A/N: Yes, I suppose I should resolve that whole cliffhanger thing that I've left on Pilatus...but I found this in a notebook as I was cleaning and rearranging my room. I'd forgotten that I wrote it, though once I started reading it I remembered it very clearly. So I typed it up to send on to my pre-beta, the wonderful Incurable Romantic to whom I owe many thanks, who loved it (though she wants me to stop distracting myself and finish up Pilatus!). So I decided to post it. Also, many thanks to tags, aka Michele, without whom I'd be lost in a deep sea of typos and wrong tenses.
I call him Tom when I'm alone.
My family doesn't like it. Even such a simple name as Tom, now that they know the significance, will cause them to wince so badly you'd think they were having seizures. Around them I have to say "You-Know-Who" or, at the very least, something impersonal, like "The Dark Lord." Long ago, I gave up trying to convince them that he wasn't going to pop out of the ground like the devil that he is just because I said his given name.
After all, what are the words "Tom" or "Lord Voldemort" but a breath of air, a tightening of the vocal cords, a formation of the mouth? None of that can hurt you. What's the Muggle saying? "Sticks and stones can break my bones..."
Some might argue that the spells that give witches and wizards our power are just utterances. But tell that to any non-magic sibling of a Muggle-born who has asked their parents over and over "when do I get to go to Hogwarts?" that magical place that they only know through their brother or sister's letters and holiday stories. Tell that to any squib who has taken their mother's wand while she wasn't looking and tried something as simple as Wingardium Leviosa. If the power isn't there, the power isn't there. It's what backs up a spell that gives it power, whether that be force, some innate talent, or just plain willful stubbornness.
But, even as I have no desire to be squeamish about such a thing as a name, neither do I have any wish to set my family off every time we try discussing the war. There's just no point. Dad will start sweating. Mum will screech and flutter about the house closing shutters. Bill and Charlie cast dark looks at each other (in that annoyingly superior fashion they have just because they're the oldest...but that's a rant for another time). Percy will look nervous (or would, if he still spoke to us), the twins will yell ("Gin! What d'you think you're doing?"), and Ron will just stare at me in horror. Nothing gets done that way. So I have to step off my high horse, sometimes, for progress's sake.
But when I'm alone, I call him Tom.
Sometimes I just have to scream, rant, and just plain vent about what's going on. I asked Mum to put a Silencing charm on my room with the excuse that I'd been talking in my sleep at Hogwarts, and didn't want to disturb anyone at home, but, really, it was because I go up there to purge my mind of the images that still haunt me. Sometimes I call his name, scream at him, daring him to try to use me again. Sometime I sit and talk to myself, using my words to catalogue and organize every agonizing moment of my first year at Hogwarts, searching for clues to answer a question that I don't know yet. Sometimes, just bringing it up helps dispel the feelings of guilt and anger that otherwise sit as a dull ache in my head. If I acknowledge that it's there, it allows me to think beyond my horrible memories and live my life like a normal teenage girl.
Much of the time, Tom signifies the monster that is Lord Voldemort--evil, and conniving, willing to twist the mind of an eleven year old girl in order to further his own goals. This is the Tom that brought me to the Chamber, the Tom that made me paint the walls in rooster blood, the Tom that tried to take my life so he could live. This is the Tom that, in another form and another time, killed a happy young couple and tried to kill their infant son, in the end forcing him to live with horrible relatives as he grew up, forced him to see his classmate die, forced him to fight a full wizard's duel at the age of eleven, kept him, and still keeps him, from living the normal life that he wants.
This is the monster that tortured another young couple until they could no longer think, act, or feel like normal people. Tortured them until they became mere shells of the people they had once been. Tortured them, then left them alive so their son could grow up hoping that they could someday find themselves and know him, but with each visit, hope turns more and more into disappointment at they harsh realities of life. This is the monster that continues to change the lives of wizards and witches, bringing them face to face with death, and pain and fear. Yet they all keep fighting him without giving up the hope that one day things will change and their children will be able to live in a time of peace.
Yet, sometimes I don't see Tom the monster. Sometimes Tom is a scared little boy who is frightened of what he can do, who is angry at his own father for abandoning him and his mother, who just wants to be a normal kid, like the rest of us. But he can't because of his anger and fear. They don't let him live his life the way he wants to, the way we all want to. And then, as I think about who Tom is now, who Lord Voldemort is, all I can see is an angry, scared little boy who never really grew up. And I pity him.
I call him Tom when I'm by myself. That's all he really is, anyway.