I do not know, but I feel it, and it torments me."
He felt disgusted. Disgusted – with himself. He stole a glance at the woman standing next to him, deeply immersed in perusing his last homework. Her eyebrows were furrowed, her eyes skimming the paper.
He watched as her sky blue eyes narrowed in concentration, then his glance shifted a little lower, to stop on her cherry coloured lips that she was unconsciously chewing. He shuddered and looked away.
This couldn't be. This couldn't be happening to him! Yet, when he looked at her, he felt an odd sensation in his stomach that slowly crept upwards to his heart, leaving a fiery trail inside of him, burning in his midsection like some internal conflagration.
No, this really wasn't supposed to be happening to him. Not when this woman belonged to the race of people he despised. Not when this woman came from a family that was so like the family of his father's… not when she was nothing but a filthy little Mudblood.
However, when she looked up from his paper and one of her red-gold locks slipped from her back to her bosom, he knew it was happening to him.
Like it or not, Tom Riddle had a crush.
"I'm sorry, Riddle," she said in her mellifluous voice that made his inners quiver like jelly, "but I can't agree with you. See, the incantation you gave here is incorrect. It seems to me that you confused these two curses. Their incantations are pretty similar, I have to give it to you, but this one here makes the victim grow hair all over his face, while the other one allows you to get into someone else's mind. Actually the latter belongs to the Dark Arts…" she paused and gave him a scrutinising look. "I wonder how you got to know about it at all. Such curses are not included in your set books…"
"What if I read about them in the Restricted Section?" Tom gave her an angelic-innocent look.
"Don't even joke about something like that, Riddle," she said, frowning.
"I was just wondering," he fidgeted closer to her, "what you'd do if you could prove that I have illegally entered the Restricted Section… just curious, Professor."
"Well, of course I'd report you to Headmaster Dippet."
"Would you, really?" He arched an eyebrow at her, his gaze boring into hers, as though he was trying to glimpse into the depth of her soul.
"Don't… don't stare at me like that," she whispered.
"Why not?" he asked with a tiny smile.
"Because… because it makes me feel uneasy… Riddle."
"Call me Tom."
"Why?" she gulped.
"Don't ask. Just say it. I want to hear you say it, Adela…"
"It's Professor Springfield to you, Rid…" But she couldn't finish her sentence, because he suddenly pressed his lips to hers, silencing her.
"Riddle!" she shouted as she felt his grip on her loosen and had a chance to push him back. "What do you think you're doing?"
"Kissing you?" he asked with a confident smirk.
"How… how dare you?" she stuttered, backing away from him. However, he kept following her, until she was pressed to the wall, with no way to escape.
"Say Tom. I want to hear it from your mouth," he whispered, their faces only inches apart.
"T…tom," she muttered, not daring to look into his eyes.
He reached out and cupped her chin, forcing her to face him. "Say it again."
"See, you can do it." He moved his thumb up and down on her cheek, caressing it. He had never, never ever caressed a single creature – not human, not animal – before. He felt her whole body tremble as he was pressed to her. "I have always hated being called Tom, but from your mouth even my filthy Muggle father's name sounds as sweet as honey."
She seemed to have been awoken from some trance. "Filthy? Filthy Muggle? My parents are Muggles, too!" she hissed, her anger giving her enough strength to toss the boy away and free herself from his grip.
"Muggles… who have found it a disgrace that you were born a witch, so I heard…" He folded his arms, looking casual.
"How… how do you know?" She paled.
"Do you think I haven't done a little research into your past?" He leaned against the cupboard in which Professor Springfield was storing her Defence Against the Dark Arts spellbooks.
"A… research? On me?" she gasped, looking outraged. "Why?"
"You know the saying ‘know your enemy', don't you? Well, the same applies to someone you fancy. Know them if you want to conquer their heart."
She raised her eyebrows in an amused sort of way. "You fancy me, Riddle?"
"It's Tom, and yes, I do fancy you, Adela."
"It's P…" Before she could continue with ‘rofessor Springfield', he pressed his index finger to her lips.
"Shush, we aren't here to talk."
"On the contrary, Riddle, we're here to discuss your abysmal homework, for which you definitely don't deserve an A, only a D!" she replied defiantly.
"I love your temper, you know." He grinned.
"Don't grin at me like that!" She stamped her foot.
"Because… because I'm a teacher and you're just an insolent little brat, Riddle!"
"Oh, am I?" He leaned closer to her again. "An insolent little brat who can make you lose your head with fury and tremble with desire?"
"D… desire?" she stammered as he leant as close as he could without making contact with her. She found herself mesmerised by those deep, velvety grey eyes and that immense knowledge she saw in them. How could a boy this young have eyes so full of intelligence, wisdom, yet pain and suffering? What had made this boy become so… so inexplicable? She thought she could reach out and touch him yet not feel him, she could talk to him yet not understand him… she could see the pain in his eyes yet not know where it came from.
What had this boy gone through? What had made him so cynical, so cold, so elusive, yet so… charismatic?
Riddle was the greatest riddle she had ever encountered in a person.
And, whether she liked to admit it or not, this enigmatic youngster attracted her like a magnet.
"I don't know what you're talking about," she said finally.
"Don't you know it?" He slipped closer still, a new fire blazing in his eyes that gave him a sort of predatory look.
Professor Springfield sought to flee, backing away from him, only to trip over a chair she had forgotten having placed there. To her luck – or ill fate – he caught her before she could hit the floor.
"I think you do know it," he whispered, holding her tight. "Admit it, Adela."
However, Adela did not admit anything, just reached out and grabbed his head, pulling it down and losing herself into the kiss.
An hour later he was lying on his back, looking at the canopy of Professor Springfield's four-poster bed, absentmindedly caressing the red-gold tresses of the woman whose head was resting on his shoulder. She was in a deep slumber.
He didn't dare look at her, not when he felt so ashamed… actually he shouldn't have felt ashamed at all, given that his ‘performance' wasn't even bad for a first time, still he felt he'd die of shame… and disgust. What was he thinking he was doing when flirting with this… this… abomination?
He rolled to his side, facing away from her. She moaned in her sleep, annoyed that her ‘pillow' (Tom's shoulder) had moved out of reach.
He stared into the darkness of the room, his mind reeling.
Why have I done this? he asked himself, and all the answer he could get was You're sixteen, for heaven's sake! It was time your hormones kicked in!
I know that! Tom's mind shouted. I know I needed this release, but why… why with her of all people? Why not with a pureblood Slytherin girl of my own age? Why with a professor ten years older… why with a damned Mudblood?
Oh, boy, you cannot choose whom to fall in love with! his mind answered.
I'm not in love with her! Tom snapped.
No? Then what made you go weak at the knee when you looked at her? What made you kiss her, hold her, pet her?
I DON'T KNOW! Tom's inner self howled. I feel disgusted by the mere thought of caressing someone! Yuck. I didn't want this to happen!
Are you sure?
Yes, I am! This… this witch surely bewitched me!
Bewitch you, has she? I don't think so… it seemed as though YOU have bewitched her, not the other way around…
Why would I want to bewitch a filthy Mudblood? Tom thought, irritated.
Because this time it didn't matter that she was a Mudblood… all that mattered is that she's a woman, and a beautiful one at that… and you, young man, can be tough, cruel, or whatever you please, but a woman's charm is something that even you can't resist. Love is the mightiest force, Tom…
But I DON'T love her! I can't… love her… I can't love at all… especially her, this wretched little Mudblood!
At this point the wretched little Mudblood flung her arm around Tom's midsection and nestled herself onto his back, making a searing sensation course through him from head to toe.
To hell with the fact that she's a Mudblood! he thought and turned around with a sudden movement, pinning her beneath himself.
"A bit too demanding, aren't you, Tom?" She yawned, hoping to go back to sleep. But that night, she had no chance to rest.
* * * * *
"Where have you been, Tom?" Adela asked.
"None of your business," he grunted, dropping himself on her bed. They had been leading this forbidden relationship for months now and Tom was getting tired of it. He no longer felt an all-consuming desire for her – not when he could get her whenever he pleased. He was the type of person who always wanted more than he had. He no more understood how he could have wanted this woman so badly, how he could have had such animal cravings… he felt dirty, for he had given in to lowly desires; and even dirtier, for he had done it with a Mudblood. He felt he was covered in filth, and he could only wash himself clean with blood… He had felt a short-lived exhilaration when Salazar Slytherin's Basilisk managed to kill that pathetic little girl, yet it wasn't enough. He wanted, needed death… and this time he wouldn't be satisfied by sicking the serpent on someone… this time he wanted to do it, with his own hands…
Sometimes, after an earth-shattering climax, he dreamed about throttling the woman sleeping peacefully and unsuspecting in his arms, but when he woke up, it always struck him: wouldn't it be unwise to kill a teacher? Couldn't the murder be traced back to him?
"You've been worrying me, Tom," Adela said, sitting down on the bed behind him, starting to massage his shoulders, clearly believing it to be a good method for relieving him of his tension.
"Do not touch me," he growled.
With a sigh she stopped kneading him. "If you don't want me to touch you, then why have you come tonight?"
"Why, you are asking me?" he snapped, turning around to face her. "What have you greeted me with just a minute ago? Where have you been, Tom? As though I had been up to something… as though you felt you had to keep an eye on me!" he shouted, but his next sentence was a mere whisper. A whisper with an accusatory undertone: "You don't trust me, Adela."
"But… but of course I trust you, Tom. I love you and I wouldn't love you if I didn't trust you…"
"Then why do you keep asking where I was when I'm a minute late? Why are you following me around like a puppy dog?"
"Just because…" Her voice faltered. "Because… I'm worried about you."
"So, you were worried when that little girl got attacked, eh? Worried that I could also get attacked, or that I was the one attacking her?"
"But… Tom! How… how can you assert such ridiculous things? You know I never in my life would suspect you of something as terrible as that!"
"Oh yeah?" He jumped up. "To me it pretty much seemed that you were suspecting me!"
"Of course I wasn't!" She hopped up, too, her face flushed with anger. "No one knows better than me how much you hate spending your summer holidays at the Muggle orphanage, and it's obvious that those attacks made sure that you'll have to go back there… certainly you wouldn't work against yourself, would you?"
"Right. I wouldn't." He nodded, not daring to look into her eyes. Her little monologue, though, had made him feel more ashamed than ever. Unconsciously she had ‘accused' him of being stupid enough to work against himself… and if he thought it over, he had to admit that she was quite right. In his eagerness to fulfil Salazar Slytherin's noble plan of purging the school of the unworthy, he had made sure he'd be sent back to the oh-so-hated orphanage.
Still, she didn't have the right to even suppose that he was stupid. Stupid? Him? The last heir of the great Salazar Slytherin?
Again he felt like strangling this woman. How dare she? How dare she humble Lord Voldemort?
Yes… that was it… Tom, being bored and disgusted by his name (that no more sounded honey-sweet from Adela's mouth), had decided to fashion himself a new one. He had several times savoured ‘lord', and had to admit that he liked the sound of it. He only needed to find a matching name, and since he had always fantasised about becoming immortal, he chose Voldemort, the French expression for ‘flee from death'. Up till now he hadn't talked to anyone about this self-fabricated name, yet in thought he'd started calling himself Voldemort.
No lord was supposed to endure humiliation from a lesser person, especially a good-for-nothing Muggle-born!
"Why… why are you looking at me like that, Tom?" Adela gulped, horrified. His face was no more human, rather feral, his velvety grey eyes were bulging, and gleaming in a strange way, giving the impression of being red rather than grey… or had she just imagined it? She couldn't be sure, but she knew that she really no longer could trust him. A man that loved you, would never look at you like that… with such hate, such… what? Desire to kill?
"Get out of my room," she said very quietly, not daring to look at him any longer. After a minute of examining one particularly dirty spot on the floor, she heard the door bang shut. She looked up, heaving a sigh and wondering what she had just witnessed. He couldn't have been a Metamorphmagus, could he? Yet… if he wasn't one, then how could his usually benign, handsome features contort so radically, melding into the mask of a bloodthirsty werewolf about to pounce? What had got into her beloved Tom?
Blood… yes, that's it. He needed death, he needed to kill, to wash himself clean… He was craving to see someone die at his hands… He needed release, release from the thought of having dirtied himself in a Mublood's bed, release from the thought of having to go back to the orphanage, release from the always tantalising thought of why he had to live in that orphanage: because his father had never wanted him.
His wretched Muggle father who didn't deserve the love of his wonderful wife… who had left her when pregnant, left her to give birth alone and hadn't given a damn when she died in childbirth – if he had known it at all… Tom sometimes wondered whether his father had even heard of his wife's death…
It was all down to his pathetic father, it was all his fault! Had he not left his expectant wife, then perhaps she wouldn't have died, she would have been there to raise Tom, would have given him love and caring and he wouldn't have had to seek those in the person of Adela Springfield… oh, yes, Tom thought, he hadn't been in love with Adela, she had only filled the ‘motherless' space in Tom's soul… but she had failed.
A real mother wouldn't have humiliated him, would she? A real mother wouldn't have sent him away, would she? A real mother would have trusted him…
Seething, Tom reached the oak front door of the Hogwarts castle and opened it, hurrying out into the night.
A real mother would have understood him… he kept thinking. Adela was worthless, she couldn't be the mother Tom had always wished for, and she had become annoying as a lover as well. He had no need of a lover, what he desired she couldn't provide him with. No one could provide him with that… and it was all his damned father's fault.
Kill… kill… he had to kill to find release.
Before he even realised, he had reached the gate with the winged boars. From the other side of the gate he could easily Apparate – he was outside of the Hogwarts grounds, after all. Certainly, students of his age weren't supposed to be able to Apparate, but Tom had always thought that the rules were beneath him, and had learnt things in secret that he wasn't supposed to learn…
Walking past the boar-statues, his mind was reeling, he was practically hyperventilating, he barely saw his surroundings, his vision was fogged by some sort of madness, as though a veil had been tightly wound around his head – he was trapped inside of his head, his mind screaming at him: Kill!, making it impossible for him to think of anything else…
Suddenly the veil lifted, his vision cleared and he perceived that he was standing in the garden of a huge, sinister-looking house. He remembered having seen it once before - he had been about nine years old when the principal of the orphanage had decided to arrange a bit of an excursion for the children. They had had a very cheerful picnic in the meadow below the hill on which this house stood.
"Yeh know, tis the house of the Riddles. Me mum used ter work fer them as lon' as she lived. When she died, I got sent ter this stupid orphanage," one of the elder children had told Tom. "Yer name is also Riddle, isn't it, Tommy boy?"
Tom had only nodded.
"Well, yeh know, me mum said that this family's son married, but left his wife who was pregnant… nasty people, the whole damn Riddle family…"
The whole damn Riddle family…
Years later, when Tom turned eleven and received his Hogwarts letter, he got to know things he had never dreamed were possible. He got to know that his mother had been a witch who had been abandoned by her husband when she told him about her magic powers. It hadn't been hard for Tom to put two and two together: the husband abandoning his pregnant wife, the name Riddle… so now he knew that this house was the residence of his so-called family… his so-called family, who had ruined his life, who had made him become so cold, so cynical, so devoid of true emotions… oh, what he would have given to be able to love… but no, he wasn't capable of it. No matter how much Adela had loved him, it wasn't enough to melt the ice that had so thickly frozen around his heart… He couldn't love her, not as a friend, not as a mother-substitute, not as a lover.
His heart was dead, and he had been foolish to think that he had ever loved her. He had mistaken the work of his teenage hormones for that inexplicable, beautiful thing called LOVE. That's something he'd never ever feel for anyone. He wished he could, but knew he couldn't.
Although he was walking, breathing, talking, he barely felt alive, for his heart was dead, it had been dead all his life. Not even as a child could he feel real joy or love. The only emotion he was still capable of was hate.
He hated everyone.
He hated his father for having left his mother, he hated all Muggles because they – as he supposed – were all like his father, he hated his schoolmates who all had happy families, he hated his teachers who had an attitude of looking at him with great compassion, their eyes radiating you poor, poor orphan…
Tom felt like cursing all of them, he needed no one's compassion! Only the weak needed compassion, and Lord Voldemort certainly wasn't weak.
His hate for all the living was strong enough to give him power, his hate spurred him on, to walk down the path to the Riddle house's front door, to open it with a flick of his wand and go looking for the owners of the house…
What happened after that was a blur for Tom – finding his father and grandparents in the drawing room, then – after a bit of shouting and mutual swearing – casting the Killing Curse on each of them…
After minutes of just looking dazedly at the older Riddles' bodies lying on the floor, their eyes wide open in shock, a silent scream frozen on their lips, Tom got shaken out of his trance-like-reverie by the creaking of a floorboard. It couldn't have been him, he had been standing there motionlessly, and surely his dead ‘family' wasn't moving anymore…
He spun around, yelling Immobilus! at whoever had made that noise.
"Adela?" He blinked, looking at his whore (he no more even considered her worthy of being called ‘lover'), who was rooted to the spot by his charm, unable to move. However, he was sure that if she had been able to move, she would have been trembling from head to toe. The expression on her face at least suggested that.
"T…tom?" she breathed. The only body-part she could move was her mouth.
"How did you get here?" he asked, his voice unbelievably calm for someone who had just murdered three people.
She pressed her lips tightly together, her eyes radiating a determination not to answer him.
"All right, then," he said, shrugging. "Legilimens!" he pointed his wand at her again.
In the next instant he was walking down the path of her memories and thoughts…
He saw her slipping some sort of a magical tracker into his robes when giving him a massage that evening… So, she had really not trusted him…
Then he saw…
"No, Tom, my son, don't kill us!"
"Dear grandson, you… you wouldn't… wouldn't kill us? The only family you have?"
"Oh yes, the only family I have, thanks to your son! Had he not abandoned my mother, she wouldn't have died, and then my only family wouldn't be a bunch of filthy Muggles, three snivelling pieces of scum!"
"Tom… Tom, please… consider it…"
"I have LONG AGO considered it, FATHER. Avada Kedavra!"
"So, you have seen it all," Tom said, stepping closer to the woman. "You know that this means I have to kill you, too?"
"No, Tom!" she whispered. "I… I can shut up about it… I won't tell anyone, I swear! Just… just cast the Obliviator Curse on me, and I'll forget all I've seen!"
"Yes…" He seemed contemplative for a moment, "I could do that… But it still does not change the fact that you don't trust me… you would continue being suspicious, you'd continue following me around as though I were not accountable…"
"Because you aren't," she replied. "You've just killed your father and grandparents in cold blood. Of course you're not accountable, you're mad, Tom. You need a psychiatrist… I'm sure that in St Mungo's the Healers would be able to help you… and you wouldn't be sent to Azkaban, since you're underage… They couldn't sentence you, but you'd get help! Tom, you definitely need it!"
"The only thing I need is to see you die…" he whispered. "And don't think I wouldn't have killed you long ago if it hadn't been suspicious: a teacher being murdered at Hogwarts… if my memory serves me well, no such thing has ever happened in the school's history… I've read Hogwarts, a History, you know… But now that you're away from school, I must seize the opportunity and silence you forever, my dear. People at Hogwarts wouldn't get to know, since it happened in a Muggle house, far away from the magical world… no one would ever be able to prove that it was little Tommy Riddle who had done it… They wouldn't be able to prove it, just as they will never be able to prove that I killed Myrtle Myers… or what do they call her? Moaning Myrtle?" his mouth tucked into a devilish smirk that made Adela pale even more, her chalk white face in contrast with her red-gold hair that, in the semi-darkness of the room rather looked deep red.
"So… it was you, then," she muttered.
"Yes, my dear, you suspected me right." He reached out and cupped her chin. "You might be a good-for-nothing Mudblood, a disgrace to the name of witch, but your feelings haven't betrayed you. With your intelligence, Adela, you could have served Lord Voldemort well… had you been pureblooded, of course…"
"Lord… Lord What?" She gulped.
"Vol-de-mort. My new name. Like it? Of course I wouldn't keep my old one, what an abomination, being named after my Muggle father… from tonight on, little Tommy Riddle doesn't exist… there's Lord Voldemort instead."
"And what do you intend to do now, your lordship?" she asked in a sarcastic tone. "Take over the world? Kill all the Muggles?"
"Exactly as you say, Adela." He nodded, his eyes glinting with maniacal glee, and there were again seconds when they seemed rather red than grey. "But, before I start to conquer the world and gather followers to help my cause, I'll have to make sure that you keep your big mouth shut." At this point she started to quiver, despite the Immobilus Charm. "Unfortunately wiping your memories isn't safe enough… certain charms can retrieve them and you might be spilling the beans about things I'd rather you kept secret. So… you'll just have to take these secrets to the grave with you…"
"Don't kill me… Tom…"
"Don't you dare call me Tom again, I am Lord Voldemort!" he hissed, his nose nearly touching hers. For a moment they stared at each other, the air vibrating around them, between them…
She longed to reach out and touch his face, to caress him and tell him how much she loved him… loved him despite all he had done and was about to do…
She felt like chastising herself for being such an idiot – for loving a murderer, a clearly disturbed and dangerous person who was just about to kill her, too… yet she couldn't not love him.
I'm insane, she told herself. Still, when she examined his cute, boyish features, when she looked into his eyes that used to darken with desire whenever he held her in his arms, when she looked at his lips that used to kiss her with such passion that she still shuddered at the memory, she simply couldn't hate him. Especially because…
"Lord Voldemort," she whispered, "don't kill me, for I'm carrying your daughter."