Her eyes ferreted around the street as she cautiously walked past the people of Diagon Alley. True, they probably didn't notice her, nor would they care where she was going, but Louise Tonnewroth was smart enough to know that no good women in society went down Knockturn Alley. Besides, Louise had been taught, or at least brought up, to feel like everyone was watching her.
Perhaps when she was fourteen, this was a possibility. Maturing quite well for a girl her age, Louise's caramel hair flowed in wondrous curls, and her big eyes were striking to anyone in the room. However, time had passed, and now she was looking more haggard, and starvation and stress had depleted her once glamorous figure, strands of straggling hair breaking free from her ponytail.
Once she had reached the border between Diagon and Knockturn Alley, she couldn't help but make a dash for it. Farewell, all good society, she thought blissfully. It wasn't a world where she belonged anymore.
No, her place was now in the Underworld, with the people of Knockturn Alley. She felt less like an outcast, and more like a companion. A few people even nodded their heads in acknowledgment to her. Nobody spoke – not in the open. Louise would nod back encouragingly, her eyes giving a strong blink. They were the only things still attractive about her, and she intended on using them.
Finally, looking at the sign for Borgin & Burkes, she paused at the door. Was it possible that she could already sense him? His smell, his taste, all of it? When she became accustomed to the power, she turned the doorknob, and entered.
The shop at first seemed to be empty. Her pale hand drifted across the stone fireplace, clouds of dust ricashading off as she did so. Items sat bleakly on shelves, some staring right at her. She didn't fear those anymore though; in fact, she could look them in the eye.
“Hello?” she called out. No answer.
“Hello?” she asked again.
This didn't make sense. He said he'd be working here. Had he lied? Then again, Louise endured many days wondering if he ever came out with an honest thing in his life. Louise just had to wipe the slate clean each time and put all her faith in him. Tom Riddle was all she had left.
”Are you lost?”
Louise looked up from her books. She couldn't even believe it. Tom Riddle was speaking to her. To her. Everyone had heard of him. Even in her first year, people were talking about Tom Riddle. He was just a third year when she arrived, but even then he practically got away with murder. Teachers loved him, and he had shown enough ability to earn that affection.
Never having felt insignificant before, Louise was suddenly aware that she was just a forth-year Hufflepuff. “Huh?” was all she could say, much to her own embarrassment.
Rather than frowning, or mocking, Tom's mouth curled slightly. “You looked frustrated. I just wondered if you needed help.”
She didn't need help, she was just focusing. Truth was, Louise was pretty intelligent, one of the best in her year, in fact. “Yeah, I don't understand a word.” But the truth wouldn't have helped her keep up a conversation with Tom Riddle.
Sitting down besides her, and still not making any sense as to why he would be speaking to her, Tom surveyed her textbook, musing, “Considering it's Divination, I'm not sure why you'd want to understand it...”
“It's not that bad,” countered Louise.
“No?” One thing Louise didn't understand was that not many people argued with Tom these days, even if it came with lighthearted intentions. They laughed along, or passionately agreed. Tom felt a surge of anger, but at the same time, amusement. Louise was lucky she was so attractive, or he really wouldn't have bothered.
“If it's done right. Imagine the power of telling the future.” Now there was something Tom could relate to: power. Louise saw his eyes light up for a second – just a second – and she continued to say, “It'd really be something.”
Louise's eyebrows furrowed downwards for a second. “Louise.”
“Well, Louise, this is a waste of time. How would you like to do me a favour?”
Tom always needed favours. It was how he operated. What good were people if they weren't useful? Louise continued to ponder until she heard the shop's bell ring, and Tom suddenly ran in. He didn't seem the same as he usually did. In all fairness, he never ran.
Stopping in his tracks when he saw Louise, he demanded, “What are you doing here?”
“I thought I'd see you,” explained Louise. “I missed you.”
Tom sighed. “Don't say things like that. Now,” Tom gathered a great deal of books, “I need you to do a favour for me.”
“Anything,” said Louise quickly. However she was then didn't matter, what was important was that she knew how things worked now.
“I need you to get out with this.” Tom threw a goblet in her direction. It looked so beautiful, so ornate. Answering her quizzical expression, Tom explained, “Meet me by the bank. Just go there.”
“What's happening, Tom?”
“Have to leave...” muttered Tom quickly to himself. “Where?”
“Leave?” Louise's eyes widened. “Where are we going?”
Louise scurried out. She wasn't sure that she was ready to run away, especially if she didn't know where to. But Tom was all she had. And she was fine as long as she had him around. Tom could always handle himself.
“I won't have this.” Louise's mother, Agnes Tonnewroth practically blocked the door. “You're not spending your Christmas constantly visiting that boy and his group of friends,” she continued to insist.
A now fifteen year old, Louise stood in the hallway. Letting her scowl become fully visible, Louise said, “Tom says that you're just saying that because you think I'm going to sleep with him.”
“Well, as improper as that is,” retorted Agnes with a blush, “I'm not just concerned about that. You were such a sweet girl.”
“I haven't changed,” insisted Louise. But of course she had. Still, that was a good thing, surely? Tom had made her more self assertive, deeper. Tom had been putting Louise through constant self improvement. She had been lost this year with him now gone. It was like she was wasting her life away, listening to professors who actually knew nothing. Tom made her better than that world.
Of course, there was no point telling her mother that.
“Anyway, there's a reason why that would concern me. He's an of age wizard. It's not right.”
“Nobody over there cares.”
“Everyone cares. If they don't show it, then they're good liars.”
“Well Tom says I shouldn't care -”
“And what do you say? Does he even let you have a say?”
If people hadn't been watching Louise before, they were now. She was running through Diagon Alley, weaving anyone who bothered to stay in her path. She froze when she got to the brick wall. Were there usually this many Aurors?
Stepping up front, she was about to slide past, when one of them approached her. “I'm sorry, Miss,” the Auror began, “but can I see your bag?”
Louise clutched the bag, and the goblet, to the side of her robes. “Why?”
“Hepzibah Smith passed away this morning. A witness thought they saw the culprit run here.”
“And the bag?”
“They weren't empty handed.”
How could Louise explain having a goblet in her bag? It seemed so rare, it was hardly something that she was going to carry. Finally, she handed over the bag.
However, before the Auror had a good chance to look, a hand was on his shoulder. “What do you think you're going there, Broderick?” Ralph Wesley smiled at Louise. “Good to see you again.”
Ralph Wesley was a family friend with ruffled blonde hair, lean figure, and ten years between him and Louise in age. Not that this always bothered him. Louise didn't know which of the two of them made her feel more uncomfortable.
“I know her,” continued Ralph. “She wouldn't commit a murder. She's too much of a woman.” Broderick showed some doubt, but Ralph then said, “I'll escort her out.”
After a deep gulp, Louise clutched on her bag. It was for Tom.
”What're you thinking of doing after Hogwarts?”
At midnight, Louise had somehow found herself talking with Ralph about almost everything. She had known Ralph long enough to feel comfortable in her nightwear, though she couldn't help but notice the way that Ralph fiddled with the top button of his pyjamas. Louise couldn't stand nervous habits. It was just weakness.
“I don't know,” said Louise simply. “I think I'll travel.”
“Oh, where do you think?”
“I don't know. But Tom says we have to explore to broaden our minds. England's so limiting.”
“Yes, Tom.” Louise picked up on the tone of disapproval. “Your mum was talking about him earlier.”
“Yeah, she's obsessed,” concurred Louise, with no hint of irony.
“She thinks you can do better.”
“She doesn't know him.”
“No...” Ralph sighed, his eyes narrowing. “But she knows you. You're not like you used to be, Lou.”
“I'm growing up.”
“I know that.” There was a beat after this. “But you're becoming sour. He's making you just... hate everything.”
“Just because nothing compares to him.”
“That's not a healthy thing to say.”
Louise groaned, ruffling her hair, all the while hating herself for doing so. “I'm sick of this. Nobody gets it!” Jumping up from her seat, Louise continued to pace towards the window. “Is it jealousy, is that it? I'd get that, you know. I see other girls around me, half of them engaged. Nothing compared to him. But it almost seems like they mean it. They really think he's bad for me.”
“Has he proposed to you?”
“More backwards thinking.”
“No.” Ralph stood at this point. “A lot of girls your age are engaged now.”
“But they're not in love!”
“And you are?” Ralph sounded less aggressive now. In fact, it was slightly defeated, if anything.
“Of course,” replied Louise. “He's my life.”
“And you're his?”
She didn't need to think it over. “Yes.” She had trained herself enough times.
“But he won't propose -”
“I told you -”
“- if he loves you so much, he'd ask. It's expected, Louise. If he's not promising to make you happy, then perhaps it's not quite what you think.”
Louise darted for the stairs. Under no circumstances would she stay here to hear this. She had enough of this in the day, let alone the night. Ralph ran after her, grabbing onto her wrist and spinning her around. Louise almost doubled over because of the pain.
“I'm saying this all wrong.” Ralph's face was inches away from hers. Louise tried to struggle away, but this just seemed to encourage him to grip harder. “I think I can promise you things he can't, Lou. I can make you happy.” Louise's hand became limp.
“Where am I taking you?”
“You only had to walk me across the border.”
Ralph raised his eyebrow. “There's a killer around, I want to make sure you're safe.”
“They're not going to want me, are they? They're after old spinsters with things worth taking.”
“You don't know people as well as you think you do.”
Louise wasn't going to react. She had somewhere to go. “Either way, I'll take the risk.”
“You shouldn't be walking on your own.”
“This isn't the nineteenth century!”
“Besides the fact that the nineteenth century wasn't that long ago, in the grand scheme of things, it's still London. Not safe,” insisted Ralph.
Louise continued to walk towards the bank, Ralph a few steps behind. She tried to think of a way to lose him, but there was little point. This was a highly trained Auror that she was dealing with here. Ralph could probably follow her to the end of the world and back again.
“Who're you meeting?”
Stop asking questions. Louise clicked her tongue. “Just a friend.”
“What's her name?”
“It's Tom,” answered Louise quickly.
“Of course.” Ralph had figured as much, but it was still worth hoping. In all honesty, he was more disappointed right now than anything. Louise had just become more ugly over time. Had she just been his, he could have made a good home. Louise was loyal and handy, she could've done a lot for the family. But Tom had wasted her. Now she was never going to find a husband. Who would want her?
No reply was necessary, since they both knew how she felt. In stead, they continued to walk in silence until Louise was feet away from the bank.
“You couldn't have Apparated?” pressed Ralph. “You could've done that once we came out?” He couldn't help but hope that perhaps part of Louise wanted to stay and walk with him. Perhaps she was beginning to see. Then she could truly realise what she had missed.
”Forget about your parents.”
Louise stared at the sheet of parchment, her eyes watering. “They're going to kill me.”
Tom ripped the sheet from her hands, huffing as he did so. Did she always have to be so pathetic when she came to her parents? Was this what families did? “You're never going to be poor. They're not good results, but it doesn't matter. You don't need them. You already have a job.”
“They don't get that.”
“Your mother's a Mudblood and your father was stupid enough to marry her. I'm still surprised they had you.” That was pretty much the highest compliment that Louise could receive from him. “Don't pay attention to them.”
“So what do I do?”
Tom pulled out his wand with a knowing smirk, tapped it on the parchment, and the grades began to switch around. ”Obviously you can't fake it when getting a job, but your parents' fears can be put aside.”
“Thank you.” Louise threw her arms around Tom's, while his stayed still at the side. “I'm sorry,” she said hastily. "I forgot that you don't hug -”
“You forget that a lot,” was Tom's curt response.
Louise stared at him for five minutes straight. Eventually, when her wide eyes had become too frustrating to ignore, Tom's head swiftly moved in her direction. “What?”
“I want to do something.”
“Good that you're sounding so assertive.” Tom's mouth twitched. “What is it?”
“You'll say yes?”
“I don't like being tricked into bargains, you know that. What is it?”
Louise sat closer to him. “First, I want to ask... what are we?”
Tom was standing by, still looking as stressed as he had been back in Knockturn Alley. Before, she approached, Louise's glance was fixed on Ralph. “Don't follow me.”
“I'm leaving,” assured Ralph, though it was a lie. As Louise walked towards Tom, Ralph slid back, just at enough of a distance as to watch, but not be seen. Ralph couldn't trust Tom as far as he could throw him.
Once Tom had seen Louise, his hands were clawing into her shoulders. “You didn't get caught?”
“No, I knew someone -”
Ripping the bag off her, Tom pulled out the goblet and began to caress it, his fingers swiftly circling the ring. “Perfect.”
“Where are we going, Tom?”
That had gotten his attention. “We?”
Louise still didn't understand. “You said something about us leaving -”
“Me. I'm leaving. You're not coming.” When he saw her expression, he laughed. “Louise, you can't possibly think...” His smile contorted into a knowing smirk, the red in his eyes sparkling. “You should leave.”
“You can't...” Louise found herself lost for words. Her entire world had just collapsed on her. Tom's eyebrows raised as Louise began to struggle for breath, clutching onto her neck. Wheezing at this stage, Louise wondered whether she was searching for a way to alleviate her block or tighten the grip. What was the point in fighting to live?
Finally, Tom pressed his own two fingers against her throat. Louise's body became still. Tom was here, leaving her out to dry, but this was the first time he had actually touched her. It had always been her, wanting... needing.
Tom's dark eyes stared at Louise. The thought was almost repulsive, but he had to admit he was intrigued. So many people can described it. Just because he didn't have the inclination, doesn't mean he never would. Finally, he gave a sharp nod.
Excitedly, Louise moved in closer, her eye lids shutting. Tom remembered this. How silly it seemed for someone to close their eyes when moving in so close. What if Tom were to strike her? She wouldn't even see it coming. Still, being the little bitch that she was, it wasn't like she would fight back if she had her eyes open.
Louise... so much potential... but with no natural intelligence to use it. He preferred her that way.
The kiss was quick and, well, nothing. Louise's cheeks heated up, but Tom had no effect. It wasn't anything sensational, or biologically mystical. It was just flesh pressing against flesh.
“Are you happy now?” asked Tom with mild irritation. He had to admit, he was even expecting something more than that.
“Yes,” lied Louise.
“You're being weak,” stated Tom.
“You're weakening me,” countered Louise.
The silence weighed on Louise like she was carrying twice her weight. Tom only cocked his head to the side. “So you want to come?”
“Would I be happy if you came?”
“I would be happy if you let me.”
Tom rolled his eyes. “But this isn't about you, is it? This is my empire that I'm creating.”
“Of course.” Louise nodded her head eagerly. “I didn't mean it like that -”
“You'll have to improve... this,” said Tom, looking at her face. “You can't embarrass me at my side.”
“No,” said Louise solemnly. She wasn't sure whether she was agreeing or attempting to defy him. “I'll try my best.”
“And you'll not go about trying to push at my work. I'll have colleagues.”
“The Death Eaters?”
Tom slowly nodded. “You'll not bother them?”
“I never have.”
Tom saw every muscle in Louise's face tensing, every tear duct stinging, and every pulse of her neck coming at a quicker pace. He had to say: this was more fun than he thought.
“No,” he teased. “You can't come.”
“No, Tom.” Tom chortled as Louise almost fell to the ground.
“Well that's another thing. That's not my name.”
“Things change. I am Lord Voldemort,” he said with a certain amount of pride.
Louise didn't understand. Sitting on her knees, her eyes tried to search Tom's expression. Voldemort? Why would he change his name? Louise had pictured herself as Mrs. Riddle for so long, and now it was a new name? And just so suddenly. It was the first time that Louise had seen any flaw in him. Though she immediately pushed it away there was something so... childish... about it. Almost dangerously so.
“Riddle!” shouted Ralph as he stormed over. Spinning around, Louise's eyes grew wide. Had he seen her fall to the ground? Ralph was an Auror... he could arrest Tom if he had enough of a case to do so... and Ralph would find one.
“We have to go now,” begged Louise.
“He knows me.” Tom's eyes became piercing.
“Mum used to speak about you. He hates you. You're the reason I'm not marrying him.”
“He proposed to you?” Tom couldn't help but almost want to blame Louise for it. She had been so loyal and devoted, that surely no other man would want her? But no, she had been sneaking around. Typical woman – all naturally whores. But not this one. Tom had crafted Louise, and he'll be damned if she ended up with some other man. None of his followers could entertain such things, and she was going to pay for it.
“Come on,” snapped Tom. He grabbed onto Louise's wrist, much in the same manner that Ralph had done so those years ago. But Louise didn't care as much about it this time, because she was his. That was all that mattered.
“Riddle, what have you -”
“No need to be alarmed,” said Tom cooly. “She's just had a bit of a shock. She was down on the ground before I even had a chance to propose.” It was the cruelest thing he could do, and he marveled at how he hadn't thought of it before.
Louise stopped. “But, Vol -”
“I was playing with her a little, I confess,” continued Tom. “But thank you, sir, for your concern. If she was with another man, I'm certainly glad I have men like you to protect her. It's good to have such men... on standby.” Ralph heated up by this. Oh yes, Tom had no idea how much fun it could all be. “But if you don't mind, we're off.” Tightening his grip, Tom said, “We're having the honeymoon a bit early.”
Ralph jumped towards the pair, but they had Apparated by then. He couldn't help but shudder. This was because he could've sworn the last thing he saw was Tom's eyes, glowing red.