Chapter 2: Thomas
Tom Riddle was missing something in life. He’d been aware of this fact from a very young age, probably as soon as he could talk, or better yet, listen. He was told he had been an odd child and Tom did not find that hard to believe. He never cried as a baby, never played with the other kids, and generally only spoke when spoken to. He made no effort to entice families into adopting him. Whenever prospective parents had wandered through, he had stayed clear of them, hiding in the shadows while his peers flocked over to them like moths to the flame.
It was all very disgusting in his opinion. Flouncing through an orphanage and speaking to little boys and girls as though interviewing them for an honored position in their home. Even worse were the kids that played their game, those who smiled and pulled out figurative halos and answered the questions in sugary sweet politeness that gave Tom a toothache. It was pathetic, he sneered in his mind.
Consequently, Tom was never adopted. There had come a time or two when he had come close, but then someone would mention his special talents and the young couple interested would have a sudden change of heart. As a child, Tom hadn’t understood, but as he grew into a young man, he stopped caring.
He was better than them, anyway.
And so, as Tom grew older, fewer people would interview him to be their son. Now he was almost eighteen and no one paid attention to him any longer, having reached that age that was too old for most couples. He was no longer a little toddler, or a quiet young boy. He was a young man, brooding and sneering. Better than that, he was a wizard.
Sitting on the small cot that served as his bed Tom smirked. It was a good thing no one had ever adopted him otherwise he might not have discovered the truth about who and what he was. A wizard, yes, but not an ordinary one. He was top of his class, the smartest student to have ever graced Hogwarts’s halls, but more importantly, a Slytherin in the truest sense of what it meant to belong to the house of snakes. The blood of Salazar Slytherin coursed through his veins and that made up for everything.
Although, his blood did not fill that dark void within him. He was still missing something that he couldn’t quite name, something that everyone else seemed to have. It didn’t matter, he told himself; whatever it was that others seemed to glow with- he didn’t need it. He didn’t want it.
So he filled that hole in him with other things. Hate, blood, darkness… everything that on some level he knew would never fill it. And so the void remained looming within him, waiting for that shove that would send him over the edge and into the darkness within.
There was a brief knock on his door that brought Tom out of his reverie.
“Enter,” he commanded.
In walked a boy his age named Dennis. He was short, slightly plump, and was visibly nervous about being alone with Tom.
“Well, what is it then?” Tom barked when Dennis merely stood there stupidly.
“Mrs. Cole wants you,” he stammered, not quite looking him in the eye.
Tom rolled his eyes as Dennis continued to stand in threshold of his small room. “Leave now,” Tom ordered, smirking as the boy jumped and scurried away.
Idiots, he mentally sneered, the whole lot of them.
Standing, Tom straightened the horrible grey tunic that he was still forced to wear, and slipped his wand into his left pocket. Why couldn’t these people leave him alone? He had more important things to do than talk to these dirty-veined muggles.
Nevertheless, Tom made his way to the harpy’s office, leisurely taking his time and making her wait for him. His fellow orphans scurried out of his path when they saw him, which caused Tom to sneer in satisfaction. Some of the older kids, those he had known literally his whole life, sneered back at him, but Tom was unaffected. He might have found their attempts to intimidate him amusing if it wasn’t so pathetic.
When he reached Alice Cole’s office, Tom did not knock. He opened the door and strolled into the cramped room with his head high and shoulders back.
“Tom, thank you for coming,” Mrs. Cole began, waving a hand at the empty chair before her desk for him to take.
“Of course, madam,” Tom murmured politely, perching on the chair.
“Good day to you, Tom,” came from the corner behind him, causing Tom to lift a brow in surprise.
He hadn’t noticed Albus Dumbledore when he had come in.
Tom met the twinkling eyes of his Transfiguration teacher and inclined his head as he greeted, “Professor, sir.”
A movement to Dumbledore’s left caught his eye, and Tom turned his gaze to see a girl of his age approximately, who was trying, and failing, to stop fiddling with her robes.
Mrs. Cole cleared her throat slightly, drawing Tom’s attention away from the strange girl and back to her. “Well, Tom, I believe we have a bit of a problem,” she began.
Tom lifted a brow in clear question.
“Nothing serious,” Dumbledore interjected.
The girl snorted suddenly, blushing when all eyes fell on her.
“So sorry,” she mumbled, her cheeks tinting red.
“You see, my boy,” Dumbledore began again, the twinkle in his damned eyes increasing, “Hogwarts has received a fine addition to its halls, but I’m afraid certain unfortunate circumstances has led to her arrival being much too early. The school, as you are aware, is unable to house students during the summer, which has left us in a rather untoward predicament.”
Tom flicked his eyes to the girl and then back to Dumbledore as he continued to speak.
“Our new Head Girl is currently on vacation in Greece, otherwise we would have requested she stay with her. You, as our Head Boy, were our next logical choice. We have arranged with Mrs. Cole for her to remain here for the duration of the summer holiday, and as Head Boy, it will be your duty to look after her,” Dumbledore stated.
Curious, Tom thought as he looked once again at this new girl. She was rather short; Tom himself stood at an impressive 6’1″ and he doubted that she’d even reach his chin. She wore a black skirt and a white blouse with a plain, black robe over her modest outfit. She was plain looking, brown eyes and brown, slightly frizzy hair.
Her name was probably Jane, he thought.
Realizing that everyone was waiting for him to say something, Tom looked away from the girl and asked coldly, “Why doesn’t she just go back home?”
Mrs. Cole gasped at his blatant rudeness and nearly choked on her drink. Dumbledore was about to reply, but surprisingly, the girl stepped forward and stated rather matter-of-factly, “I have no home. My parents are dead and I have no living relatives. Makes sense to send me to an orphanage, no?”
The girl stood tall as she confronted him and spoke with little to no feeling. Hm-m, reflected Tom, this is interesting.
“Very well, then,” Mrs. Cole chirped, unnaturally cheerful. “She is more than welcome to spend the summer with us.”
“We are happy to reimburse you for any inconvenience,” Dumbledore graciously offered.
“That is very generous of you, indeed, Professor. Tom, why don’t you take our guest to one of the empty rooms and explain our meal schedule and rules,” Mrs. Cole smiled thinly.
“Of course,” Tom allowed, standing and moving to the door where he waited rather pointedly for the girl to come.
“My dear, remember what we’ve discussed. If you are in need of my assistance, I will know. Do try to relax,” the Transfiguration teacher said in farewell to her.
“Thank you again, sir. And you as well, Mrs. Cole,” the girl smiled, revealing perfect white teeth.
She met Tom at the door and silently followed him. He was thankful that she made no attempt at idle chit-chat and merely walked behind him, dragging her school trunk. He noticed that she seemed to be having no trouble pulling her luggage which led him to believe she had spelled her trunk to be light.
How very practical.
The others once again skittered out of his way when he sneered at them, although they did stare very interestedly at the girl trailing behind him. Honestly, he did not begrudge their curiosity. Tom rarely associated himself with anyone, let alone some girl that no one recognized.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the girl smile at some as they passed, eyes lighting up in kindness, although he also noticed that her small smile seemed really close to being a smirk. And as he had expected earlier, the girl was just shy of reaching his chin in height.
Quickening his pace, Tom made an abrupt decision to take her to the empty room across from his. He would need to keep a close eye on her, after all, for Dumbledore would surely have his head if anything happened to her. Besides, he wanted to find out more about her. Tom did not like knowing anything, and he most certainly knew nothing about this mystery girl.
Stopping abruptly, he turned around to look down his nose at the girl as she stumbled to a halt, nearly colliding with him.
“This,” he pointed sharply to his left, “is your room. This,” he jabbed to the right, “Is my room. Any questions?”
“No, you’re being very thorough” she countered sarcastically.
Tom raised a brow. “Indeed,” he sneered before he continued on. “Meals are at seven, noon, and six. You’ll find an ugly grey tunic on your bed, like the one I am currently wearing. It is required that you wear it. Officially you might not be a part of the orphanage, but you’ll still have to dress as though you are. Kitchen and cafeteria are down the stairs to the left, and the study room is opposite of that. If you have any questions, go ask someone else.”
The girl actually had the nerve to smile at him. “Why would I have any questions when you are being so very informative, Mr. Riddle?” she asked in seeming innocence.
“I couldn’t possibly even begin to fathom why, Miss-” he cut off, suddenly realizing he did not know her name.
“Granger. Hermione Granger,” she offered.
Hermione, he pondered the name, softly whispering it in his head. Interesting name. Granger, he then mulled over. The surname did not sound familiar which meant she was probably a Mudblood.
“Miss Granger,” he continued as though he had never stopped. “Dispose of your trunk and I will allow you to follow me to lunch.”
“So very generous of you,” she murmured, but she did place her trunk in her room quickly, and began following him once more.
“These Muggles know nothing about magic. They think I’ve been going to a boarding school called Hogwarts and it would be wise for them to continue believing in that notion. Clear?”
Hermione nodded curtly. “Inescapably.”
They entered the half deserted dinning hall and Tom led her over to a table filled with trays. He picked one up, motioning for her to do the same, and then went to stand in line. They moved forward slowly, and when they reached the front, Tom stuck out his tray. An old, burly man with an unpleasant expression and sweat dripping off of him slapped his ladle onto the tray. He wrinkled his nose at the grub, but had long since learned to say nothing. Tom moved away and stood by waiting for the Granger chit.
The slop was slapped onto her plate, but she did not move so that the line could keep going.
“Git on, girlie,” Frank barked at her.
Tom watched interestedly as he saw the corner of her lips quirk as she said, “Please sir, I’d like some more.”
Tom nearly laughed out loud when he heard her, that being the absolutely last thing he would have thought she’d ever say. Frank started grumbling before slopping more grub onto her plate. It was clear to Tom that Frankie had never read Dickens. And it was also clear to him that this girl had.
What a peculiar sense of humor, he thought.
The Granger girl beamed at Frank, who promptly stopped his grumbling to stare dumbly at her. She moved out of the line to where Tom was waiting for her and he then proceeded to take her to the empty half of the table.
He sank gracefully onto his chair as she plopped inelegantly on hers, dropping her tray unceremoniously before her. He watched her sniff the grey slime and swirl it around with her fork.
“What in the name of Merlin is this?” she whispered, clearly horrified.
“Don’t ask,” he muttered.
She snorted. “Ignorance is bliss.”
Tom watched in faint amusement as she stared at the offending sludge on the end of her fork. She opened her mouth and closed her eyes, shoving in the food before she lost her nerve.
Hermione frowned. “It has no taste,” she said.
Tom quirked his head at her, saying, “It’s a vitamin powder they mix with water and then heat. Much cheaper than actual food.”
“Interesting,” she murmured.
“Yes, it is,” came a voice from behind her, “It is very interesting to see Riddle with a new friend.”
The girl jerked in surprise, but Tom was outwardly calm as he raised his light green eyes to Billy Stubbs and the rest of his friends.
“Especially,” he smiled coldly when Granger turned around to look at him, “One as beautiful as you.”
Tom wanted to gag at such an obvious line. He was about to retort when the girl said, “We go to the same school,” by way of explanation.
“Is that so?” asked Stubbs.
“Didn’t I just say so?”
Tom smirked. What an amusing little mouth she had.
Stubbs glared at her angrily. “Then you must be a freak, too. We all know that Tom’s boarding school is a place for freaks.”
“You are within you’re right to think so,” was all she said before turning back to her food.
Stubbs sputtered stupidly. “You do know who and what he is, don’t you?” he hissed. “He’s a freak, a boy so foul he’d strangle you in your sleep, and he holds grudges until the end of time.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “I’m beginning to see why,” she bit off in annoyance.
“Are you quite finished?” Tom asked mildly when Stubbs remained silent in shock.
His face scrunched up and his cheeks began to turn an unhealthy shade of red, but one of the others boys wisely pulled him away, leaving Tom to stare curiously at the new girl.
“What a positively dreadful boy. No wonder he was never adopted,” she said, mostly to her food.
Tom stared at her, completely amazed. He had sorely read her wrong in Mrs. Cole’s office. This was no plain, ordinary girl. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but there was something about her. Something about the way she carried herself.
Something that reminded him slightly of himself.
“Who are you?” he asked quietly.
She stopped eating. “What do you mean?” Her tone had changed. Tom had heard her be sarcastic, polite, insulting, and nice, but now she was guarded, deliberate.
“I think you know very well what I mean. I don’t buy Dumbledore’s story for one minute, so the question is, who are you and why are you here?” he insisted.
“I told you before,” she claimed. “I am Hermione Granger.”
Tom scoffed. “I am not asking for your name, Mudblood.”
He knew he hit a nerve when he saw her hand twitch. So he had been correct in his earlier assumptions. Tom was beginning to smirk victoriously when she looked up from her plate. The pure, unadulterated hatred he saw shimmering in those brown pools took his breath away. He wasn’t amazed by the fact that he had angered her, he’d angered a good many people in his eighteen years, and he was even shocked that she seemed to hate him. She could get in line.
No, what held him captivated, spellbound, was that he realized something was missing. Or, more specifically, Hermione Granger was missing something. Something he couldn’t name, but would know it ifhe saw it. Know it if he felt it. She was missing the same thing he was…
“You know what, Thomas,” she hissed, causing him to flinch softly. “Seeing as how you live in a Muggle orphanage I could call you a Mudblood, too, couldn’t I?”
She made a quick exit, but it wasn’t quick enough for Tom not to notice the glint of tears. He sat there, long after his lunch congealed and everyone else left the room. His normal calm heart was beating slightly fastat a new pace, a beat it had never danced before.
And as snippets of thoughts coursed through his head, he could only really focus on one that kept reoccurring.
No one has ever called me Thomas before…