You hate your own hands now: you cannot look at them without thinking of what they have done, what they have touched. You hate your face, your body; you hate your polluted skin.
You hate your name, forever tainted by the memory of that hoarse cry following you down the stairs. There are times when you have wild ideas about escaping, about leaving your old self behind, going to the continent under a different name, starting all over again. But anything might be waiting for you, and you know, deep down, that your name is all you have to help you in this world.
This is why, upon those occasions when you do leave the house, you always bring with you a servant, no matter how much they talk, how fast the rumours spread. You walk through the village, pretending not to hear them, those whispers behind your back, malicious or excited: see, Tom Riddle -- have you heard about the scandal? See Tom Riddle; do you know what he has done?
There is nothing you can tell your parents -- nothing, other than this revolting lie, this fake tale of common deceptions and broken promises. They think you a fool, a disgrace. Surely they would think you mad, if you were to tell them the truth.
Then again, you yourself think you might be mad, sometimes. Lying sleepless at night, staring into the darkness, you find the thought almost comforting: if you are mad, then maybe none of it was real, and nothing has happened, nothing will happen because of it. But you know this is not true; deep in your crumbled, aching heart, you know.
They tell you that Cecilia married one of her cousins three months ago, some old man you've never even heard of. Heart-broken, your mother says, fixing you with a cold stare. You write letters, heaps and heaps, not caring if Cecilia will think you mad -- possibly she thinks you mad already, since you left her for that thing, and who can blame her? You write letters, desperate not so much for her to take you back as for her to listen, to understand. Eventually you stop, when it becomes clear that you will never get a letter in return.
Your parents want you to remarry: the thought makes you sick. As they grow older, their complaints grow louder, but to no avail. You do not tell them of the child, nor are you ever going to. The thought that somewhere out there might be a living result of what happened fills you with anger, but most of all with cold dread. There is nothing, nothing, nothing you want more than to forget.
You picture the child, sometimes: you torture yourself with visions of your own misfortune. You picture your wretched, handsome features distorted, mingled with ghastly lineaments. You wonder if it lives; if it ever saw daylight; if it is going to be old enough, clever enough, to come and seek you out.
This is your secret horror, this is the tragedy that shaped and stole your youth, rendering you hollow, like the men who returned from the war you were too young to fight. This is your dishonourable disaster, in the shape of a fairy tale come true.
It's been ten years, and the servants no longer refer to you as 'the young master'. You still avoid the forest. You still wake up in the middle of the night sometimes, panic and revulsion threatening to chase your heart out of your throat.
Sometimes you wonder why you were let go of. Sometimes you think that waking you up was the cruelest act of all. Sometimes you think it would have been better to stay there, drugged and deprived of your senses. You could have stayed there, content in your nightmare, an unquestioning animal, a witless corpse.
And you keep getting older, with your tainted hands, your polluted body, your dishonoured name, and nothing happens. You keep getting older, you keep trying to forget, you keep hoping others will forget; and nothing ever happens, neither good nor bad.
The child must long ago have reached the age where it would have been capable of seeking you out, if it wanted to. Perhaps it does not live. Perhaps it never has -- perhaps that, too, was a lie.
It's been fifteen years, and you do not wake up with the cry of Cecilia's name on your lips anymore. The world is cold and colourless, but silent.
Fifteen years, and you have been hiding here all this time, crouching in shadows like a coward, like a scared beast. Nothing ever happens; nothing has ever happened. You are hiding, when you should have taken your life back years ago -- women and weaklings hide, men of your station do not. You see it in your parents' eyes, their disappointment, their sorrow. You understand that only the prospect of another scandal has kept them from shipping you off to the nearest madhouse years ago.
Fifteen years, and you are not going to be held back anymore: you are still handsome, still rich, still not too old. The world will be yours, if you let yourself take it -- if you let yourself forget, if you let yourself go.
This is why you start travelling again, start seeing your old friends from society again. This is why you start going to tea parties again, this is why, on one fine day when there aren't any servants about, you answer the doorbell yourself, quite without fear.
He has your face, your body; he has your hands and skin. He greets you with a cold smile, there is nothing of the witch about him, except for this: a wooden stick, and you know it is a wand, you recognise it from the fairy tales, the secret horror of your youth. You have hated yourself, but you know he hates you more, and you know your name is worth nothing to him.
His mother forced his life from you, now he will force your own, and you close your eyes and wait for it to happen.