Character: Tom Riddle
Disclaimer: I merely use the characters, and I don’t get paid.
Word count: @ 2700 words
Notes: This is my favorite thing to do, turn Tom Riddle into a horror genre villain. He is ripe for it, and exploring him in an AU is twice the love. Thanks to M. for the beta!
Written for Prompt #78:
Horror story with Voldemort as a monster/psychopath. Could be retrospection into his youth. Magic universe or not; het, slash or gen; higher rating.(suggested by orpheus_samhain)
He was a spider child. Dumbledore saw that right away. The boy’s Hogwarts letter was still in his pocket, unopened. He already regretted drawing attention to Tom’s oddness in the midst of a Muggle orphanage. Tom knew that he was ‘special,’ but also that there were others like him, giving him a sense of competition. With that dead sparkle in the boy’s eyes, that too old, too cruel smile… the last thing Tom needed was an abstract arena for his ambition.
The boy showed natural talent, and Dumbledore hated having to leave that behind, but a boy so young and so cruel already… Dumbledore had a strange premonition that if he brought this disquieting boy into Hogwarts, the happenings at the orphanage would replicate and embellish themselves in the more volatile atmosphere of a magical school. Dumbledore mourned the loss of such a wizard and the necessity of abandonment, but he felt the relief of a man who has passed through poisonous fumes with an antidote.
Tom Riddle stared at the wardrobe where his belongings sat exposed. Trophies, yes, but they were for his eyes alone. He felt offended that a man who seemed to know more about him than he could sense from the man would see objects so completely his. He had earned them, as he had earned the privacy of his own room (I had a nightmare Tom set fire to the bed sheets Tom laughed at me Tom stared until he made me cry I had a nightmare take him away). But there was something he forgot. There was an empty place in his head that was more than disquieting.
Something about those possessions. Something from that strange, familiar man. Something that confirmed that he was special. But he did not need that man, that memory. As he looked at the ceiling from sunbeams to moonbeams, he smiled. He had power, and it was growing – the teddy that did not use to belong to him bulged under a tight, clenching fist. Tom breathed in fear that had saturated the walls and found it pleasing.
The orphanage was ecstatic when Tom was placed. Mrs. Lanforth, the new matron, was first frightened that this spider boy would not be able to sustain himself in an alternate environment wherein he did not have the same dominance and establishment, but Tom changed when he stepped over the threshold. From a skinny, drawn, hollow boy into a beautiful, charming young man who drew eyes in appreciation rather than fear. This ability made Mrs. Lanforth silent and thoughtful for a moment. But she dismissed that chill. He was out of her hair. Let the world deal with the mystery that was Tom Marvolo Riddle. And let the Goldsmiths take the responsibility. Already she felt she could put aside her scotch that night, that her energy and confidence rushed back, as though a dam had broken.
The Goldsmiths had come from a little boy, maybe a toddler – they enjoyed philanthropy and they enjoyed children. They already had two girls, and for all the challenges, they were the Goldsmiths’ pride and joy. But there was something about that strange yet beautiful boy with his dark eyes and shy, sad smile. That night, with Tom in a bed presently too small for him – they would purchase more appropriate things for him later – the Goldsmiths muttered to each other under the covers about impulsiveness, perhaps a choice that they would regret, especially in these troubled times. They slept troubled, but the morning brought them confidence again.
Tom was as selling as he had been at the orphanage. He seemed to awe the girls, especially Beth, their youngest at seven. Christine, at nine, was more curious than awed, but Tom was courteous and animated, passing the Belgian waffles and offering to help clear the table, which made Leigh Goldsmith almost fall in love with him again. Benjamin appreciated his amiable nature, and it was only in the periphery that Tom’s beautiful smile did not reach his eyes. Disconnected, the eyes were, cold, gaunt, and calculating. Pleased.
Tom let Beth in his room. She wanted to be near him, and although she was tiresome, she had her uses and almost worshipped him, so he tolerated her when she was tiresome and enjoyed her when she was compliant.
She played quietly with her rag doll as he wrote in his journal. He would be concerned about his written secrets, but with the first pang of anxiety when he initially began his confessions, the words disappeared behind his pencil only to appear when he meant them to. Tom knew the unusual aspect of his talent, but he took it as a matter of course. He had power, therefore he was meant to have it. But he understood a need to keep that power quiet in this intimate setting of an adoption, a family. There were benefits to family, yes, but this silence frustrated him increasingly. Tom was patient, though, and there were… other avenues.
The girl tried to run, but my hand was too strong. Her skipping rope fell to the ground as she fell at my feet. I smelled blood from the new scrape on her knee. She could not scream, for I had taken her tongue. I ripped at her blue dress to find purchase for my other hand. When I found her bare shoulder, I dug in my fingers and felt the most amazing jolt of energy through my hand. The girl jerked at the drain of her life into me. Her hair drifted steadily from her head and her eyes became like glass marbles. I experienced something like completion as she slumped to the ground. I took her skipping rope and hid it in my jacket. Even now, my skin quivers warmly. I think of more violent endeavors, but I will stay as surreptitious as I can to begin. I shoved the girl in the corner behind the great refuse crate. The place is filthy. She will not be noticed for quite a while.
Tom looked up from his writing at Beth, who had leaned against his leg as she continued to mutter. It made her feel like a princess to be near him, especially when he allowed her close. He stroked her hair gently. Then he wrote:
I’m becoming stronger.
He shut his journal and told Beth to leave.
Benjamin and Leigh Goldsmith, while they loved Tom almost like a son, were concerned about his lack of friends at school. He brought no one home, he interacted with few of his classmates beyond the school walls, although at fourteen they began to see him use his charm to flirt. The Goldsmiths did not receive any complaints from his teachers or any sign of trouble. But he was such a solitary boy for all his charms. He loved his family and took care of Beth in a way Benjamin though uncharacteristically compassionate for a boy of his age. They might have felt suspicion of their interaction if Beth showed anything but contentment. Instead, it was Christine that drew their real attention after a time, and they never connected Christine’s slow wasting sickness to Tom’s growing isolation and extracurricular activity his parents believes was beneath their notice.
Christine’s face gradually became wan and colorless without even the blush of fever. What had once been bright blue, curious eyes seemed to lose their vibrancy. Her inquisitive energy fell to listless indifference. She slept restlessly through her nightmares. She only ever told Tom that she dreamed that he was evil, but he passed his sculpted, white hand over her face, and she could only remember images of blood and flesh, nothing of him.
Somehow, Beth had an inkling, but she had no vocabulary nor a sense of mortality. With Tom’s visage on a pedestal, always the center of her universe, she thought it might be a game. However, somewhere in her heart, she knew there was something wrong. Already her confusion began to twist. Christine was her sister, but Tom was her god. She caressed Christine’s cold forehead, but her trust in Tom was absolute.
Tom merely smiled that small mirthless smile in the mirror as he washed the blood from his hands after his last endeavor. His eyes almost seemed to glow, and his heart beat furiously with pure adrenaline and borrowed energy. He had almost forgotten the strange man with the long, auburn beard and purple suit. But Dumbledore had become a sort of abstract foil to drive him into power. He would reach the peak, he would be better than anyone who could possibly be like him. He would win – he was great.
The entire family was at Christine’s bedside as she began to breathe in great gasps, her skeletal ribs lunging with effort. Tom held her left hand and Beth held her right. Leigh stroked her daughter’s dry cheeks. Benjamin rested his head against Christine’s knees. Faces were wet, eyes were red, and tissues littered the corners. Christine’s eyes were open, but she did not seem to see anything but whatever nightmare played in her mind’s eye. As Tom tightened his hand and closed his eyes to hide the gleam of exaltation, Christine convulsed twice and lay lifeless on the bed.
The Aurors had never seen a magical signature like this before. Even if Ollivander was unable to give them the specifics they knew he knew, they could usually at least deduce the core of the wand through various detective methods. But this signature was elusive, unspecific, undeniably powerful and unfocused. They had never seen anything like it, not even in cases of violent accidental magic. This was new, controlled, and disturbing. More than disturbing… the magical mass murder of children all through the city kept some of them up nights. The streets were unsafe, the children were not safe, and the murderer was neither Muggle nor wizard. They did not even know where to start. One, though, thought of his school days and wondered whether any of the brilliant professors might have any idea. He was grasping at straws, but so were the rest of them.
Tom murdered a girl his own age after Christine’s funeral. The Goldsmiths thought his insomnia was a product of his grief, although his countenance was stoic, even relaxed. They told themselves that Tom and Beth were taking things remarkably well or maybe it had not quite hit them yet that their sister was gone. Either way, the Goldsmiths were lost in their own grief, and could not notice that the night after the funeral, Tom took Beth with him.
Beth watched with glassy eyes as Tom drew the girl’s fingers into his mouth, biting playfully as his eyes dwelled on Beth’s face. When he bit off one of the fingers, Beth squeaked and the girl screamed. After Tom was finished, Beth braided the girl’s hair for Tom and gave it to him. His hands cauterized the wounds into obscurity as his lips touched Beth’s forehead.
The second time that Dumbledore and Tom met, Tom was sixteen, beautiful, and far more self-confident. When Dumbledore shook his hand in greeting, he knew that Tom was the killer the Aurors were looking for – he had known ever since the one Auror had come to him and given him details they never shared with the media. But although there could be no proof of his signature, now there was certainty, at least in Dumbledore’s mind.
“Hello, Tom,” Dumbledore said evenly. Their eyes met, and they knew each other, immediately on guard. “I don’t suppose you remember me.”
“I remember a little,” Tom said. “What I do no remember is more important, though, I think.”
Dumbledore blinked. Memory Charms were not supposed to leave discernable gaps – it was part of the art. That Tom had maintained knowledge of the Memory Charm’s resulting emptiness, if not the subject erased, meant that even at eleven he had been more powerful than Dumbledore had guessed upon leaving him behind.
“Have you heard of those terrible murders?” Dumbledore asked.
“Like Jack the Ripper all over again,” Tom said. “I think it’s a travesty, and the murderer should get the rope.”
“Perhaps,” Dumbledore replied. “Although one always has to wonder why the murderer does what he does. What drives a man to do this?”
Tom shrugged. “Motives are incidental.” He looked to the porch stoop where Beth sat. “There is always a reason until there’s no reason at all.”
“Tom,” Dumbledore said quietly.
Tom looked back at him, still, quiet, and complacent. There was understanding, but no fear. Dumbledore, for one moment, almost believed his eyes. The boy was still beautiful; the boy was still a boy. But there was no light behind his eyes, no true compassion in the flush of blood under his skin.
“It was good to meet you again, sir,” Tom said. “I’m afraid I can’t welcome you into the house. My parents aren’t in, and Beth needs her lunch.”
“I’ll see you again, then,” Dumbledore said. “You can introduce me to your… parents and your sister.” He could see that the girl had fallen under Tom’s spell. There was evidence of a voyeur near the scenes of some of the crimes. A young girl, the Aurors thought, with blonde hair and little fingers. Tom’s hand comfortable on her shoulder as he led her inside gave Dumbledore a chill. He had never seen anything like it.
Beth struggled like a wild cat against the policeman holding her by the upper arms. He was startled by the unexpected strength coming from such a small body. He was not going to cuff her – she was only a little girl – but she was going to an in-patient facility to be evaluated by a psychiatrist there. She had been under Tom’s influence to the point of aiding him in his heinous murders. She was too young to be charged, probably too young to understand what she had been doing. Just looking at her, Joseph could see that she was not in her right mind.
They could not explain how the boy killed all of the children. They could not explain why, although the dead light in the boy’s eyes were chilling, unlike any eyes he had seen on a child’s face before. They may never have found a single suspect if not for the anonymous tip that Tom Riddle, the adopted son of the Goldsmiths, had a history of violence and a questionable pathology. He had experienced a violent childhood and had had a tendency to keep trophies of those he bullied. The tip recommended that they check the boy’s room, under his bed or his wardrobe, for the pieces he had taken from the girls. The knowledge of the trophies taken from the bodies had been held from the press, and the tip had enough potential (and the police detectives were sufficiently desperate) to investigate. As Tom watched them dig through his room, bound by handcuffs, those dead burned with fire, but he was too still. Even when on e of the policemen found his box of braided hair, skipping rope, dolls, Tom was perfectly still, no struggled at all, even though even the innocent tried to run. As they led Tom and his sister away, only Leigh reached for Tom as well as her daughter. Benjamin’s lips were thin and he stared after Tom, as though the policemen’s accusations were a personal affront and Tom’s presence was as welcome as a pest infestation.
“I let you into my house,” he whispered.
Tom held back a smile. No matter what they did, no matter how hard they tried to imprison him, no matter how many bars, how many guards, how many weapons, Tom would escape. They could not even hope to restrain the power of his superior freedom. He would get away. And he would start again.