NOTE: This is a translation of a Chinese HP Fanfiction by 墨玉绿
His name was Tom Riddle, the orphan Tom Riddle.
What is a normal four-year-old like? Should he be wrapped in mom and dad's arms, begging for a new toy? Or should he be running free, laughing with his friends, pranking everyone in sight.
To Tom, being four was difficult. Ever since his young caretaker passed away, Tom found it increasingly difficult to survive in the Orphanage.
You see, being four was like being stuck in the middle. Two and three-years-olds were fed regularly; seven and eight-years-olds were strong and tall enough to take what they want. And Tom, being four, made the perfect victim.
The fat maid came around with a basket of dried bread, one for each child. One and absolutely no more. With her beady eyes, she glared at them like hawks as the children reached into the basket to grab their dinner. If anyone tries to take more than one, she would beat him down with her thick fists and confiscates his only ration for the night. But, often, Tom was so hungry that he didn't care. He would try to sneak an extra piece when she wasn't looking. He was fast and nimble, but that didn't mean he never got caught...when he did, ten lashes on his back.
But it was worth it. The beating was preferable to being hungry all the time, to feel so unfulfilled, as pain gnawed and twisted his stomach, like a parasite killing him from inside. The beating was worth it for the few times that he managed to sneak pieces of bread to his room, where he hid under his bed, wolfing down every last crumb, almost choking on its dry, wooden texture.
He got real good at stealing— Then, they noticed him.
They referred to a group of eight-year-old boys, gangly and weedy, with stupid faces that Tom didn't recognize. However, Tom did recognize they were a lot bigger than him.
"Hand over what you stole! NOW! Or we are telling Mrs. Sophia—"
Mrs. Sophia was the fat maid's name.
"I ate it—" Tom replied stubbornly. His trembling hands betrayed his fear, but he stood his ground, hiding the two pieces of bread behind his back.
A boy, the one who was always holding a rabbit, pointed at Tom. "HE HAS IT! IN HIS HANDS!... I SEE 'EM!"
That was all it took. They swarmed him, hands pulling and punching, and pushing Tom to the ground.
It hurts. It hurts so bad.
The harder they hit him, the tighter Tom clutched the breads in his hands. Even with their eight-year-old strength, none of them managed to pry anything away from Tom.
Maybe his natural-born viciousness graced Tom with some unlikely strength. Somehow he managed to break away from them. He ran; they were right behind him. As he ran, Tom tore the breads apart with his bare hands. He grinded them into little chunks, then threw them onto the ground. Tom stepped down hard on the precious food, as if trying to destroy something he hates with all his heart.
By the time those boys caught him, the breads were lost. They were inedible, mashed into the mud with Tom's footprints on top of brown, flattened form.
"HIT HIM!" Someone screamed.
Fists and boots landed furiously on his back. Tom knelt on the ground, arching his back, trying desperately to protect his stomach and internal organs from their blows. Bruises and cuts ran away his face and arms, in gruesome purple patches, but, through the pain, Tom was smiling.
They are mine... And if I can't have them, no one can.
He laughed silently. A strange, crooked, satisfied little smile twisted his handsome face.
Afterward, of course, they told on him and, as punishment, Tom was locked in the basement for three days.
Tom slumped against a cold, damp corner, rubbing his hands in an effort to stay warm.
"Tom? Tom? Are you in detention again?"
Tom ignored the woman, who peered at him from behind metal bars, as she rubbed her hands together nervously.
What does she hope to gain from these visits?
"Tom, I— I brought you some candies. I left them in your room... Er... Hope you like them."
Candies?! —What does a hungry orphan want with candies? Such small and frivolous plaything—it will only bring trouble. It made the others jealous; it made him a target. Anyways, since she left it in his room unattended, he bet someone already took it.
But she never really thinks, does she? Never notices anything important.
She just wants to appease him... but not for his own sake, exactly. She just wants to appease her own guilty conscious.
Tom stared at her from behind cold, metal bars. The wavering candle-lights casted soft glow on his face, yet his eyes remained cold, steely.
She took a step back. For moment, his eyes morphed into the hungry eyes of wolves, appraising her weaknesses, readying to strike.
"I'll... I'll come back another time—"
Tom watched, emotionless, as she practically bolted out the room.
He saw right through her.
She was afraid of him, afraid of his un-childlike eyes, afraid of his un-wavering expression. But she insisted on visiting him anyways, because she felt bad for what she had done.
And, really, what she had done wasn't so bad. All she did was abandoning him in the Orphanage, because something better came along; because "they couldn't afford to raise two babies, so sorry, sweetie".
She always babbled on endlessly to him, and always about the mysterious Mr. Potter.
"He's a wonderful gentleman. And he really cares about you, Tom—"
Even his previous caretaker, before her untimely death, liked to mention Mr. Potter.
"Mr. Potter said he will come back for you, Tom. I know it. He asked me to look after you."
Tom punched the wall in frustration.
He hates this Mr. Potter. HATES HIM!
If this man really wants to adopt Tom, then where is he? If this man really cares about Tom, then where was he when Tom was beaten or starved or screaming against the unfairness of it all? Humph— "he will come back for you"—What lies! Tom could certainly recognize a lie when he hears one.
His hatred bubbled to the surface, colouring his childish face. If anyone could see him right now, they would be astonished by such seething anger on a four-year-old's tender face. Such a terrible evil it wrought.
The Orphanage did not require strict attendance. They were too short-staffed to provide proper schooling. The children only had to attend English lessons twice a week (curtsy of the Church), then they were free to wander about the streets of London aimlessly. Mrs. Cole cared little about what happens to them. If one orphan dies— well —that was one less mouth to feed.
Tom usually stayed out until four in the afternoon. He didn't dare to stray too far.
Tom headed straight for his room.
The small bedroom was turned upside down. The mattress thrown to the floor; wardrobe tipped over; clothes scatted everywhere. Everyone at the orphanage were issued four standardized uniforms per year, no replacements, and Tom's clothes, right now, were cut into rags with muddy footprint stamped all over them.
Tom chuckled darkly. Calmly and methodically, he began plotting slow and painful deaths for all the boys who had done this to him.
However, as soon as he laid eyes on a scrunched-up, black cloak, tossed carelessly into a corner, Tom's rage exploded.
He roared and swore bloody vengeance upon his enemies. No matter who they are, he will find them. His ebony eyes filled with pure rage, burning dark and depthless like the abyss of hell, which swallowed, whole, the bones of all his challengers.
Tom picked up the black cloak gently. It was old, but in good conditions because he always took care of it. It must been expensive once; thick, flowing fabric which extended pass Tom's feet, with a traditional yet stylish cut that tightened around the waist. Tom thought it must have looked really handsome on its original owner.
Whenever he felt sad, Tom would wrap himself, tightly, in the cloak, breathing its scent and treasuring its warmth.
Maybe... Someone really did care for him?... Even for a short while... Someone like Mr. Potter.
Tom put the black cloak around his shoulder, and stroked the expensive fabric lovingly. Its soft warmth was almost enough to calm him down.
"TOM! Check out my new scarf," a boy said, as he entered the room unannounced,
Tom leaped off his bed, staring at the intruder with alert eyes of a territorial beast.
It was the boy who always carries a pet bunny. Triumphantly, the boy stroked the bunny's fur, sticking his neck out.
Tom's pupils contracted. His fists tightened. His eyes zoomed in on the scarf around the boy's neck—
It was Tom's. That blackish grey scarf, faded with age and matched, exactly, to the cloak left behind by Mr. Potter.
Tom's eyes turned vicious at once. He pounced forward like a powerful cheetah, snaring his teeth at the boy, murder plain on his face. The boy jumped back in fright, surprised by the sudden change in the four-year-old, who was, after all, much smaller than himself.
"GIVE. IT. BACK," Tom menaced slowly. His eyes hooded in an eerie shadow.
The boy tried to stay composed. He told himself that no four-year-old can harm him, but, looking into Tom's savage eyes, suddenly he didn't feel so sure.
Tom glared at the boy and his disgusting rabbit; it was rubbing fur on his scarf. Unforgivable, he thought darkly.
"I... found it. So it's mine," the boy stuttered, trying to look brave.
Before he had a chance to finish, a small body knocked him to the ground. The frightened rabbit leaped away. Before he could react, or even let out a frightened yell, small hands wrapped around his windpipe, crushing him with impossible strength.
The boy gagged. He couldn't breathe.
Tom's childish face hovered above him, eyes dark and deadly like vultures. Tom's tender features twisted with glee, transforming him from a child into something terrifying. At the moment, he was no longer Tom Riddle the orphan, but a magnificent angel of Death. His hands squeezed harder.
Tom discovered, right there and then, that he was capable of murder.
"MY GOD! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"
Someone pulled Tom off the boy. Tom rubbed his numb fingers, and gave a cold look to the old nurse who so rudely interrupted him. He said nothing to her.
Wheezing, the boy crawled away from Tom and found his pet rabbit. Shaking uncontrollably, he looked at Tom, then at the rabbit in his arms.
"It's... It's my fault... I stole Tom's scarf."
The old nurse looked at them with confusion. She looked at Tom, then at the trembling boy.
"If you say so, Billy. And —Tom, three days of solitary confinement for you."
Without protest, Billy gave up the scarf. As they got up to leave, Tom flashed a toothy grin at Billy, which contained a message that only they understood. In a gruesome way, they shared in something unique tonight, but only Tom could see all the changes that it will bring.
After that night, everyone at the Orphanage knew to stay away from Tom Riddle's bedroom, especially from the cloak and scarf.
In many ways, nothing changed.
They still didn't have enough to eat. The children still fought each other for food.
The first time Tom beat up someone for their food, he got nothing special, a piece of stale bread and a thumb-sized cheese. Yet, as he clutched his hard-earned victory in his hands, despite the throbbing pain of his ribcage, Tom Riddle felt happy.
He felt powerful.
There is no good and evil. There is only power, and those too weak to seek it.
Tom Riddle wanted power. And he wanted lots of it.