink with me in my cabin."

"I don't think so," the boy said.

"You don't have to talk," Tom said. "A drink and a cigarette before you turn in. It'll clear your head." He raised a hand casually at the shadows and murmured "Lumos." The corridor brightened. "It's just that way," he said.

He could see curiousity get the better of the boy, and restrained a sting of disappointment. A Mudblood, surely. Perhaps no training at all. But that had its advantages in itself. He'd be eager to learn. Just as Tom was.

Tom opened the door to his cabin and watched the boy's eyebrows raise again at the size of it. No self-control. His feelings were written on that expressive face as clearly as if it were a blank page. Such fair skin. Tom wondered if he'd blush.

"Choose your poison," Tom said. Erik glanced at the armchair and the bed and sat carefully in the armchair.

"Anything," he said.

Tom poured two fingers of firewhisky and handed it to him.

"I don't think you'll have had this before," he said.

Erik sipped at it.

"No," he said. "It's quite good."

Tom shrugged, pouring himself a drink and sprawling casually on the bed.

"Not bad," he said. He reached into his jacket pocket and produced a packet of cigarettes, tossing them to Erik, who caught them neatly. He took out a battered stainless steel cigarette lighter and lit up.

"Incendio," Tom said, and his own cigarette caught. He took a drag on it and watched Erik's reaction. Fascination.

"What else can you do?" Erik asked.

"You first," Tom said.

Erik frowned, and then levitated the cigarette lighter. First-year stuff, but he'd done it without words, and clearly he didn't have a wand. Instinctive magic only went so far. Tom felt uneasy for the first time. He'd felt sure he knew what was going on.

"Just--the usual," Tom said. "But you don't know what I'm talking about, do you?"

"I've heard rumors of others," Erik said. "Rumors I couldn't entirely dismiss, because of this." He caught the lighter out of the air neatly and pocketed it. "People who can fly. People who can change their shape. People with special powers."

"Yes," Tom said. "And it's that--that power--that sets people like us apart from the rest of them, don't you think?"

"Are we the same?"

Hardly, Tom thought.

"We're both special," Tom said. "Wizards in a world of the dull and stupid."

"You don't mean that literally, do you?" Erik took a drag on his cigarette. "I don't believe in magic."

"Believe what you see," Tom said.

"I always do," Erik said. He glanced at the clock on the nightstand. Its face glowed in the dark. Tom had spent some time trying to figure out why this should be so and put it down to some horrid Muggle innovation. Now it was glowing a soft green in the dimness. Tom felt that they'd reached a crucial point.

"It's late," he said.

"It is."

Tom let a pause draw itself out. Somewhere, distantly, he could hear the engines of the ship churning out mechanical noise.

"You're still not leaving."

"I'm curious," Erik said.

"About what I can do?" He frowned, and tried to put a little disappointment into his voice. As if he'd hoped for something else. As if he wanted to be--what was it girls said?--to be loved for himself alone.

"About what you still haven't told me," Erik said. "Your real name, for one."

"Why not 'Tom Riddle'?"

"You hesitate when you say it. It's not what you're thinking."

"It's the name my father gave me," Tom said.

"Who made you change it?"

"No one," Tom said. "No one makes me do anything."

"Is that really true?"

"Are you really still here because you're curious about my name?"

Erik shrugged and turned a little away, looking at the cabin wall, and Tom knew he'd caught him.

"About you," Erik said.

"About me? What do you want to know? I was an orphan. I grew up in an wretched orphanage in Surrey. School was the only thing that saved me from sinking into obscurity with the rest of the strays gathered in off the street. Now I know I can do better."

"I don't care about all that," Erik said.

"Don't you?" Tom said, sitting up on the bed. "Don't you think the child is father to the man?"

Erik stood up.

"I should go," he said.

"You should," Tom said, standing up. "But you won't."

"Is it a bargain you want?" Those blue eyes were very cold. "The price for telling me more about--all this?"

"No price," Tom said. "I just want to know you better."

The boy didn't believe it, but he could tell himself he believed it, and that was enough to make his hand drift away from the door latch. Tom came up behind him, and touched the place at the back of his neck where his dark hair curled.

"Get on with it," Erik said. Tom laughed.

"In a hurry, are you?"

"No," Erik said, turning toward him. "No, I'm not."

There was too much in his eyes, desire and revulsion, fear and curiosity. All that raging emotion might complicate things. Tom took a moment to consider that.

"What?" Erik asked, rather sharply.

Tom shook his head and kissed the boy to cover his frown. Erik leaned into the kiss, hands sliding around Tom's waist. This much he seemed to like.

"Come and lie down with me," Tom said. Erik followed him, his reluctance written in every line of his body. Tom had to work not to be overly distracted by it. He wondered what the boy would do if he caught his hair there at the nape of the neck and jerked his head back, laid his fingers on that beating pulse. On the other hand, untrained magic was unpredictable. He didn't much fancy winding up with an icepick through his heart.

Tom sprawled on the bed again instead and waited. Erik lay down beside him, too stiffly, but forced by the size of the bed to press up against him. Tom ran a finger around the boy's shirt cuffs, and undid one of the buttons. He stroked Erik's wrist, and pushed up his sleeve just enough to see the blue stain against his skin.

He'd wondered if the boy was a Mudblood; well, here was his proof. He did feel he'd have to get rid of the marks. Like throwing away a dog's old collar. He'd have to find him a better one.

He kissed the boy again, running his hands down the scratchy fabric of his trousers, and then drew back, just a little.

As he'd expected, Erik pushed his shoulders down and crawled on top of him, not sure what he wanted but sure he'd do it from the top. Tom let Erik kiss him, one bruising kiss he didn't much like, and let him put his tongue in his mouth. He could feel his interest.

"You wanted to know me," Tom said.

"Yes," Erik said, drawing back, spreading his hand against Tom's chest. The beginnings of a smile were tugging at his mouth, more genuine than his usual cynical expression and somehow more innocent.

Tom brushed his fingers against Erik's lips.

"I want to know you," he said, and smiled, his own genuine smile. "And what I want, I get."

One sharp upward thrust, like an icepick going in, and he was in Erik's mind.

The first taste of Erik's thoughts was enough to make him claw his wand out of his pocket and snap out "Immobulus! Silencio!" A killer, this one. Tom's heart beat a little faster at the knowledge that he hadn't been wrong at all about the icepick.

It wasn't enough. Tom could feel the bed bending, and saw the flicker of Erik's eyes toward the nightstand. His wand hand flicked out in a defensive charm. There was a splintering noise, and the remains of the alarm clock rattled to the floor, where they swirled and lifted in a swarm like bees, still glowing pale green.

He'd have to knock him out, and he wasn't sure even that would do it.

"Serpentsoria," he snarled, and was already hissing orders as the snake hit the bed, writhing in anger. It arched its body and ran its smooth, scaled head up the side of Erik's throat. It opened its mouth, and pressed its fangs against the boy's fair skin.

"You'll die," Tom said. "The poison will go straight into the vein. A few minutes, at most." He reached up to stroke Erik's cheek. "And you want to live, don't you? You want to live more than anything."

The fragments of the clock rattled to the floor. Tom brushed a kiss over Erik's forehead, and then drew back enough to gaze into those blue eyes and slip back inside.

Erik was furious at the intrusion into his mind, and it took a moment to adjust to his rage, like standing in the full blast of heat from an oven door. He could feel the recoil at the image, and smiled. All Erik was doing was handing him the keys.

So much was useless; he rifled through it and threw it aside. A Muggle flat somewhere hot, playing chess with old men, reading Muggle books, arguing about religion and Muggle politics. Waking from nightmares in the bedroom he'd stripped of metal and walking out in bare feet to the sitting room. Falling asleep again on the sofa, balcony doors open to catch the cool breeze, and waking to find the balcony railing twisted like wire.

That had potential. Tom pursued, and was pleased when the boy tried to fight him. Some spirit, then, even if he had no talent for Occulumency. Tom brushed his struggling mental hands off like insects and walked backwards through his memories.

Brick buildings looming like gravestones. Flat refusal to follow Tom there in memory. Tom laughed. You can go on saying no all you like.

He walked in, barbed wire melting around him like smoke.

Such a waste, he thought after he'd seen what there was to see. All that blood and death and fear thrown away, serving no one's ends, no one but some petty Muggle dictator who'd crawled away to die a coward's death. Some of it had been clever--he had to be impressed by the creativity of the Muggle doctor whose memory Erik had flinched from so hard that Tom had stayed to watch for quite some time--but wasted.

Wasted years. He'd learned nothing about power in that hell, nothing but rage. Tom had all the rage he needed, for wasted years spent shivering in an orphanage when the power that should have been his was just out of reach. And there was no trace of power here, in this slaughterhouse, although there were some pretty sights he would have liked to store away in a Pensieve for long slow evenings.

Well, he'd have the memories. It would make something of a consolation prize for a wasted evening. He'd never break this boy, not enough to make him safe. And even if he did, he'd only be useful as a servant, never a student. He wasn't a real wizard. It wasn't magic that bent metal to his will, just some quirk of his body.

The body that was even now pressed against Tom's in a frozen travesty of passion. The thought jarred Tom back to himself, looking up into those angry blue eyes. He was tempted to kiss the corner of that snarling mouth. No, he thought, untangling himself from under the boy. He had to have some standards.

Well. Now what. Kill him and Apparate home? Kill him and dump the body overboard? Trust to a Memory Charm and brazen the rest of the voyage out? That was probably best. No sense in destroying something unique, even if you didn't have a use for it at present. Waste not, want not.

Besides, all that rage wouldn't stay locked up forever, and then the results might be quite amusing.

"I think it's time to say good night," Tom said. "I'd like to say I hope you'll remember me well, but you won't remember me at all. Still, a word of advice." He leaned in. "Feel free to kill as many of them as you like," he said. "It only leaves more room for us."

Tom breathed a hissing word at the serpent, and it slithered around Erik's throat like a collar. Erik didn't flinch. There was nothing but anger in his eyes.

"You have lovely bones," Tom says. "It's wasted on a Muggle like you." He shook his head and raised his wand. "Finite Incantatum; Obliviate." The snake faded like mist. Erik raised a hand to his throat and blinked, clearly not sure what he was doing sprawled on the bed.

"You had too much to drink," Tom said. "And you asked me for something I can't believe you thought I'd let you have." He brushed at his shirt sleeve. "Did you really imagine I was the sort who would?"

Erik scrambled to his feet furiously and gracelessly. Whatever he remembered of the evening, it was enough to make him feel he'd been played for a fool. Tom wondered if he thought there was going to be a brawl.

There was a tapping at the door.

"Go away," Tom called. "We're busy."

"You were the one who wanted to see me," a man's voice said. Tom closed his eyes for a moment. That would be his contact. What wonderful timing Americans seemed to have.

"Open the door," he said crisply, in the voice he'd learned was usually obeyed. Erik reached for the door handle, the door jerking toward him before his hand touched it.

The man in the hallway was far younger than he'd expected the American wizard to be. A messenger, maybe. But the look he was giving Tom was thoughtful assessment. Not the look a servant would give to his betters. He looked at Erik, and raised an eyebrow.

"Who's this?" he asked.

"A shipboard acquaintance. I'm afraid I can't recall his name."

Erik bristled visibly, but rather to Tom's surprise he didn't either snarl at him or make any move to leave.

"That's all right," the American said. "I don't need introductions."

"We were just talking," Tom said, unsure why he felt the need to explain himself.

"No," the American said, still looking at Erik with an expression Tom couldn't interpret. He stepped into the room and pulled the door shut behind him. He was blond and rather handsome; he carried himself like someone used to getting his way. "No, you weren't."

"It's none of your concern, is it?" Erik said cooly.

"I don't like seeing people get hurt," the American said. "Even people who are suspicious of strangers."

"I don't need anyone's help," Erik said. "We were having a private conversation."

Tom wondered if he should paralyze him just to shut him up. This was not as auspicious a beginning as he'd hoped for. The American's head snapped around. He looked startled and not at all pleased. Tom could feel the weight of his gaze.

"What are you?" the American asked quietly after a minute.

"Don't you know?" Tom asked. Neither of them looked away.

"Not yet," the American said.

Tom threw up mental walls, and felt them melt away to mist. Outmatched. How could he be outmatched? Heart pounding, he reached for his wand.

******

"Explain," Erik said. They were standing out on deck in the darkness. He'd felt better about going up into the crisp night air than about going back to his cabin. Somehow the walls had seemed oppressive. He'd found the young American already there, staring out over the water. He didn't seem surprised when Erik came up behind him and put a hand on the rail beside his.

"I'm really not sure I can," the man said.

"Try."

"I had heard rumors. The same ones I think you've heard. I spent this summer in England. I managed to contact him while I was there. I thought I knew what he was."

"And now?"

"Now I don't know anything. He's not one of us. He's dangerous. Very dangerous." He looked out at the water. "I'll be glad to get off this ship."

"Not one of us," Erik said. "Are we alike?"

The man's hands tightened on the railing.

"I think that's a long story," he said finally.

"I'm in no hurry," Erik said.

"Do you want to go down to my cabin to talk? It's getting awfully cold out here."

"No," Erik said, and his voice was hard.

"No, of course you don't," the American said, too gently. Erik wondered what the man thought he knew. "I know what you don't remember," he said, as if in answer to a question. "And yes, I'll tell you what he did, but only if you want me to."

"What are you?" Erik asked. He knew he should hold his tongue and walk away from something this dangerous, but curiousity pricked at him.

"The question is, what are we?"

"All right, then," he said, with the feeling he'd just made an important concession. "What are we?"

"We're both special," the American said. Erik shivered, but he wanted answers. Badly. He held tight to the cold iron railing and managed to smile.

******

Tom reached his wand, drew it in one smooth motion, and then looked around, blinking. They were gone. Erik and the American wizard, both gone. He glanced at his watch and swore. Fifteen minutes had passed.

He should probably go after them. The boy was a loose end, and Tom hardly liked the idea of meeting him someday on the American wizard's leash. He wasn't sure that would go well. Still, he'd lost the first battle in seconds. He hesitated to start a second one without knowing more.

He had a few contacts in America already. He'd owl them when he was safely back in London, curled up in front of a proper fire eating proper food. Arm himself with information. Until then, he'd leave Xavier and his new servant alone.

The thing about sea travel is that it's just so boring, he thought, and threw himself into the armchair with a sigh.
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