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Tom Riddle is Not a Psychopath

Chapter Text

The clock on the wall ticked rhythmically. The dull, distant traffic flowed in through the open windows. Sunlight slanted in and coated everything it touched in a rich, orange glow.

Tom watched Dumbledore and Dumbledore watched Tom.

Seconds bled into minutes.

Blue eyes twinkled behind half-moon spectacles.

Tom resisted the urge to tug at his school tie.

“Tom,” Dumbledore said eventually, breaking the silence, “I understand this is a difficult conversation, but it’s one we must have.”

“As I already mentioned, Doctor, I don’t need to talk about it. It happened many years ago and I’ve healed.”

“Tom, no one really heals from this sort of pain. And seeing as your parents-”

Adopted-parents, Doctor,” Tom interjected, forcing the sneer out of his voice, “You said yourself that I have to make the distinction clear from the very beginning.”

“Adopted-parents,” he amended easily, “are moving as well, old wounds are going to resurface.”

“When I was abandoned in that orphanage, Doctor, I was five. I’m seventeen now and I’m not being abandoned, I chose to stay here.”

Dumbledore let out an almost unnoticeable sigh as he scribbled in his notebook, “Just so long as you have established this difference yourself, Tom. How have things been with Hermione?”

Tom made a special effort not to clench his jaw, “Fine. She found an apartment we can share for the time being.”

“And how long is the ‘time being’?”

“Until I want to leave.”

“And what are your plans for the future, Tom? Have you thought about university?”

The urge to eye-roll became paramount. Tom fought it down. He had to keep up appearances, afterall.

“Can’t say, haven’t decided yet.” Tom lied, “Hermione said she’d help me when the time draws closer.”

“That’s alright. Having a clear plan might help you more, stabilise you.”

Arguing that Tom was stable would get him nowhere. He knew, he’d done it before. So he just nodded his head and said he’d think about it. The hour struck with a soft dong and Dumbledore made a show of slowly closing his notebook, painfully slowly in case Tom had the sudden urge to unload his deepest secrets in the full minute it took the old buffoon to close the bloody thing. Tom didn’t. The notebook closed soundlessly.

“Same time next Thursday?” Dumbledore smiled. The curve of his lips didn’t reach his eyes.

“Of course. Thank you ever so much, Doctor.”

“Not at all, Tom. Not at all.”

Tom wanted to run out, distance himself from that insufferable old man. He didn’t. He scooped up his backpack and took measured steps out of the office, closing the door quietly behind himself and smiling pleasantly to the receptionist. Hermione was in the waiting area, her curly hair piled up onto her head and the topmost button of her blouse undone. She was busy with her phone, tapping away at the screen with a slight frown on her face.

“Ready to go?” She asked once she’d caught sight of him.

It wasn’t until they were safely outside the building that Tom turned on his step-sister.

“Why do I still have to go to these stupid sessions?” He hissed, “Jean and Niel are gone - I don’t have to go anymore.”

“You have to go until I can see a change in you, Tom. Mum and Dad may have gone, but they left you in my care.”

“You're infringing on my basic human rights.”

Hermione ticked a brow at him, curious and amused in equal measures, “Alright, and how am I doing that?”

“I have the right to treatment but I also have the right to abstain from it. And I want to abstain. Now.”

She snorted at that, “Have you been rifling through my books again?”

“Hermione,” He growled.

“Alright, but that isn’t applicable until you’re eighteen. And, oh look at that, it’s six more months until then.”

“Look, just because I threatened Malfoy when I was ten-”

“Threatened to kill, mind you,” Hermione grumbled as she took her card out. Tom already had his Oyster in hand.

They passed into the station and followed along the route they had memorised down into the bowels of the earth and London’s Underground train system.

“Semantics. Just because that happened when I was ten doesn’t mean I’m going to act on my urges. Yes, I was a troubled child but I’m not stupid.”

They stood on the near empty train platform and waited. They had to wait only two more minutes before their train would arrive.

“No, you’re definetly not stupid, Tom. But you’re also not a well-adjusted member of society, are you?” She continued on before he could speak, “Harry told me about the incident at the bar.”

“Fuck Harry,” Tom murmured under his breath, glaring at the approaching train. The automated voice blared its message and the white and blue train came to a stop.

“He’s not interested.”

“Is that your idea of a joke?”

“Get in the train, Tom.”

And while he wanted to be annoyed with her - was annoyed with her - he also liked the smile she tried to smother as she herded him into the near-empty train first. She took the end seat and Tom took the one right beside her. A book was in her hand before the doors even shut and Tom knew it would be pointless to continue any discussion. And they were too far underground for him to get any data.

With nothing else to do, Tom stuck his earbuds in and turned on sounds of the ocean. It always transported him to a different time, a different place, the place where he had committed his first crime.

The train rumbled along through dark tunnels, their bodies rocking with its movements and eventually, after their fifth stop, Hermione rested her head against his shoulder and fell asleep. Had it been anyone else, he would have carefully let their heads drop and luxuriate in their rude awakening and awkward apologise.

But it was Hermione, and she was not anyone else.

And so he tucked her bookmark into the correct page and held onto it as she slept through the next four stops - the sounds of waves crashing against the cliffside sounding in his ears throughout.

Chapter Text

“TOM!” a shrill voice rang through their apartment, “NAGINI IS IN THE BLOODY BATH AGAIN!”

Tom opened his eyes slowly, glaring out around himself. It was early - far too early for Hermione and her screeching. If he ignored it, she would only get louder. It would be easier if he just dealt with it as soon as possible.

He got to his feet, stooping to grab the t-shirt he had ripped off last night due to the heat and tugged it on over his head. Rubbing at his eyes, he slowly made his way out of his pitch-black room into the painfully bright living room they shared. There, standing in the middle of it with her hair positively fluffed up in anger, stood Hermione - arms crossed and hip jutted. Judging by the state of her clothes - her shirt inside out and a towel wrapped around the bottom half of her - she had been about to go in for a shower.

“Your snake,” she seethed, “needs to be kept in her box.”

“She doesn’t like it in there.” He deadpanned back as he made his way to the bathroom, Hermione hot on his heels. “How would Crookshanks feel if we locked him up in his carrier?”

“Crookshanks is a cat! Nagini is a snake! Their situations are completely different!”

“It’s too early in the morning for your yelling, Hermione,” Tom sighed, “I’ll get the snake out, so there's no need to wake the neighbours.”

“Too early? Tom, you should have been up already! You’ve got school!”

“I already sent them a message saying I won’t be going in today.”

“Did you use my phone without permission again? Tom, we have talked about this!”

“I had a class with Umbridge today. And unless you want me to blow up the fucking school lab, I’d say it was a good thing I didn’t go. The woman’s mental.”

That shut Hermione up long enough for Tom to bend down and scoop Nagini up and out of the bath. The python looked at him and stuck her tongue out, checking his scent before happily coiling around his neck and arms. Tom turned around and Hermione shivered violently, her disgust evident.

“You know the sort of people who own snakes, Tom? Weirdos.”

“Why, Hermione,” Tom snarked, walking backwards into his room, Nagini happily bobbing her head along with each step he took, “If I didn’t know better, I’d almost think you were being prejudiced.”

He turned right back around and just missed the incredulous look Hermione sent his back.

“Why couldn’t you like dogs? Or bunnies?”

“Because dogs are stupid and I don’t want to look after something without any higher faculties. See you later, Hermione.”

He closed his bedroom door before she could respond and waited a moment or two for his eyes to readjust to the darkness. Once he could walk through his room without banging his shin against the furniture, Tom settled Nagini into her cage, gave her a dead mouse for her troubles and turned to his bed.

Two, glowing eyes watched him.

“HERMIONE!” He yelled at the top of his lungs, disgust coating each syllable, “GET YOUR STUPID CAT OUT OF MY FUCKING ROOM!”

Chapter Text

Tom sighed, exhausted after another trying day plotting and acting, and was eager to enjoy a nice, quiet night at home. Maybe he could convince Hermione to not make dinner - he was sure his stomach couldn’t handle any of her cooking that day. So when he put his key into the lock and turned the handle - the blast of obnoxious laughter that burst from his house caught him off-guard.

A frown tugged on his lips as he trudged inside, locking the door behind himself.

Littered around the living room coffee table were drinks, snacks and Hermione and her two nit-wit friends. It was the ginger - Ron - who spotted him first.

“Riddle’s back.”

Hermione moved her neck so fast Tom wondered if she got whiplash. Her eyes were glazed and her cheeks were pink and her hair was an absolute mess. But she had a big, giddy smile on her face and her shoulders weren’t as tense as they had been the past few days. It had been a particularly trying court case but Hermione had won in the end. If the ecstatic texts he'd received during the middle of his biology class were anything to go by.

“Tom!” She called out, “Come and have a drink with us!”

Tom’s lip curled in disgust as he looked at the overturned beer bottles and half-drunk bottle of vodka (diluted vodka, because he’d had more than half of it himself on various occasions), “Will PC Potter mind?”

Harry and Hermione exchanged looks and Harry shrugged. Hermione’s smile widened and she waved Tom over. Still, he hesitated.

As a rule, Tom hated anyone Hermione felt even slightly positive towards.

Dumbledore would call it irrational jealousy.

Tom called it his superior judgement.

Dumb and dumber here, Tom hated especially. They’d been clinging onto Hermione since the day Tom arrived at the Granger household and even now, nine years later, Hermione hadn’t realised she was meant for better than them.

"I'm alright," he said in the end, hiking his bag higher up his shoulder, "I've got to study, so keep your drunken shenanigans on a low volume, please."

"Oh, are you sure?" She must have been extremely excited by winning if she sounded disappointed that Tom wanted to study instead of fool around.

Any other time and Tom would have gladly joined, no coaxing needed. In fact, he didn't even have to study. He knew all the material by heart and had practiced enough papers in his off time to gather that he would be receiving the highest grades in all of his chosen subjects. Hermione had balked when she found out how many he had taken - specifically that he had taken one more subject than she had when she was giving her GCEs.

"Positive," he replied, allowing his eyes to linger on Ron and Harry to make his point clear. She rolled her eyes and let him go.

Nagini perked up from her glass box when he opened the door. Tom raised a brow her way. He had made sure to let her out of her box when he’d left.

“Did Hermione grow a spine and put you in the box herself?” He asked the snake as he let his bag drop onto his study desk. Nagini flicked her tongue out at him, yellow eyes watching him, “Want to get out of the box?”

Nagini flicked her tongue again and Tom reached into the box, scooping her up and letting her free. She made a dart for his bed, curling up near his pillows.

“We’re not sleeping yet, Nagini. Wait until Hermione’s friends are gone.”

A crush sounded and Tom jerked away from the bed. Confusion and mild worry propelled him towards the door. He wrenched it open and caught the tail-end of Hermione’s tirade. Ron was on one end, Hermione on the other, Harry caught in the middle. The bottle of vodka lay broken on the floor.

“And don’t you ever suggest anything like that again!”

“Hermione!” Harry yelled, rising to his feet to restrain her, “Calm down!”

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Ron screamed.

That was the wrong thing to say. Her hair had puffed up until it had turned into a wild, auburn mane.

“Wrong with me? Wrong with me? How dare you!”

“Hermione.” Tom said sharply, “What’s happening here?”

She swallowed down whatever cutting remark she was about to say and turned to look at him.

“Ron and Harry were just leaving.”

“Hermione-” Harry began, brows furrowed.

Now.”

"Come on, Harry. Clearly Hermione isn't in a good mood."

Ron grabbed his jacket with a rough jerk and left. If it were possible, steam would have been coming out of his ears. Harry turned to Hermione, his expression clearly promising an interrogation at a later date.

Their front door closed with a bang and Hermione stood there panting. Tom watched her and then turned to the broken bottle. Sighing, he set off towards the kitchen to get a mop and dustpan.

“Stay there,” he called over his shoulder, “Or go sit on the couch, I’ll clean this up.”

“Leave it.” Hermione muttered, “Just leave it.”

“Go and sit.”

Leave it!”

“Hermione,” He barked, “Go and fucking sit.”

She glared up at him through his hair as he stood there with a dustpan and mop. She turned on her heel and stomped off towards the couch. She sat down, her legs drawn up and her chin on her knees as she watched him mop up the remnants of the diluted vodka.

Tom worked in silence for a while, waiting until he knew it was safe to test the waters.

“Mind telling me what that was all about?”

“It was nothing. My hand slipped.”

“And the yelling? Weasel’s a bastard but I don’t think I’ve heard you go off on somebody like that since Abrxas.”

“It’s nothing, Tom. Drop it. Please.” She added after a beat.

Tom collected all the pieces of glass and threw them in the rubbish bin.

“Should I have set Nagini on him?”

She scoffed and set her head against the back of the couch.

“Stop talking, I’m not in the mood.”

Tom stopped and stared at her, “Will you just tell me? I’m running out of patience.”

“He called you a psychopath, alright?”

Tom blinked slowly, trying to figure out how that was a problem.

“And?”

“What?”

“And? What about that was so horrible?” Tom had been called worse. Had suffered through worse. Being called a psychopath was like being called tall - it made little to no difference to him.

“Because you’re not a psychopath, Tom. Just because he doesn’t like you doesn’t mean he gets to say such awful things about you.”

“Being called a psychopath isn’t all that bad. Mrs Cole used to call me worse.”

Tom pressed down firmly on the memories that threatened to surface of dark, dank cupboards and ropes that tied at his wrists and ankles.

Any anger Hermione had evaporated and all that was left was a look of not-pity (because Tom had made it very clear early on as to his feelings towards that emotion).

“And that’s exactly why I won’t stand for it. Because you’re not a psychopath, no matter what anyone says.”

“Anyone? Why? Who else has called me a psychopath?”

The discomfort on Hermione’s face spoke volumes. Tom mentally went through a checklist of possible candidates. He grabbed her phone, ignoring her squwakes of protest and the ethical lecture she launched into as he skimmed through first her messages and then her emails.

And there, sitting near the top underneath confidential, work-related emails was one from Dumbledore.

He opened it, backing away from Hermione and her grabby hands as he read it.

Dear Ms. Granger, I hope you are doing well,’ Tom skipped through the paragraph long formalities, holding Hermione back with one arm and keeping the one with the phone above her head so he could continue to read it, ‘I have been in contact with Tom’s previous psychiatrist,’ meddling, old fool - how dare he? Tom sped through the useless bits there and then paused when he caught something, ‘we both believe Tom may suffer from psychopathy. There is no need for alarm, psychopaths are often misrepresented in the media, but it is something I’d like to explore further.

The email went on for a few more paragraphs but Tom had stopped reading. Hermione used his momentary shock to grab her phone, hit him hard on the arm and continue with her shrieking. That snapped him out of it.

“Did they read this?” Tom interrupted as he rubbed at his throbbing arm, “Did Ronald Weasley or Harry Potter read this?”

“You can’t talk over me when you know I’m right!”

“Did they read it!”

“No!”

Tom calmed.

“Good. I want to keep this a secret.”

Hermione gripped her phone hard, “You won’t need to keep it a secret because it isn’t true. You just had a rough childhood, that's no excuse to label you as something you aren't!.”

"Yes, well it seems not everyone seems to agree."

“Well, Dumbledore is absolutely wrong. Because you care for people, and psychopaths lack empathy,” at the look he sent her, she amended herself, “Alright me. I know you care for me. And your friends.”

“What friends?”

Hermione sighed, moving away from him and back to the couch, “Malfoy and Bellatrix, who else?”

“You think I give a crap about Malfoy and Bellatrix?” Tom let out a hearty laugh, “I care more about Crookshanks than those idiots. They have their uses, yes, but we’re not friends.”

“You're such a millennial, Tom. Being edgy was cool back in the early two-thousands. It’s sad now.”

That brought a Malfoy-like sneer onto his face, “Oh, fuck off, Hermione.”

“Look at that, you even sneer like Malfoy. Are you sure you’re not the best of friends?”

“I’m going into my room. The next time you have a lovers quarrel, please don’t drag alcohol into the mix. It's pathetic.”

Hermione clenched her jaw and was about to jump into another explosive argument as to why she and Ronald would never be in any sort of romantic relationships, but Tom had already shut his door.

He rested his back against it and thought.

Dumbledore thought he was a psychopath, eh?

Tom would show the old fool.

Chapter Text

The rain pattered lightly against the windows. The generic, blue clock on the wall ticked away the seconds. The receptionist clacked away at her keyboard.

Tom took a slow, deep breath in, held it, and then let it go.

His phone vibrated and he checked it.

Draco Malfoy had sent him a text.

Ferret: father is gonna beat my arse

Ferret: wat bout u?

Ferret: granger said anything yet?

Tom ignored his messages and looked back up at Headmaster Dippet's door. Hermione had been in there for ten minutes now. It wasn't that Tom was worried - Tom didn't get worried - it was simply odd that it took her so long. It had been Tom's first offence and a minor one at that.

And Dolohov would be properly punished for his negligence, Tom would make sure of it.

Just as Tom was beginning to not-worry, the door opened and out strode Hermione. She had come straight from her office and was still in her pencil skirt and blouse. Not to mention the dark high heels that went with the outfit, the high heels that complimented her figure in a way that caught most people's attention.

Tom hated when she wore them, but god if he didn't love it as well.

Hermione was smiling her forced-pleasant smile as she eagerly made her escape from Dippet and his simpering. Tom got to his feet, smoothing down his school tie and blazer.

"Thank you ever so much again, Headmaster, for keeping this incident quiet."

"Of course, of course. Tom is a very good student, but he's young and they do make mistakes." Dippet turned to Tom, "Just make sure you don't do anything of the sort again, Tom. You've got a very bright future ahead of you and it just wouldn't do if you threw it away because of something trivial."

"Thank you, Headmaster. I promise I won't do it again. It really was a mistake, I didn't think I'd succumb to peer-pressure." Tom lied, looking equal parts shamed and sincere. Dippet fell for it instantly but Hermione narrowed her eyes at him.

"Even the strongest of wills do, Tom. I know you didn't mean it." Dippet clapped his hands together and turned back to Hermione, "Thank you for coming so quickly. Terribly sorry about all this, it’s really only for show.”

“Not at all, Headmaster. It’s important to treat all students equally.”

“Of course! Of course, they are all equal.”

“Well, I had better get back to work. Is Tom free to go?”

“Yes, yes he is. Stay out of trouble, young man!”

“I will, Headmaster.”

Hermione put a hand between Tom’s shoulders and all but pushed him out of the office. She ignored his glare and growl of warning and instead lead the way out of the school, ignoring the lingering glances the boys (and some of the girls) sent her way. Tom schooled his expression into a mask of indifference, pretending nothing out of the ordinary had happened. In fact, he even nodded and politely greeted some of his classmates to keep up appearances.

It was almost amusing how quickly their looks of confusion morphed into joy at being acknowledged by him. Idiots, all of them.

Hermione was waiting for him by the school gates as he leisurely strolled towards her, his hands in his pockets and his tie loosened. She was tapping away viciously on her phone, her hair coming loose from the braid she had subdued them into. When Tom stopped in front of her, she glared up from her phone, sent the message and aggressively shoved her phone back into her bag.

“Smoking, Tom? Really?”

“You’re being so over-dramatic. We’ll talk about this at home.”

She crossed her arms, “No, I’m not and no, we won’t.”

“You’re going to be late for work.”

“I took the rest of the day off because I really don’t have the patience for anymore lunacy.”

Tom rolled his eyes, “You’re acting as if I’ve committed murder. All I did was smoke one cigarette. That hardly requires you to take a day off.”

“It starts with under-aged smoking and then it goes from there. What next? Drugs?” He didn’t think it would be in his favour to admit he had already pursued his fair share of herbs and pills (Malfoy had his uses, afterall), “The next time I get called in, it’ll be because you’ve been caught shooting up behind the gym!”

“Lower your voice,” Tom hissed, narrowing his eyes at her, “You’re being completely ridiculous right now. I smoked one, no - listen to me - one cigarette! I have not, and will not do drugs. I have no interest in having my mind muddled.” He motioned his head towards her bag, “Call them up and tell them you’re well enough to go back to work.”

“Do not try to wriggle out of this, Tom Riddle. You may have your Headmaster in your pocket, but I have known you for long enough to know what you’re doing. So kindly shut up and come home with me. Now.”

“I have classes.”

“No, you don’t.” She snarled back, “Mouth shut, please.”

“What’ll you do to me if I don’t?”

“Right now, I have an insatiable urge to hit you.”

Tom raised his brows, “I’d have you charged for assault.”

“And I’d counter-sue you for being a git!”

Students passed by, eyeing them curiously. Tom had had enough of being a spectacle.

“I’ll shut up, so let’s continue this at home.”

Hermione clearly wanted to yell some more but grit her teeth and whirled off in the direction of the bus-stop. With a quick glance around to make sure no crowds were gathering, Tom followed. When the bus came, Hermione made a special effort to sit as far away from him as possible. And when they got to the station, she hadn’t spoken a single word, content with glaring at her phone for the whole trip.

Tom didn’t mind, he put his ocean sounds on and relaxed with the crashing of waves against cliff sides as he planned how to properly exact Dolohov’s punishment. It had to be something that would stick in the idiot’s mind. Throwing him down the steps would only hurt him physically, Tom wanted to do something more, to remind him just who was in charge and why being competent mattered.

Maybe he could slip a mention towards Antonin’s inclination towards the same sex to Mr Nikolai Dolohov - a strict Orthodox Chrisitian and Antonin’s father.

When had he last joined the Dolohov’s for dinner? It had surely been a while, and Tom was more than happy to meet with the family.

His phone vibrated and he checked to see Draco had sent even more messages.

Ferret: y r u ignoring me?

Ferret: did Granger flip her shit?

Ferret: fuk

Ferret: do u want me to bail u out?

Tom ignored the messages and checked the station the train stopped in at. One away from their stop. Hermione was already standing by the doors on the far end. He said nothing as he packed up his earphones and got up to wait next to her. The train jerked into motion, sending Hermione careening into him.

Tom held her close to himself, steadying her as the train stuttered a bit before smoothing into motion. Hermione tried to wriggle out of his grip and Tom relented after a moment. She smoothed her blouse and skirt and gripped onto the overhead railing, glaring ahead.

Tom leaned towards her, a barely-there smile on his face.

“You could say ‘thank you’.”

“Shut up. I’m still angry with you.”

The walk to their apartment was an awkward one, but Tom endeavoured to make it seem like it was anything but. He smiled at their neighbours and asked how their day was going. Hermione, meanwhile, stomped on ahead, her heels click-clacking sharply against the linoleum. She jabbed the elevator call button and scowled when it took longer than a second to arrive.

“Get in,” she said. Tom complied quietly.

They weren’t alone in the elevator and that was the only reason Tom didn’t continue with their discussion.

But as soon as their front door shut behind them, Tom was on Hermione.

“Get out of my way,” She snarled.

“Not until you stop acting like this.”

“Do you take some sort of sadistic pleasure from bothering me? I said move!”

Hermione put her hands against his shoulders and shoved, hard. But Tom was prepared and braced himself adequately. Didn’t mean it didn’t hurt though.

“You are such an asshole.”

“And you can be a bit of a bitch, but that’s not what we’re talking about.” Regardless, Tom backed away and made for the sink, desperate for a drink. “I take it Dippet won’t take any action?”

“No,” Hermione replied, settling onto their couch, sighing loudly, “He won’t. I didn’t even have to convince him to let you off the hook, he was more than happy to do it himself. It turns out being a teacher’s pet has it’s uses.”

She had kicked her heels off, thrown her big, black work bag onto the far end of the sofa and settled her chin on the palm of her hand as she watched him through dark, slitted eyes.

Hermione looked like a lioness.

Tom contemplated playing the role of prey.

“You’re being awfully catty.” he said, pushing that thought away, “From some of the stories your parents told me, you took advantage of being a teacher’s pet yourself. It’s hardly fair that you’re lecturing me on being a trouble-maker when you were one yourself.”

She scoffed, “I never smoked. On school grounds or otherwise.”

“No, you just set a man on fire because he made fun of you.”

Tom watched the steady blush that creeped from her neck to the roots of her hair. That had been one of the reasons Tom decided Hermione was worth investing time and effort into - she didn’t take things lying down. Her intelligence, tenacity and in-born sense of loyalty really only sweetened the deal.

“Professor Snape was an asshole and he deserved it. Also, it was an accident! He was standing way too close to my Bunsen burner!”

Tom settled himself against the island counter, eager to enjoy the show, “Are you actually making excuses about setting a man on fire? What if he had gotten seriously injured?”

“Well, he didn’t so it doesn’t matter any - stop trying to change the subject! You’re still in big trouble!”

“And what are you going to do? Ground me? Take away my pocket money?”

“I’ll tell Dumbledore.”

Tom’s blood ran cold. He held the edge of the island until his knuckles turned white.

“You wouldn’t.”

“I will. It’s for your own good, Tom.”

“No, it isn’t. And if you care even the smallest bit for me, you won’t.”

“Promise me you’ll quit. If you promise you won’t smoke again - or do anything else that could jeopardize your future, I won’t tell him.”

“I promise.”

“I mean it, Tom.”

He clenched his jaw, “So do I. I won’t smoke or do anything stupid. I promise.”

“I’m doing this because I care about you, Tom. You’re my brother -”

Adopted brother,” Tom grit out, “We’re not related, remember?”

She shook her head, “It doesn’t matter if we don’t share blood. I love you and it really hurts me whenever I see you treating your life so flippantly. You’re smarter than most, yes, but one day you’re going to slip up and even I won’t be able to help you.”

“It won’t come to that. I’ll be extra careful from now on, you have my word.”

“That’s not what I - oh, nevermind, I’m too tired to argue with you anymore." She brought a hands up and scrubbed at her face, "Make me some tea?”

Tom nodded wordlessly and got to work.

Chapter Text

“Tom!”

Tom looked up from his phone conversation with Bellatrix and towards the ward doors. Hermione ran towards him, crashing into him. She wrapped her arms tightly around him, grip bruising and body heaving as if she’d run a great distance. Tom slowly put one arm around her and finished the message with the other.

“Oh my god, are you okay?” Hermione let just enough to give him a once over before she crushed him into another hug.

“I’m alright - it was Dolohov who got hurt, after all.”

That wasn’t enough for her, Hermione took a step back and gave him a once over. She reached up, holding onto the sides of Tom’s face and turning it this way and that. Tom let her - wondering once again why he let her get away with so much. Even the nurses weren’t allowed to touch him this freely.

“What happened? I got a call from your school saying you and your friend had gotten - did you get checked up? Did they follow proper procedures? Did they discharge you?”

Tom covered her hands with his own and lowered them. He didn’t let go though. Hermione’s eyebrows were furrowed, her cheeks flushed from running and her eyes flitting about him, checking for invisible injuries.

“Slow down. I only have light bruises, I’m okay, Hermione. Like I said, Dolohov took the brunt of the fall.”

Hermione took a deep, steadying breath in.

“How is your friend?”

“He’s broken his arm and his leg, but he’ll live. Might not be able to join us for at least two months. I don’t know if he’ll be able to prepare for the exams on time; he might have to give them later.”

“They told me it was a fall? Where did you even fall from?”

Tom nodded, the carefully constructed lie he had made falling perfectly from his lips, “Some idiot junior had left their pens near the stairwell. I tripped and accidentally knocked into Dolohov. I managed to catch myself in time but Dolohov wasn’t so lucky. He fell all the way down.”

Hermione didn’t look convinced, “Did they catch it on camera?”

“They did. They even found the student who left the pens. Dippet says they’ll be properly reprimanded.”

“So it was just an accident?”

“Of course,” Tom soothed, politely not mentioning that he had set it all up himself and everything was predetermined.

Though, Tom had to admit, Dolohov’s condition was a lot worse than he’d predicted. That wasn’t to say, though, that he was disappointed by the development, he was simply pleasantly surprised.

“God, when I got the call I was so worried. Are Dolohov's parents here?"

"Mrs Dolohov is. Mr Dolohov hasn't made an appearance yet."

"Have you been in to see him?"

Tom shook his head. He had no interest in seeing him - the doctor's report was good enough for him.

"I was waiting for you. I'm really tired, could we go home?"

Hermione nodded her head, holding fast onto Tom's hands as if he'd disappear if she let go.

"Let's go. I was in the middle of a meeting with a client, so I won't be able to stay with you too long."

"Go back to you meeting then. I can get home myself."

"No, I'll take you, come on."

She tugged at his hand and he obliged.

"I'm not a child, Hermione, nor was I that badly hurt."

"I know."

Tom sighed and pretended he was bothered. He wasn't bothered in the least.

Chapter Text

The sky was overcast and the wind was blowing with far more ferocity than it had any business to.

Draco swore under his breath and huddled further under his obnoxiously expensive, designer jacket. Bellatrix sneered at her cousin, all the while hiding the whole-body shudders she was suffering from. Lace corsets didn’t provide a lot of cover from the elements, after all.

“Why did you want us to meet in a graveyard?” Draco grumbled as he glared around at the gravestones.

Tom checked the time, “Because I need to find someone.”

“Feeling sentimental, Tom?” Bellatrix purred - or rather, attempted to purr. The chattering of her teeth got in the way.

“Spread out and look for ‘Merope Gaunt’. She should have died about seventeen years ago.”

Draco paused in the middle of his pity party, “Who the fuck is that?”

“None of your concern. Find out where her grave is and text me when you find it.”

Draco didn’t look happy about it but he set off to the right. Bellatrix lingered for a moment, perhaps to see if Tom would divulge anything. When he didn’t, she ran her hands up and down her bare arms and set off to the left. Tom went straight ahead, checking the gravestones on either side of him for Merope.

He readjusted the straps of his backpack, eager to find the gravestone but becoming more and more frustrated as - with each passing moment and each passing marker - he found nothing.

Even in death, she had the gall to elude him.

Tom’s phone buzzed and he quickly checked it to see if Draco or Bellatrix had more luck. It was neither of them. It was Hermione.

Hermione: Where are you? I woke up and you didn’t even leave a note anywhere, are you okay?

Tom sighed and replied back that he was at the library before continuing on his search. Hermione texted a few more times about trivial things like lunch and a possible grocery run later in the day. Tom replied to each and every one of them, making sure to structure the texts so they sounded as neutral as possible. It wouldn't do to accidentally reveal how foul his mood was becoming.

He reached the end and found nothing. His phone was in his hand and he was tempted to smash it against one of the graves.

He got another text.

He checked it, wondering what Hermione wanted now.

It was Draco.

He found it.

Tom bounded through the graveyard, his backpack smacking against him as he vaulted over graves but he didn’t care. Draco was standing five graves in, rubbing at his hands and looking miserable. Tom ignored him and made a beeline for the grave he pointed at.

Tom knelt before it and reached a hand out to touch the simple stone marker. Nature had made an adamant effort to reclaim the stone as its own, but the words were still visible.

He ran his fingers over each and every letter.

Here lies Merope Guant
Mother, daughter and sister.

Draco shuffled from one foot to the other.

“Was she someone you knew?”

“She was my mother.”

“Fuck,” Draco murmured, “Shit - Tom, I-I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.” Tom replied, voice soft.

If she hadn't abandoned him, Tom would never have suffered at Wool's, at the hands of Mrs Cole. If she hadn't abandoned him, he never would have found Hermione. He owed her, even if he was loathed to admit it. And he would finally get to repay his debt.

He slipped his bag off of his shoulders and carefully selected his tool.

“Tom, mate, what’re you doing with that hammer?”

“Paying her back.”

And he slammed the hammer against it. Draco swore loudly, leaping back and away from the danger zone. Tom knew he wouldn’t be able to ruin the gravestone too much - but just so long as he could strike her name out, any little bit helped.

It was why he’d bought the biggest hammer available.

When he was done, there were deep cracks in the marker and her name had been smashed away. Tom took a deep, steadying breath, brushing the sweat that had gathered with the back of his hand. Draco was gaping beside him - he hadn't moved a muscle throughout. Tom pushed the hammer onto a reluctant Draco and grabbed his bag, brushing the dirt off the bottom.

“We’re done here.” He told him, making a move towards the exit.

“What was that all about?” Draco croaked, still holding the hammer awkwardly in his hands.

“I told you," He said over his shoulder, "pay back.”

Tom took his phone out and asked Hermione if she was in the mood for takeout.

She replied quickly.

She was.

Chapter Text

The door slammed shut and Tom looked up from his book to see Hermione enter. Her hair had come loose from its braid, her blouse was sufficiently rumpled and her expression promised murder. Tom turned back to his book and waited until Hermione had tossed her heels off, flung her bag away and thrown herself onto the sofa beside him.

“Had a nice day at work?” He asked, flipping to the next page. He’d read it several times already, and while he was of the opinion the whole bloody thing was a poor attempt at satire, he wouldn’t deny that ‘The Prince’ was an interesting read.

“Oh, it was wonderful.” Hermione grumbled back, throwing an arm over her eyes and sighing, “Cormac McLaggin came by my office. Again.”

Tom stopped mid-page-flip.

“What did he want?”

“To harass me into a date again. He even had the gall to grab and kiss me. Uncultured primate.” That last bit she muttered to herself.

Tom snapped his head her way, looking her up and down. She was still talking, venting on about how her day had been horrible and how McLaggen had made it worse, but Tom wasn’t listening. He took in her rumpled clothes, the creases near the collar. The hair that had come loose was pulled unevenly - as if it had been grabbed. The temperature of his blood rose to a gentle simmer.

“Did you charge him with sexual harassment?” Tom asked slowly, putting the book away and turning to face her properly.

“What? No. He’s a git, but he’s a smart git.”

“What do you mean? Can you not prove it?”

She sighed again, “No. Not a camera in sight. And since we were in my office, there weren't any witnesses either. It's my word against his.”

“So what are you going to do?”

“Send a written complaint. I doubt anyone will do anything about it, McLaggen, damn him, is the golden boy of our department.”

Tom’s mind whirled with possible forms of retribution. McLaggen would to pay, Tom would make sure of it.

“Has he done this before?”

“What? Kissed me? No. But I did hit him. Square on the jaw. If he tries to charge me with battery, I'll counter with harassment, but I doubt he'll take it that far.”

“I hope he bruises.”

Hermione cracked a small smile, removing her arm and turning to look at him.

“So how was your day?”

“A lot less exciting than yours. Bellatrix kept nagging at me to visit Dolohov with her, so I’m considering doing that tomorrow.”

“Oh right, how is he doing?”

“I have no clue. He’s probably alright.”

“God, you’re such an ass.”

She got to her feet and moved towards the fridge. While she rummaged around in it, Tom checked his messages. Bellatrix and Draco were going at one another again.

“Do you want to order out tonight? I’m too tired to cook.”

“Yes,” Please, he didn’t add. He wasn’t in the mood to force down Hermione’s horrible attempts at food.

“I’m feeling doner. Or something with fish.”

“There’s that new doner place down the way,” He said as he typed away at his phone, calling for silence in the group chat.

“Will you go and get it for us?”

Tom looked up from his phone.

“No.”

"Pretty please?"

"That's cute. Still no."

“Fine. Let me change my clothes and then we can go down and grab some. We have to get some more milk. Eggs too.”

“Make a list, we can stop by Tesco.”

She hummed and got her phone, typing away a list.

“Oh right, Mum called today. She was asking about you.”

“And?”

“Did you call her or Dad this week?”

“No. Why?”

Hermione crossed her arms over her chest and turned to face him.

“Because she misses you? Honestly, Tom, you can be so heartless sometimes.”

Tom frowned.

“Jesus, I’ll call her. Go get changed already, I’m starving.”

“You may be master slither-outer, Tom Riddle, but I’ve known you for long enough to-”

“You don’t need to take your frustration out on me, Hermione. I’m not the one who assaulted you. Now, do I have to beg to make you move?”

“Ass,” she grumbled under her breath.

Tom was tempted to call her out for her imaginative insults, but he refrained knowing they’d just get roped up into another argument. Hermione went into her room, shutting and locking her door while Tom turned back to the conversation. Abraxas was online as well as Barty. Bellatrix and Draco had thankfully quietened with their yapping and Barty and Abraxas were typing.

They had information about the subject Tom had told them to look into. He told them he’d meet them within two hours and sent them the location of the Tesco.

Hermione emerged from her room in a simple pair of jeans and a shirt.

“Ready to go?” She asked, grabbing her phone and bag.

“Yes. I’d suggest a jacket, it might rain. I’ll be meeting with some friends as well.”

“This late at night?”

“It’s only for a little while.”

“You’re not going to be smoking, are you?”

Tom pocketed his phone and grabbed his jacket off the hook.

“I’m almost insulted that you think I’d be that transparent. Of course not.”

“Smoke lingers on your clothes, you know.”

“I’ll let you sniff at me to your heart’s content when I get back.”

He dodged the smack she aimed at him and quickly made for the door, grinning as Hermione shouted after him.

Chapter Text

"Hello, Tom."

"Doctor," Tom replied, easing into the chair and depositing his backpack by his feet.

Dumbledore was by his bookshelf - stuffed full of an assortment of books and tacky, modernist art pieces - and had his back to him.

Tom contemplated grabbing the quartz rock placed on the coffee table in front of him and tossing it at Dumbledore's head.

He risked a glance to the side and spotted the camera hidden in the corner.

He suppressed the urge and settled in more comfortably.

"How have things been since we last talked?"

"Oh, nothing too big has happened. I finally visited my mother's grave."

Dumbledore paused and turned around. The twinkles in his bright, blue eyes were damn near blinding.

"Is that so?" He glided towards his own chair and settled in, notepad in hand and pen poised to pick at Tom's brain.

"Yup," he murmured, unable to look at Dumbledore's garish three piece suit. He wasn't even aware orange and teal suits with little star sequins were an option.

"And how are you feeling now?"

"Oh, just dandy. I finally got to say the things I never got to say." And do the things I won't ever be able to.

"Are you feeling better? Mentally?"

He nodded enthusiastically, "I am. It's like a thousand pound weight has been lifted off me."

"That's good. That's very good, Tom. I'm very happy for you. What else happened, if anything?"

But even as he said that, Tom saw him scribbling away in his notebook. Perhaps he had better hold back on the theatrics - Dumbledore wasn't a complete idiot, after all.

He took a slow breath in then, hunching forward and drawing himself in tighter. Dumbledore noticed but said nothing. Tom lowered his head and looked anywhere but at the white-haired bane of his existence.

"A... a friend of mine got hurt as well."

"Oh?"

"Yes." He swallowed, hard, "Anton Dolohov. He's a very old friend of mine - since I was adopted."

"Is he alright?"

Tom shrugged, trying to play it off cool, "He fell down some steps. We both did, but he got far more hurt than me."

"Is that so? How did it happen?"

Tom picked at a stray thread on the sofa. He took a moment, as if he was having an emotional response. Dumbledore stopped writing.

"Tom?" He prompted softly.

"It's my fault, really." He muttered, "If I had just held onto the railing harder or watched my step he wouldn't be in the hospital right now."

He began to write again - faster this time, "Why do you think it's your fault?"

"I tripped over some pens and knocked into him. We were running down the stairwell and I wasn't watching where I was going and some idiot sixth year had dropped their pens - I just-" He sighed savagely.

"Take your time, Tom. It's okay. Is Mr Dolohov alright?"

He nodded after a moment, "He's broken his leg and fractured his arm, but he'll recover. But none of this would have happened if I just looked."

Dumbledore cocked his head to the side. Tom grimaced as if he was in pain. Which he was - he had to beat down his pride, afterall.

"It was an accident, Tom. Accidents happen. Sometimes the consequences are manageable, sometimes they aren't. It will be difficult, but I don't want you to blame yourself." He scribbled something in and then looked back up at him, "Have you been to visit him since his injury?"

"Once," he nodded, "I went with a classmate of ours."

"I want you to see him more often as well. It will help you, rid you of this guilt you feel."

"It's going to be hard."

"It will be, but it's important. Visiting your mother was hard, but you feel better after, don't you?"

Tom was silent, as if seriously considering his suggestion. And then he sighed and nodded his head.

"I'll think about it," he acceded, and the liquid exhaustion he injected into the words was only half-faked.

"I wouldn't suggest it if I didn't think it would be good for you."

After that, Dumbledore steered the conversation to more sedate discussions. Perhaps he thought he'd pressed hard enough for the day, that if he continued trying to get Tom to open up anymore than he already had, he would lash back. Tom was more than happy to play the role of the sick, confused boy.

Especially if it got Dumbledore off his back. Because if he played his cards right and had studied the stereotypes properly, he'd be well on his way out of therapy.

After all, a psychopath didn't care for friends.

A psychopath didn't have friends.

And as far as Dumbledore should have been concerned, Tom was not a psychopath.

Chapter Text

“Abraxas,” Tom began, taking a measured drag from his cigarette and blowing it out heaven-wards, “I want to commit murder.”

Abraxas coughed around his own cigarette and Tom waited patiently for him to recover.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Murder. I want to kill someone. How do I get away with it?”

“Is this a joke?”

“What do you think?”

Tom turned to face him, leveling a steady stare his way. The blonde shifted from one foot to the other, delightfully perturbed.

Abraxas looked very much like his younger cousin. That same pale skin, pale hair and pale blue eyes.

How Tom loathed them. The Blacks and the Malfoys and the Lestranges. Everyone in Hogwarts with their old-money and their powerful names. He still recalled how they used to bully him in the very start for having no name and no money. They respected him now, but Tom didn’t think he ever wanted to forgive them.

Forgiveness was dull, afterall. Once they had expended their usefulness, Tom would have his fun. For now he had to plan and act carefully - pulling strings and twisting arms to get them to do his bidding.

“I hardly need to tell you that murder is illegal, Tom.”

“I’m well aware, hence my urge to avoid any charges. And as it would happen, you’re a lawyer with extensive understanding of the law. So, how would I get away with murder?”

Abraxas eyed him wearily, “Depends who you want to kill.”

“My uncle.”

“The one you had me and Crouch look into? What was his name? Morphine?”

Tom took another lazy drag, “Morfin, actually. And yes, the very same.”

“Well, I-I mean, there are loads of ways but -” Abraxas paused as if searching for the right words, “I really don’t think the man deserves to be murdered, Tom. It’s kind of permanent, killing people.”

He rolled his eyes, “If it makes you feel any better, I haven’t set my heart on it. But if one thing leads to another, I think it’d be wise if I had some sort of precautions in place.”

“And those precautions would be?"

Tom tapped off the burnt bits of his cigarette and took another, healthy inhale, "That's what you're here for. Of course I'll make sure there are no fingerprints. And I'll make sure to do it in some back alley without cameras. But I want some suggestions to ensure I don't even end up in court. It looks very bad to have 'considered a murder suspect' on my record, as I’m sure you would understand. Not everyone has rich fathers who can vanish charges, do we?"

The blond winced and took a quick drag, shaking his head. They were quiet for a moment as Abraxas thought. No doubt weighing the pros and cons. Tom couldn’t wait for him to ask what he would get out of this deal, after all, a Malfoy didn’t do anything for free. And he had been sitting on this bit of information for a while now, waiting patiently for the perfect time to bring it to light.

"You've clearly put some thought into this." Abraxas remarked weakly, "Dunno what you even need my help for."

"I don't like repeating myself, Abraxas. Do think about it - I want a responsible answer after all. And I hardly need to say that none of this should be mentioned to Hermione. Or the police."

Abraxas hissed as the lit bit of his fag burnt at his fingers. He dropped the cigarette and nursed his fingers. Tom watched him carefully.

“It would be a terrible shame if Astoria’s father found out about your late night liaison with Mistress Payne. Or was it Mistress Pleasure? I always get them mixed up. Well, it shouldn't be too hard, actually, what with one of them sporting a baby-bump. I suppose congratulations are in order. Though, I have to admit, I didn't know prostitutes kept their children. How much did you have to pay her? And while bastards are common in your family, I'm not sure how it'll fly with Astoria. How is she doing, by the way?”

Abraxas choked on air and stared wide-eyed at Tom, who took a final lungful of smoke before dropping his cigarette and crushing it under heel.

“It would be awful if Daddy Malfoy found out your marriage prospect from childhood would refuse you over these shocking turn of events - especially for your inheritance. I heard it was tied to your marriage with Astoria. Good lord, imagine having to beg Draco for spending money.”

He clenched his hands into fists, so tightly his knuckles turned white. Tom wondered if he was going to hit him. He wanted him to, he wanted Malfoy to hit him just so he could have a reasonable excuse to break that stupid, aristocratic nose of his. Maybe stain that four thousand pound suit and wreck his expensive haircut. Abraxas wouldn't though. He was a Malfoy afterall. And while Malfoy's were cowards, they were also intelligent. Abraxas would know there was nothing he could do to Tom that wouldn't end up wrecking his own life in the process.

Because throwing a punch at Tom would only give him momentary satisfaction - even if he slapped a law-suit against Tom for breaking every bone in his body, all Tom would have to do was place once phone call and Abraxas would get the shorter end of the stick.

"You're a fucking psycho, Riddle. A fucking bastard."

Tom raised his brows, "You're right on all accounts. But that's not what I wanted to hear, Malfoy."

Abraxas’s jaw muscles twitched and his shoulders grew tense and he finally gave a curt, sharp nod.

"Of course.” He grit out, “We never even had this conversation."

“No, we didn’t.”

Chapter Text

Hermione: We’re going out for dinner.

Hermione: Dress nicely. Smart-casual.

Tom began to type out a response when his phone buzzed.

Hermione: Don’t ask any questions.

Tom tossed his phone aside and stared up at his bedroom ceiling. Nagini had coiled herself next to him, her head settled on his stomach as she dozed. Crookshanks was sitting on top of his desk, staring out through his bedroom window at the world below.

It was six o’clock in the evening, what on earth was Hermione planning?

Still, he would have to do as she commanded, otherwise it was his head (and hearing) on the line.

Gently moving Nagini’s head off of him and onto his pillow, Tom made for his chest of drawers. As he riffled through the neat piles of clothes for his button down and slacks, he was assaulted by memories he had tried very hard to suppress.

Ones that involved a scared little boy and a dark, dank orphanage where he had two clothes to his name and both had holes big enough to fit his hands through.

He slammed the drawer shut so hard Crookshanks jumped with a yowl and Nagini let out a chilling hiss.

“Shut up, both of you,” Tom said, tugging his t-shirt off and changing into his new clothes.

Crookshanks let out another ugly meow and Tom sent the disfigured cat a glare.

“Shut up before I feed you to Nagini.”

The python had the good grace to hiss encouragingly back.

Crookshanks flicked his tail, yellow eyes narrowed before standing up, hopping off of his desk and leaving - sashaying his hips in the most aggressive fashion Tom had ever seen.

Shaking his head, he continued to change. His phone buzzed a few more times during that period and he checked it occasionally. It was mostly Bellatrix and Draco going at each other again about something trivial. Dolohov was finally able to join them in the group chat, but his responses took a while to arrive, considering he could only type with one hand. Theodore was silent, as usual, no doubt creeping on the fringes and reading through their pointless diatribe.

But then, as he was carefully arranging his hair so it looked both neat but artfully tousled, his phone began to ring. It was Hermione. He put her on loud speaker and continued.

“Are you ready?” She said.

“What? Not even a hello? What’s this dinner about, anyway?”

“I’ve got to meet with a very important superior of mine. He said he wanted to meet at a restaurant of all places and that I was supposed to bring a date.”

“Was McLaggen unavailable?” Tom snarked, secretly quite pleased he had been her first pick.

“Oh, shut up. I asked Harry, but he had a date with Ginny and Ron still hasn’t apologised so I wasn’t about to ask him for any favours.”

Tom’s mood soured. Of course she’d ask her stupid friends.

“Isn't it a bit unorthadox that he's having a very important meeting at a fucking restaurant?”

“They often have these sorts of things,” Hermione sighed, “Especially if they’re considering someone for a promotion. So I need you on your best behaviour. I’m serious, alright, Tom?”

“Why Hermione,” Tom murmured as he ran a final hand through his hair, happy with how it fell elegantly just over his brow, “I’m always on my best behaviour.”

“Just hurry up, I’m almost home.”

“Ready and waiting,” Tom said as he hung up the call and pocketed his phone, giving Nagini a final pat before leaving.

~ * ~

Tom’s face hurt from how long he had kept a polite smile on. Really, how did some people manage to prattle on. Hermione’s superior, a J. E. Prewett, was a senior partner at the firm Hermione worked at, with a side business at an oil company that had recently struck big.

The man was an absolute ponce, there was no polite word for it. And he was new money too. Reeked of it. Tom would know; he was surrounded by people who had been born with diamond-encrusted platinum spoons in their mouths. This man may have had one of those cheap, take-out plastic ones in his.

Tom hadn’t been given any spoons.

Hermione had been struggling the entire time to convince her sort-of boss that his attention should be focused on the business at hand, and not at her chest. Her boss's date (Mrs. Prewett, though it was clear she held as much affection for her husband as the average person would a mealworm) didn't seem bothered in the least, though Tom couldn't say he felt the same.

His palms stung from how tightly he clenched his fists.

The first time Mr Prewett had made a crass comment, Hermione’s hand had darted underneath the table and held onto Tom’s arm, fingers digging sharply into his skin. He hadn’t been sure why until he realised he had half-risen out of his chair. He passed it off smoothly as readjusting himself in his seat and after that he had kept a close eye on how he reacted.

Mr Prewett made another loud, inappropriate joke. Hermione had stopped pretending to laugh it off awkwardly, Tom’s smile had not touched his eyes since the dinner began and Mrs Prewett was enjoying her fourth glass of wine as was well and truly drunk. Dessert was served.

The whole thing was a mess.

The food was overpriced and tasted like crap. Hermione kept moving her food around, concentrating more on her work than the disaster of an evening. Tom kept his mouth shut because he didn’t trust himself enough not to say something scalding.

Drinks.

The arsehole wanted post-dinner drinks. Hermione politely declined, stating that she had to get Tom home. Her boss made it clear what he thought of that idea. He insisted. Not like Tom would insist - Tom didn’t need to put any anger in his words or iron in his movements. This sleazy, oil-rich, new-money chav had to force people to listen.

If it was one thing Tom had learnt from those harrowing two hours - it was that he would never make such a spectacle of himself as her boss was.

Hermione didn’t listen, all but grabbed Tom’s arm and hauled both of them out with only the shortest, briefest pleasantries.

She power-walked towards the nearest bus station, heels clacking angrily against the pavement. Tom wondered how she was able to move so fast.

And mere feet away from the bus stop, her heel caught in a rut and she stumbled forward.

Tom caught her, looping his arms around her and helping her up, keeping her steady.

“Great,” she hissed to herself, her fingers clutching tight at Tom’s shirt, “Fuck, that was an utter shit show.”

“Are you alright?” Tom murmured, rearranging her so she was leaning against him.

“No, I’m not alright. God, I can’t wait to get back home and take a shower.”

“Your ankle, is your ankle okay?”

She glared at him and then sighed, “No, it hurts.”

“I’m calling Malfoy.”

“What?”

“I’ll tell him to pick us up.”

Tom already had his phone in hand Draco’s number dialling when Hermione’s mind processed what was happening and she tried to swipe the phone from him, only to wobble unsteadily.

“Keep still,” he hissed. The call picked up. Draco was at a party, Tom could hear the thumping of bass music.

“What’s wrong, Riddle?” Draco yelled.

“Send your car to pick us up.”

“Alright, text me the address!” he replied without missing a beat.

Tom ended the call and sent their location. Draco promised the car was on its way. Hermione was suspiciously quiet and Tom looked down at her. She was watching him, unease clear on her face.

“It’s almost scary how you do that.”

“Do what?”

“How you have them all throwing themselves to impress you. It doesn’t feel like a friendship at all.”

“I told you,” Tom replied, pressing Hermione closer against himself under the pretense of keeping her stable, she allowed it, “I don’t have friends and I don’t care about people.”

She scoffed, “Is that right?”

“I do have one exception,” Tom admitted after a moment.

“Oh?”

He looked down at her. At her eyes - honey yellow in the light of day and dark, chocolate brown in the night. At the freckles that dotted her face, dark against her light skin. The lights from the nearby restaurants washed her in a golden glow, the anger from the failed dinner had her cheeks flushed a dark red. Hermione wasn’t conventionally pretty: her nose was too stubby, her hair too frizzy and her chin too short. But Tom didn’t care about pretty. He didn’t need pretty.

“You.”

A dark, sleek car rolled to a stop in the bus lane. A chauffeur with the Malfoy crest on his uniform exited the car and opened the back door for them. Tom escorted Hermione into it. They spent the drive home in silence.

As they waited for the elevator to deposit them onto their floor, Hermione finally spoke up.

“Want to order something for dinner?”

“Why? You didn’t like your twenty-four carat lobster?”

She sent him a look but Tom had his eyes closed, a smile threatening to emerge.

“I’m in the mood for pizza.”

He gave in, his lips pulling at the edges, “Yeah, why not.”

Chapter Text

When Tom was five years old, he had been unceremoniously dumped at Wool’s Orphanage - a loving, caring home for children who had (one way or another) been left by their parents. At least, that was what Tom believed Mrs Cole would tell unsuspecting people to encourage them to loft their unwanted kids onto her.

Because Wool’s was not a loving and caring home. In fact, Tom wasn’t sure it could even constitute as a home, much less an orphanage that was supposed to sustain multiple children.

Nevertheless, at five years old, the dilapidated shell of a building was all Tom knew, and the ten or so other children shoved into tiny rooms were his sole companions. It really was a wonder how Mrs Cole was allowed to run the facility. Tom was sure she must have had a person working on the inside - she always seemed to know when they were having a ‘random’ inspection and always made sure to feed and clothe them well before it happened. Tom was fed better during the days leading up to an inspection than he was at any other point throughout the year.

Well, whoever Mrs Cole had bought off, they must have taken a holiday because one fine, overcast day they had an unscheduled, random inspection and Mrs Cole hadn’t been made aware. The children, all of them, including Tom, were taken out of Wool’s that very day and Mrs Cole was charged with multiple felonies. She was still paying off her dues, if Tom’s sources were correct.

At nine years old, Tom was tossed like a hacky-sack from one foster family to the other because no one could keep him for too long and there weren’t nearly enough people willing to adopt children. All his fosters were people who already had several children of their own and were barely meeting ends meat; but they had big hearts and wanted to torture a tortured child more by subjecting them to their own insufferable offspring. Tom would often have to share a room with several of their bratty children. Though, all things considered, it was still a decided improvement from Wool’s. At least he was fed regularly.

That is until he met the Grangers. At nine years old, Tom was introduced to a whole new lifestyle.

Tom was introduced to the luxuries money could buy.

The Grangers lived in the Heath, among a row of gated houses that looked more like mansions - that were mansions. The garage that housed their multiple, sleek cars was twice the size of the room Tom had to share with the other castoffs.

Money - he realised the day he was deposited in front of the Granger’s home - Tom wanted money and all the things money brought with it.

By the time Tom reached the tender age of ten, he had been enrolled at Hogwarts - a secondary and tertiary school for the very smart and the very rich. Hermione was several grades ahead of him there and Tom often passed by her in the halls. She always had the same three friends (how those three managed to get into Hogwarts had always been a mystery to Tom - because the Weasleys weren’t rich and Potter wasn’t smart).

At the age of ten, Tom also learnt that having a name that mattered mattered. And the more ridiculous and foreign it sounded, the better. The person who taught him this harsh life-lesson was one Draco Malfoy. Shortly after a quick beatdown behind the boating shed, Draco Malfoy learnt his lesson and settled himself in as one of Tom’s underlings.

A name - Tom wanted a name that was instantaneously recognisable. Tom Riddle was too commonplace a name - too forgettable. If he wanted to get anywhere in life, he needed a name that stuck.

At the age of fourteen Tom was invited to the Malfoy’s city home, their city home in Belgravia. Tom had heard about it sometimes. It was the home of the uber rich, some of them had gotten their wealth through ill-gotten means, some of them did things others would have balked at. And as he walked through their mansion, because it was a mansion - even if everyone else described it as simply a ‘townhouse’, Tom learned another important lesson: money and fame only got you so far.

What he really, really wanted was power.

All three though, were preferable. All three, Tom would get, one way or another.

And when he found out who his mother had been - what kind of name she carried - Tom knew he had always been destined for greatness. The hardships he’d endured in his early life were just to strengthen him; to make him understand what was important. Because his mother was Meorpe Gaunt - a member of the once famous Gaunt family - direct descendants of one of the old kings of England. Tom was royalty (on his mother’s side, at least).

That it had to take him a while to unearth this discovery was of no importance anymore. He knew now, and he knew how to use it to his advantage.

A Gaunt!

This was the best gift he could ever have been given.

Because a name as ancient and noble as Gaunt came with perks. Titles, deeds, heirlooms, estates!

But as Malfoy’s car rolled to a stop outside a thick tangle of trees, any elation Tom felt slowly began to simmer down.

“Why have we stopped?” He demanded, turning to Abraxas.

“We’re here.”

Tom narrowed his eyes, “If this is supposed to be a joke, Malfoy, I don’t find it funny.”

Abraxas sighed, running a hand down his face, “This isn’t a joke, Riddle. This is where the GPS says the house is. Just past the trees, see?”

Abraxas pointed at the dashboard. There, on the screen were two dots. One blue and car shaped and one red and arrowed shaped. They almost overlapped. This really was the place.

“Are you sure this is the address? You didn’t put it in incorrectly?”

“You made me double check when we left, Tom. This really is the place.”

Tom looked back out through the window, at the mass of forest in front of him.

Fucksake,” he muttered, unbuckling the seatbelt and opening the car’s gullwing doors. Abraxas remained seated.

“I’m going to stay here, if it’s all the same to you.”

“Do as you wish, just make sure you get the letter sorted,” Tom replied and left. Abraxas could close the damn door himself.

As he navigated the thick cluster of trees, his heart sank more and more. This had to be some horrid joke. It just had to. But, as the trees finally thinned and an outline of a building came into view, Tom understood that it really, truly wasn't.

Calling it a house would be unfair to houses. It was a shack, and even then it was unfair to compare it to shacks. It was a dilapidated mess of a place with roof tiles missing, a wall that looked like it wanted to cave in and a general air of despair. The noble house of Gaunt was nothing more than a shanty, little, rotten husk of a once great ancestral home.

Tom approached the door. A dead snake was nailed to it, rotten with bones exposed. Disgusted, he put his gloves on and pushed the door open. It swung inwards with a fair amount of creaking. No locks. He somehow wasn’t surprised; the door was barely clinging on to its rusted hinges.

Tom took a measured step inside. The floorboards creaked under his weight. Tom brought a hand up and covered his mouth and nose. The house reeked.

“Who's there?” a voice slurred from inside the depths of the house.

“Are you Morfin Gaunt?” Tom called out, taking another careful step inside, his other hand drifting inside his pocket for the karambit he had brought along.

It had taken some arm twisting, but Dolohov had finally smuggled some of his father’s weapons. Tom had taken an instant liking to the karambit. The fact that it was tied to one of Mr Dolohov’s lackies just helped make the deal sweeter.

“Who wants to know?”

Tom entered the bowels of the home, what was once a grand dining hall was now barely even a room. Droppings - animal and human - littered the place. Mould and fungus grew everywhere and the smell of decay and despair lingered most pungently there. And sitting on a half-broken chair, staring into a fire made of trash, was single handedly the most repulsive man Tom have ever laid eyes upon (and he had therapy sessions with Dumbledore every Thursday evening).

“Did you know Merope Gaunt?” Tom asked, staying by the dining hall entrance, unable (for the moment) to step inside. What had happened to this house? It should have been gleaming and sparkling, eager for its rightful heir to return home. This? This place wasn’t even fit to burn.

“Why? She whorin’ herself from the grave?”

“I don’t know about that, but what I do know is that I am her son, and a member of the Gaunt family. And you, I suppose, are my uncle.”

The man turned around. He was hideous. Years of inbreeding had resulted in a mess of a human face. He stooped in his chair, his arms gangly and mismatched with the rest of his body. A thought came to Tom’s mind: Frankenstien’s monster. Though that creature had a fair bit more intelligence than this sorry excuse for a human being every hoped to achieve.

“The fuck you are. Hang on, you look like that bastard, the one Merope went an’ fucked. What was his name? Girddle?”

“Riddle?” Tom suggested.

“Thas’ it! Riddle! Tom fuckin’ Riddle.”

Tom’s blood froze.

“What?” He demanded, taking a step inside and regretting it instantly when the smell assaulted his nose, “Say it again.”

“Who’re you?”

“Say his name again!”

“Who the fuck d’you think you are comin’ inta my home an’ ordering me about, eh? Get out!”

Morfin began to rise from his chair but Tom was quicker. In the time it took him to struggle to stand, Tom had already crossed the distance between them and pressed the blade of his curved knife against Morfin’s throat. The man stank like a sewer, but Tom had his mind focused on other things.

“Say his name again,” he hissed.

Morfin shook, raising his hands up in surrender, “Look I-I don’t want no trouble. I don’t have no money, yeah? I live in a fuckin’ hovel!”

“Say his name. I won’t repeat myself again.” He pressed the knife close enough that a thin line cut into Morfin’s neck. The man whimpered and nodded his head, accidentally cutting himself deeper.

“Riddle! Tom Riddle!”

“What do you know about him?”

“He lives up in that big, fancy house at the end of the village! Merope would watch him all the time when he would go horse riding. Fell in love with the bastard, she did. Drugged him an’ fucked him too. And then she ran away and ended up dead. Riddle still lives there, I think. That’s all I know, I swear!”

“Thank you,” Tom replied, taking a step back and lowering his knife.

“You’re gonna let me go?” Morfin was still standing as still as stone, worried, perhaps, that Tom would threaten him again.

“I have no further use for you, so yes,” Morfin began to relax, “But before that -”

Tom grabbed Morfin’s shoulder and spun the man around. Stunned, Morfin could only gape as Tom drove his knife into his stomach and tugged the serrated blade free. Morfin staggered back but Tom wasn’t done.

“Did you know I was alive?” He asked conversationally as he advanced on Morfin. The man clutched at his wrecked abdomen and gasped. Tom advanced upon him. “Did you know you had a nephew, one who would amount to so much more than you ever could? Is that why you let this house degrade intofilth?” He got in close and stabbed into Morphin’s shoulder. The force of the blow forced the man to fall to the ground. He left out a wet scream. He was bleeding profusely. Tom was sure that if he poked at his abdomen, things that weren’t meant to come out would. If Morfin didn’t act how he wanted him to, maybe he would.

Tom fell upon him, pressing his knife right against his neck once more.

“When I learnt that I was a Gaunt, that I had an uncle, I was so furious at you. I was going to kill you, not only because I wanted the house, but because you didn’t even try to look for me. But when I saw what you did to this house? I don’t want this hovel. No. I’m glad you left me to rot at the Orphanage, because it was heaven compared to this. So the reason you’re dying now is because the only thing my bitch of a mother left me was a name and a house and you rendered them both useless.”

Morfin gargled out something but all that came out was a disgusting bubble of blood.

“I had planned a swift death, but I don’t think you deserve it.” And it was then that Tom spotted something on his hand. A black, signet ring, “Well, well, well. What do we have here? So, you let the house fall to ruin but at least you didn't pawn off our heirlooms. I've heard about this ring. The Gaunt Family ring. I think it's time it came to its rightful owner, don't you? Thank you ever so much for keeping a hold of it."

Tom used the knife and wrenched Morfin’s ring finger off. It took some doing and he had to struggle a bit because of the bone, but in the end he managed it. Morfin had tried screaming and floundering but the vicious injury on his stomach, combined with Tom's weight pinning him down, made it difficult for him to do much more than gargle out blood and weep.

He pushed off of the man, unbothered if he got blood on his clothes. He was going to burn them anyways.

“You can use the knife and end your waste of a life, if you want. I’m sure that little cut on your stomach burns a bit.” He threw the karambit to the far side of the room.

“Oops,” he grinned when it landed with a light clank, “My hand slipped.”

He then got to work dislodging the ring from his bloody finger, tossing that too once the ring was safely wrapped in a handkerchief and inside his pocket. Morfin gargled again, perhaps he was begging, perhaps he was cursing his name - either way, Tom didn’t care. He could spend his last few breaths of air however he liked.

“Goodbye, Uncle,” he called cheerfully over his shoulder as he made his way out.

Once he was outside, Tom bundled the gloves up and threw them into the bushes. He had specially gotten biodegradable gloves for the job and by the time anyone thought to look for Morfin, Tom would be long-gone.

Abxraxas hadn’t moved an inch. He even had the letter glued together. Tom actually hadn’t expected him to tough it out, if he was honest.

The initial plan had been to stage this as a debt-collector with a bad temper. Now, Tom didn’t think they even needed to bother with it.

“Well?” Abraxas asked, an uncomfortable edge to his voice, as Tom threw his blood soaked clothes into a disposable bag. He then tugged on a clean, black shirt and black pants.

“We can leave,” Tom replied once he was settled into the passenger seat.

“What about the letter?”

“Burn it if you want to. No one will come looking for him.”

Abraxas furrowed his brows, “Are you sure that’s a safe move?”

“I’m positive. We’re in the middle of nowhere. And something tells me Uncle Morfin wasn’t popular amongst his neighbours.”

Abraxas still didn’t look convinced but he started the car up again and began to twist it around back the way they came. Tom would make another trip to Little Hangleton, but that wouldn’t be for a little while. Where Morfin had been easy to take care of, Tom had a feeling Riddle Senior wouldn’t be nearly as willing to lay down and die. And Tom, well, Tom would be disappointed if the man gave up so easily. No, he was going to enjoy his meeting with his father.

“I trust your decision, Tom. Just make sure none of this leads back to me and it's all fine.”

“Have a little more faith in me, Abraxas. I’m not an amateur.”

Abraxas shuddered; he would have committed fewer sins if he worked directly with the devil. And for the first time in his life, he felt bad for Hermione. The woman had no idea what kind of a monster she shared her home and hearth with.

Chapter Text

“Do it.”

“No.”

“Come on.”

“No.”

“Tom.”

“Hermione.”

“Just try it! One bite.”

“I already told you, before you even began, that I wouldn’t.”

“Stop being such an ass and try it! I put a lot of effort into it!”

Tom glanced behind Hermione at the packets of sauces. He looked back at her, one eyebrow ticked upwards. Hermione studiously ignored his incredulous expression.

“Do it.”

“No.”

“Tom. Please?” She blinked up at him, her lips worked down in a frown.

He glared down at her. Hermione didn’t move an inch.

Fine,” he snarled, “If I get sick, you only have yourself to blame. And I want it on record that this was all your fault.”

“Less talk, more tasting.”

Tom neared the pot. She had tried making bolognese. Emphasis on ‘tried’ because the bubbling mess certainly didn’t look like any bolognese Tom had ever seen, it wasn’t even the right colour. He didn’t feel apprehension on a normal basis. Tom didn’t feel fear. But as he looked at the contents of the pot (what on earth were those red lumps?) of what was definitely not-bolognese, for possibly the first time in his life, Tom felt real fear.

He picked up a spoon and took as small an amount as he possibly could.

Hermione was right beside him, watching him and the pot with eager eyes.

Tom brought the spoon slowly towards himself.

His hands shook and his whole body was tense as the spoon neared dangerously close his lips.

A knock sounded on their door. Hermione jerked away and Tom quickly dropped the spoon back down. His life had flashed by him but he had survived.

“Who on earth could it be?” Hermione murmured to herself as she went to check the door.

It was Ronald Weasley. Tom couldn’t believe he owed his life to Ronald Weasley.

He had come bearing gifts - his mother’s cooking.

And the only reason he was allowed to step foot in their apartment was because he had finally swallowed his pride and apologised to Hermione. He saw Tom standing beside the pot of not-bolognese and he raised his brows in surprise.

“Oh, were you guys cooking?” Ron foolishly asked.

“No," Tom replied, "Hermione was.”

Tom stepped away from the pot before Hermione tried to force him to try it again. He had dodged a bullet, but he didn’t think he’d be so lucky to do it again.

“Mind if I try a bite?” He smiled a huge smile at Hermione, who nodded eagerly and launched into a long-winded explanation how she and Tom ate out more often than not and how that wasn’t healthy in the least.

Tom had meant to get rid of Hermione’s friends, permanently, but the fates must really have been smiling down at him, because Ronald Weasley was going to eliminate himself and Tom didn’t even have to raise a finger.

He settled back against the island, crossing his arms over his chest and watching as Ron approached the pot and picked up the spoon Tom had abandoned. The fool dipped the spoon into the pot and took a healthy helping. Hermione was still chattering away but Tom wasn’t paying attention to her. No, he was watching as Ron brought the spoon up to his mouth and ate the whole thing.

“Well, what do you think?”

“It tastes a little uh, weird?” Ron said slowly as he swallowed and took a good look at the pot, “My mouth’s burning a little. What is this?”

“That might be the chili.”

“Chilli?” Tom asked, “You put chillies in bolognese?”

“We’d run out of tomatoes and tomato paste! I looked online and it said green salsa worked as well!”

“Shit, my mouth’s really starting to burn,” Ron exclaimed. He panted, his face turning redder than his hair, “Shit, Hermione, how spicy was your salsa?”

“Tom’s friend gave it to us.”

Oh, oh this was perfect.

“It’s a spicy Mexican salsa.” Tom replied gleefully, “I think they put Ghost Peppers in it.”

Ron’s face was bright red at this point and his eyes watered. Hermione watched in panic as Ron rushed to their sink and began to chug water.

“Tom, grab the milk!”

Tom sauntered towards their fridge, knowing full well that they’d run out of milk that morning. Still, he took his sweet time before he popped his head back up and shook his head.

“We’re out.”

Hermione darted her head about, trying to figure out what alternative she could use.

“Ice cream then! I’m sure I saw-” Hermione rushed to the fridge and wrenched the freezer door open. Tom’s smile was as wide as a Cheshire cat's as she wrenched the ice cream lid open only to find it filled with Nagini’s frozen mice treats, “Tom! What the hell!”

Ron looked ready to pass out.

“Nagini likes cold things sometimes.”

“Why’d you put it in an ice cream box!”

“Because you told me you didn’t like me putting Nagini’s food in our food containers, so I put them in old ice cream boxes.”

“Ron is going to go unconscious and we have nothing!”

“Give him some sugar.”

“What?”

“Sugar. Or cream. We have some whipped cream, I think.”

Hermione shoved the box of mice treats at Tom and riffled through their fridge for the can of whipped cream. She ran to Ron’s side and forced him to eat it. Tom closed the lid of the mice treats and put everything back into place.

He was immensely glad he hadn’t tried any of the ‘bolognese’. Hermione was a talented genius, he would be the first to admit it, but there were some things she had no skills with. Cooking, was one of them.

Tom had learnt that the first time he tried her cooking - when she had put salt into a batch of cookies instead of sugar and another time where she put cornflour instead of regular flour in a cake.

Ron recovered. He did end up fainting and Hermione had fretted over him the entire time. Throughout she wondered if Tom would help her take him to the local hospital to make sure he was okay. Tom refused. He ate a pepper, not arsenic. He would live. And he did. He was also very sick but that was to be expected.

That night, Hermione and Tom ordered in for the fourth night in a row.