A Half a Conquest



Seventh year: The locket's hinge is broken and the painting empty. Tom Marvolo Riddle throws it into the lake without a backwards glance as he leaves Hogwarts.


First year: He finds the locket: chance and the glimmer of a golden chain in the crack of a flagstone. Inside, only the crude painting of a boy with long hair, shifting serenely and adjusting his glasses. He keeps it, and does not know why.


Fifth year: Fine golden chain clatters on the floor of the Chamber of Secrets. The hinge swings open for the first time in two years. Do you remember me?


Second year: He finally discovers how to work it. Like a Pensieve, it takes him in. The boy in the painting is there, tall and slim and gracious, and smiles at him, and they talk endlessly. He has such knowledge, and is willing to share it, and so Tom clings tight to him, and wears the locket under his robes.


Fifth year: He seems more slender than Tom remembers him, though no shorter; but even phantasmic, he seems to have acquired weight, presence, an exquisite solidity to the narrow place between his shoulder blades that Tom longs to run his hand over. His hair brushes the small of his back and moves with him, swinging constantly. Except when he is very still, when Tom slides off his glasses.


Sixth year: It is time to build his own locket, only this time with a book. Time to deconstruct every spell cunningly worked into the little golden trinket. Time to discover every quirk of ink in the thumbnail painting. Time to dissect his one-time guide. He is Lord Voldemort. He does not regret.


Third year: He finds out why the locket was made. They argue. He leaves, snaps it shut, and does not plan to come back. Memories of his voice and nature fade quickly enough when despised; it is his body that continues to haunt Tom, and his smooth face, and Tom does not know why.


Fifth year: His legs are impossibly long, his back an architectural curve, his puzzled blue eyes sealed over with black cloth. He does not protest, and Tom does not understand. He is pale and exquisite and almost captive, there mostly-real on the floor of the Chamber, sustained by spells, contained by black cloth wound in a long strip over his eyes, his throat, his elbows, his wrists. Hair slides; Tom comes to know every inch of him, and is greeted only with soft, happy sighs.


Sixth year: I'm going to have to kill you.


Fourth year: At night, he is always silent. Utterly, utterly silent. The name of the boy from the locket will never reach his lips, not even when he rolls over and bites the pillow hard and comes, silently, hair falling into his eyes.


Third year: To point the way to Godric Gryffindor's tomb, of course! It took me five years to puzzle it out, chasing every clue I could over the entire castle, and I'll know how to do it, but I wanted to see if I could keep that knowledge elsewhere... You should have seen it, Tom. Walls hung round with shields, the sword--beautiful, absolutely beautiful...


Fifth year: It is not the first time. Twice more Tom brings the locket to the chamber, and a lone Gryffindor gasps softly amongst a thousand stone serpents. Each time he is more helpless, long limbs bound more stringently, long fingers grasping weakly at air; but he remains unafraid. Frustrated, Tom closes the locket.


First year: His housemates tell him he cannot like the Gryffindors, and so he eyes the Transfiguration teacher with uncertainty, and asks if he's not supposed to like him either, and they all say thaaaaaat old coot!


Sixth year: You can hardly prevent it, you know.


Third year: Tom? Why are you looking so? What is wrong?


Sixth year: The first sparks of fear are hard, hard won. Then flames arise, and Tom fans them. The dissection is all but complete; the soul within the stripped locket, bound, gagged, tears seeping from eyes closed very tight. I would have told you anything, he had said. That is what I am. And Tom gritted his teeth and swore, and black fabric dug into the corners of the boy's mouth.


Second year: You look like someone I know. What's your name?


Sixth year: Hate blinds Tom, but he cannot bring himself to blind the boy. Bright, terrified blue eyes watch him. Tom resorts to small tortures, and fumbles, and rapes him. It is the first time he's taken him; chains rattle; that perfect arch of a back writhes ineffectively beneath him.


Fifth year: Headmaster, I cannot believe Mr. Hagrid capable of such a crime. Are you quite sure Mr. Riddle is telling the truth?


Fourth year: He is not solid in Tom's mind; he has not yet acquired weight, merely hovers, iconic, unearthly. Long nose, balancing out his profile in the most unexpectedly elegant of ways. Long fingers, agile, ink-stained. Long hair, and thick, and the most brilliantly shining of auburn. Long arms, with a long line of muscle along his bicep and smoothing into his shoulder. Long stomach, creamy-skinned, long legs, long... But he will be silent. No matter what he imagines, he will be silent.


Sixth year: The locket snaps closed for the last time; the boy merely lies there in the painting, unkempt and unbroken. At the last, he stopped struggling and stopped crying and stopped being afraid. Tom barks out the last of the undoing spells, tearing apart the matrix, killing him forever. He does not regret, but finds himself crying furiously. As if this might be the last victory he would win against Albus Dumbledore. As if he hadn't even won.


Seventh year: The locket's hinge is broken and the painting empty. Tom Marvolo Riddle throws it into the lake without a backwards glance as he leaves Hogwarts.


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