AN: AH, AU, TOMIONE.
If any of the above words in any shape, form, or octagon offend you, then you need to gtfo. ;P Also, swear words in this story won't be hidden in acronyms or described as something that sounded suspiciously like "crass mat", despite the T-rating. (Teens swear. A lot. Ask Dr. Phil.)
Not that this story will be loaded with bad mouthing no-goods! No no, dear readers! Not at all!
Sassy Hermione, yes. Tat!Tom, hell yeah.
Ok, so clearly this is my newest Tomione story (and IMO my favorite). If any of you have read my previous works and are expecting the most disturbing, dark Tom Riddle a depraved weirdo comme moi can post on the Internet, then this might be a disappointment. Or maybe not. Hack It! is my first Tomione fic led by a Strong!Hermione, who I feel I can finally depict with justice...at least, the way I picture the toughest Hermione possible in modern-day Queens...and this Tom is different. I can't really explain it. I'd rather you just read the damn thing.
"Strange as it may seem, men…of certain grades of intellect and temperament deliberately devote themselves to lives of crime."
- James McCabe, Jr., New York by Sunlight & Gaslight, 1882
FBI WARNING: ILEGALLY DOWNLOADED MATERIAL HAS BEEN FOUND ON YOUR PC. THIS IS A FEDERAL CRIME. YOU ARE NOW BEING MONITORED VIA WEBCAM.
At the back of an outdated 60s diner hastily converted into a cybercafé in Queens, NY, Hermione Granger groaned. Customers waiting for Oprah's iced chai tea, and whip cream vanilla lattes glanced over, miffed by the interruption of their complicated orders yet simultaneously nosy enough to try to see what the sleep-deprived 18-year old with hair management issues was up to. Hermione noticed and shot the closest brown noser in line, a man with chic square glasses and hair gelled to look like the victim of a cyclone, an evil look before hunching back over the cruddy DELL laptop on the table.
ILEGALLY DOWNLOADED MATERIAL HAS BEEN FOUND ON YOUR PC.
Oh really? So the FBI makes typos regularly these days? Hermione thought at the message with a scathing quirk of her lip, opening the system recovery folder after a moment of navigating the C: drive and indistinguishable muttering. Windows XP was decidedly an ugly, ancient and inefficient beast. It also figured, she speculated, that half-decent conmen couldn't make authentic government threats these days. Hell, her three-year old cousin wouldn't fall for this garbage. Or maybe deforestation really was altering the fate of the universe and all that extra carbon dioxide from butchered trees was going straight to computer nerd's heads worldwide?
While the hard drive wiped itself clean, she pictured it, calculus textbooks scattered around a desk and diabolical snorts galore as some friendless geek leered at the latest Apple product, eagerly awaiting a new victim to send money directly to his bank account – right before he atom bombed their computer 21st century style.
What an asshole, she thought ironically, for admittedly this was the height of hypocrisy, coming from her.
After all, where Asshole's nefarious malware and spams infested the Internet like a bad case of tapeworm, she breezed past security networks and hijacked varying forms of digital to do odd jobs for paying customers all across the state. All jobs were mostly innocent tasks of course, like changing grades for a class assignment…or the less innocent, such as taking over computers, tracking bank accounts, getting invaluable code, and crashing networks.
It was a risky business, but it was this or double shifts at McDonalds and paying rent late every month.
She'd much rather be a hacker.
With – ironically – her own antivirus called MalgitX.
58% complete, the screen read during the reboot. 59%...63%...
Hermione looked around, frowning at the unisex restroom kingwood9 disappeared inside ten minutes ago and wondering at the state of his bowels. She shook her head, slouching down in the squealy chair some more while the basic softwares re-installed. School had ended an hour ago and she'd come straight here, the usual meeting place for her occasional in-person requests.
This hole in the wall, the Three Tithes, liked to call itself a cybercafé in hopes of attracting some younger patrons, when in actuality the only cyber thing about it was the free Wi-Fi supplied by the Laundromat next door, and the bran muffins that looked like disabled robots if you studied them. Despite so many positive factors, the café earned a slightly different reputation than it intended when the h and e in Tithes on the sign out front stopped lighting up in the late 80s.
A regular here since she first started coming in freshman year, Hermione knew the place well – from the faded image of Elvis Presley wallpaper just behind the cheap paintjob, to the dent in the checkerboard floor someone forgot to swap out when they decided to renovate. Coincidentally, she'd discovered her knack for technology in the same year she discovered the cybercafé. An elective requirement at her old public school had given her the option of taking either a low-grade art class or cosmetology course, and since she rated makeup products somewhere around the level of elephant dung and Sundance horror movies, Graphic Arts with Photoshop won out.
The class was virtually easy: show up, do a project, click-click-click for forty minutes. Hermione was bored out of her mind, but her teacher praised her for her excellent classwork, suggesting she learn a bit more about the subject and teach a weekly class on computer basics at the local library for senior citizens. An overachiever by default, she hadn't been able to resist the opportunity to build up her college application and impress a teacher. Besides, she'd been going to the library ritually since she was a little girl - more so when Dad died and Mom got that loser boyfriend, Mundungus, who deals anything you can poison your insides with on the shadier side of Harlem.
So why not make something productive out of her self-imposed isolation?
The research was simple. She learned what she needed to teach the class (which wasn't much more than common sense), and then some to pass the time (which there was a lot of). As Mom started forgetting to pay the utilities bills and the money Dad left them dwindled down to hundreds, however, she realized she couldn't afford to waste her time doing community service anymore. She needed a real job. But how would she get one? She was only fourteen, she couldn't work anywhere substantial for another two years.
So she got…creative.
Through an online software she'd forged a new birth certificate and working papers that would pass a chain restaurant's quick inspection. Online night courses on programming were paid for by the extra money left over from rent. Mom had still been lucid enough to be functioning back then, inventing a sob story about how she couldn't get a job because of back problems, and the government began to send them lousy monthly disability checks. At first, Hermione had been furious when she found out, more so when she learned Mom only got the checks so she could pay for the heroine, not the bills. But they were to the point where fraud was the least of their problems.
There wasn't enough money, even with the food stamps. There wasn't enough time, not with the extra hours or neglected homework, or skipping school to cover someone's shift when she didn't sleep last night. Outside of normal studies, Hermione slaved over books on network defenses and operating system holes, codes, encryption, security, access control, cracking passwords; anything about computers she could get her hands on. Control over a world – albeit a virtual one – fascinated her, for whatever reason. And months later, it came down two things: getting her hands a little dirty, or dropping out of high school to work a minimum wage job for the rest of her life.
Thus, Gryffindor was created.
Gryffindor, Hermione liked to think, was her rebellious side. She came up with the username when she stumbled across a website on Greek mythology. The Ancient Greeks believed in a creature called a hippogriff: a hybrid of a bird and horse, with the upper body of an eagle. It supposedly symbolized love, as its parents the griffin and mare were mortal enemies. Hermione took a liking to that description for reasons she keeps to herself, but was dismayed when she tried to use it and the web server informed her the username was already taken. After a little editing, Gryffindor was somehow born, and quickly became one of the most obscure and efficient hackers in New York.
"So can you fix it?" Gryffindor's latest client, Kingwood9, said. He was back from the rendezvous to the restroom, sucking Hermione out of her thoughts with a snap.
"I'm not the Geek Squad, you know," she retorted, tapping the scratched cover of his lousy laptop emphatically. "I don't usually fix computers, I break into them."
Kingwood9 grumbled (it took a focused mental effort not to read into his username) in response. His real name was Rubeus Hagrid, but Hermione had christened him Neanderthal the minute he walked through the door of the shop, scratching the razor cuts on his fleshy jaw and muttering perplexedly as he mustered the café around him from behind the blinding shroud of snarled black dreadlocks on his head. Presently Neanderthal cleaned off a set of thick-rimmed glasses on his grease-stained sweatpants, squeezing them onto his wide face and shifting forward to squint intently at the PC screen.
"I didn't know who else to call," he confessed, voice rumbling out of his chest like a mix of bear growl and chain smoker. But he didn't smell like cigarettes – he smelled like McDonalds. "It just showed up last week and I shut the thing off immediately, because I didn't want those government creeps watchin' me or somethin'." His large frame shuddered, with what Hermione gathered was either fear, or whatever kept him in the bathroom so long earlier. "I can't go to jail again," he whispered fiercely, eyes glowing, "my mom said she won't bail me out this time!"
"Don't worry. I already fixed it." Seeing the relief on Neanderthal's face, Hermione didn't bother to tell him the break-in was never even a genuine threat, although she did add, "It'll cost you."
"One hundred eighty, cash."
"Holy– Listen, I work at TOYS R US. I stock the shelves with Barbie Merpeople dolls and Lord of the Rings action figures. How much do you think I make, Gryffindor?"
"Enough to request me." She checked the clock. "Sitting here, you already owe me another five bucks."
"Going on ten. I charge interest, by the way, so if you don't pay me here you'll just owe me more."
"Alright, alright." Neanderthal slapped down his pastry aggressively enough to shake the broken table. Customers looked around at the commotion, scanning the curvy girl in an oversized hoodie with a prehistoric laptop, and the whining forty-year-old-slash-yeti sitting across from her with interest. "I'll pay, yeesh. Do you take checks?"
"Do I look like an idiot?"
"Are you an idiot?"
He sighed heavily. "I only have fifty on me and I get paid next Thursday."
"Interest it is." Hermione cracked her knuckles and leaned forward, logging onto the user account without having to ask for a password – how predictable, it was his brother's name– and within ten minutes, Hagrid's DELL was once again restored to its virus-free settings. It just kept getting easier, she mentally marveled. "Do you want the MalgitX?" she asked, feeling suddenly charitable.
"Is it free?"
There went her sporadic sense of optimism. "It's one of the best antiviruses in the tri-state area," she replied curtly. "Of course it's free. I'll even pay for that flourless cheesecake you're eating."
"You're quite snippy in-person, you know."
"I've got NEWT exams coming up," she quipped, but he was right. Hermione and Gryffindor were different people, however. For instance, at school Hermione would never exhibit half this much courage among her peers, much less utter the word idiot in her imposing Chemistry teacher, Mr. Snape's, presence. He'd probably have Filch, the crazy janitor and self-proclaimed Director of Detentions, hanging her by her toes in the auditorium for a week. But people you met online were more often than not shady, failing to make money transactions a week after the job was done, and sometimes flat out saying they weren't going to pay her – or they were just perverts. She learned that the first semester of junior year.
Now Gryffindor had a Taser. And kickboxing lessons. Or at least, three kickboxing lessons supplied by a free one-month trial membership at the YMCA. When she was eight.
She really needed to make some friends.
"What are NEWTs?" Neanderthal asked curiously.
"They're like the state-required exams, the Regents," she said distractedly. "Except impossibly more difficult." And required by her new rich-kid school, Hogwarts, which she only attended thanks to scholarship, as fate would have it.
"Can I get a discount? Please?"
Hermione paused. She thought of the bag of cat litter she needed to buy for Crookshanks, and the 72-hour notice for electricity shut-off that had been taunting her for the past two and a half days. "Alright," she finally said, reluctantly. "Ten percent off."
Neanderthal didn't look pleased, but he didn't argue any further as she slid a disc into the DVD-rom and made a few absent clicks. He probably wanted to get out of there before she expended the rest of his savings.
"Done," she announced, popping open her messenger bag to get out a heart-shaped wallet with a Hello Kitty zipper. Neanderthal looked between the offending object of girly origins and her completely un-girlish self incredulously. She ignored him. "That will be two hundred thirty dollars and seventy-eight cents."
"What's the cents for?"
"Tax." Actually, it was for the Hershey's bar she was going to buy on the way home. But Neanderthal didn't need to know that.
Mumbling something about smart ass inner city kids, her customer grudgingly handing over a fifty and some mysteriously sticky quarters. She tucked both away. "That'll cover some tuna cans for my Kneazle," she said. "By the way, I'll be monitoring your bank account and tracking your computer history, so don't try to buy any Star Wars collector items on Ebay or whatever it is you do in your spare time before you pay me, because I'll know. I also want my money by next Friday, right after you cash your paycheck at Bank of America at about 4:15 PM. …And if I don't get it, your wife will receive some very telling messages shared between you and Madame Maxime."
Neanderthal turned stark-white, eyes wide and disbelieving. "How the hell-? Did you-? That's not any of your- Wait, wait, you're blackmailing me? I thought you were, like, twelve!"
"Eighteen. And yes, I am." She had the decency to look apologetic, for even if Neanderthal was a strange middle-aged man who spent too much time on French porn sites, he hadn't done anything bad to her. He could though – and Hermione had to protect herself. Better yet, Gryffindor had to. "Think of it as an opportunity to learn from your mistakes," she added, trying to be encouraging.
"And you charge interest." He dropped his head in his hands, groaning. "Effing FBI! I'll never download torrents again…"
Sympathetically, Hermione patted his enormous shoulder on the way out. "I'll e-mail you the bill." Gryffindor was, after all, eco-friendly.
The bell hanging above the door didn't ring at her exit, having lost its ability to do so when the batteries died in 1973. An elderly gentleman seated near the window display watched Hermione Granger walk down the street through the glass. His neat silvery hair and pressed suit suggested he came from a better-off area, like Tribeca or upper Manhattan. His amused grin was unmistakable.
He took one last sip of the cheap, tasteless coffee and strode out the door.
A week had gone by, yet the men sent to carry out the contract still hadn't returned.
Voldemort cursed under his breath, viciously. What the hell was taking them so long? Did they get lost? Preoccupied by a field of pretty flowers, smoke too much crack and drive headlong off the side of a bridge? At this point, the latter option was preferable to what awaited them if they returned without the job done. Just wait until they crawled back, expecting payment and getting a new hole ripped for them instead. Incompetent idiots, he thought, glaring out of the car window. This was exactly why he avoided working with the low-level men; they had bullets for brains, if they had any brains at all.
And now he was the one stuck doing dirty work.
The sleek black Cadillac Voldemort usually used was dismissed in favor of a lousy Volkswagen, which sputtered and wheezed all the way into the vast countryside of upstate New York. The car was average enough to be discreet, but also barely functioning. They'd already stalled out five times on the interstate.
He rolled down the window, gazing out at a wilderness so untouched and ancient it wouldn't be altogether surprising if an Algonquin Indian was glimpsed darting through the thick redwood trees, on the chase after a deer that would mean a week of meals and clothes for four seasons.
They were deep inside the forest-entrenched Adirondacks after three hours on the highway and a bumpy navigation on unpaved roads, winding along distant towering mountain ranges and still green lakes that peered in and out of blurred countryside at intervals. The driver, Peter Pettigrew, was an insignificant button man far down on the social pyramid who went by the nickname Wormtail.
"We're almost there, sir," Wormtail said suddenly.
"I can see that" came the razor sharp response. Wormtail flinched in the front, his nose twitching as if he had the violent urge to sneeze, while his skinny lips flew back from his bad teeth and fluttered like the whiskers of a mouse who's caught the scent of old cheese. It was a bizarre reaction and made Wormtail appear extremely rodent-like.
"Sorry," he said hastily, pawing at his runny nose – but he shouldn't have replied at all.
Cocking his head with renewed interest, Voldemort scanned Wormtail's reflection in the rearview mirror: Wormtail had a weak chin, flabby neck, tiny dark eyes, and crooked teeth. The man dearly needed braces. Or a muzzle.
"Wormtail," he called, and the man's head nervously poked up. "I have a question."
"I was just wondering," he said, leisurely draping an arm over the top of the driver's seat, and enjoying the nervous flush that crept over the back of the button's neck at his closeness. "Why it is you seem so familiar?"
He snapped his fingers. "There! Right there, the way you looked just now. You looked just like this dead rat I once saw in London." Abruptly, the Volkswagen screeched to a stop, and Voldemort waited while Wormtail jimmied the key until the engine made a feeble cough, and they slowly inched back into motion. That stall, however, didn't seem to be the car's fault. He smirked. "See, I was waiting for the train in this filthy metro station downtown," he went on, "when I looked down at the tracks suddenly and saw a giant rat, the size of a basketball, lying motionless on top of them. The ugly thing had probably just been run over by the last tram, but that sort of thing happens in the rundown areas all the time. I was there on a holiday, you know. An odd place to go for vacation though, isn't it? London? I much prefer somewhere with sun, like the Saints or Hawaii. But then, the Pacific Ocean is so cold…"
"Th-that sounds lovely, sir."
"Oh, I went off on a tangent, didn't I?" Voldemort said apologetically, smiling at Wormtail with an unnerving number of perfect white teeth. Wormtail gulped, trying to focus on the road. "My point is, you remind me very strongly of a rat," he prattled, propping his chin up on one fist. "Personally, I find rats highly irritating. They're more pest than animal, don't you think? And their reproduction rate is incredible; the average female rat can produce up to 285 rats per year, and there's roughly an average of 48 million rats in New York alone. That's 6,840,000,000 baby rats in one city. But where did the other six billion and some rats go?"
Wormtail bit his lip and looked uncertainly at the handsome man in the backseat. Voldemort raised an eyebrow expectantly. "They, um, died, sir?" he guessed.
"No, they did not die, Wormtail," the young man said flatly, his voice suddenly as cold and frigid as the arctic. Wormtail recoiled. "They were killed by subway trains, food poisoning and pest killers, left to rot with the rest of their disgusting kind." He paused, letting that sink in. "Now…do you want to be a rat, Wormtail?"
Mutely, Wormtail shook his head.
Voldemort's smile turned cruel on the serrated edges. "Then learn how to keep your mouth shut," he hissed.
They didn't speak again for the rest of the drive.
Once Voldemort exited the car, the Volkswagen jerked around and floored it, leaving behind a tornado of dust winds stinking of gas and a soon-to-be mob boss all alone on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere.
Voldemort shook out his jacket, covered in a fine coat of dirt once the wind had died down, and he thoughtfully examined his tinted Ray Bans, which were just as suddenly moth brown as the rest of him. Autumn was cold and wicked this far upstate. He hadn't been standing outside for two minutes and already he could feel the threat of winter slithering into his bones, numbing his fingers like a biting Novocain as whistling wind shook a rainbow of leaves out of the woods. He obviously hadn't come properly dressed. He clearly didn't belong out here at all.
Getting to work without another second wasted on scenery, he got off the road and began to hike a green hill rising out of the ground like a swollen hip, half a mile ahead of him. His Italian leather shoes crunched the parched brown grass under their polished heels in muffled clicks, and although his cellphone appeared not to get any service here in no man's land, he kept one hand on it out of habit.
Looking over the hill once he reached the summit, Voldemort saw nothing but dense wildlife and a vast horizon of endless mountains, dotted by scales of thousands of plush pine trees. He looked down and found a rundown little farmhouse he'd only ever seen before in surveillance pictures, the shabby fortification overridden by ivy, mostly disintegrated, and surrounded by a field of rampant weeds. It was the poster boy of a safety inspector's Uninhabitable Houses list.
He knew better than that.
He made his way toward the decrepit shack of a house, kicking through the snarled vines and thorny bramble that clung to his tailored pants like static electricity. His cold eyes zeroed in on the bouquet of decomposing snakes nailed to the door when he was close enough to see it, and he winced, lip curling. Disgusting. Also, a sign of his blood relative's mental decimation, which was nearly as bad as the shitty house he lived in.
No, not quite that bad, he thought after a moment of reflection. Uncle Morfin was much farther off the deep end than his neglected farmhouse after all. Peering around the lonely property, Voldemort considered his uncle's lacking mental state like a bittersweet metaphor. A mental state bad enough for him to have murdered the last two trained hoods Voldemort had sent here, for the 60-year old man to take a perverse liking to snakes, to threaten to kill his sister because of the man she loved decades ago, and be strangely obsessed with black magic to this very day.
Could he really be related to someone like that?
The disappointment punched him in the gut without warning, as potent and terrible as it was the first time he found out his only living blood relative's psychosis was rotted as a skeleton in the grave. Suddenly Voldemort was stormed by the urge to smash his fists into something made of metal, to kick brick walls, tear them down, and build them back up just so he could rip them down again. What a waste, he thought, all at once enraged and devastated. What a fucking waste.
He grabbed a stick and used it to bat aside the serpent husks, swarming with ravenous flies and maggots. He entered the farmhouse easily, pushing open the unlocked screen door, and walking in to find the outside had been warmer than in here. The flower-wallpapered walls stank of mildew and a musky scent that could only be called age.
Looking around, Voldemort felt as if he'd just stepped inside a hoarder's paradise. The first room he saw was stuffed with mountains of old clothes that reached the ceiling, and all around him was so much junk there was hardly any room to breathe, much less stand. What was oddest of all, however, was the mysterious jarring sound of what seemed to be slamming metal – WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! – coming from the other side of the house.
Quietly, he picked his way through the filth and followed the noises, until they led him to a cluttered kitchen. Cobwebs, moldy food, and junk virtually covered every inch of the room, and a terrible stench that made his stomach churn gurgled out of the pantry. Glancing at the half open pantry door, he saw there were wire shelves behind it, all strung and laced with sagging, scaly bodies, like popcorn garland on a Christmas tree. His stomach rolled.
Then there was the man, slapping an iron skillet and soup pot together over the antique woodstove as he sang in a warbly, off-tune screech.
"Hissy, hissy, little snake
Writhing on the floor.
You be good to Morfin
or he'll nail you to the door!"
His uncle burst into wet, hacking laughter.
Voldemort deliberated. Morfin, his last known biological relative, had taken eight years of hired hands and intense research to track down. The vacation to London he'd spoken to Wormtail of in the car earlier had actually been an expedition back to the boy's orphanage Voldemort grew up in until the age of nine, when he was adopted by Cygnus Black, his foster father. He'd returned to it years ago, intending to find information about his real family and their whereabouts, but the woman who had run the orphanage when he was there was long dead and gone by the time he arrived. She'd died from a premature heart attack, and the new matron didn't know anything about him or his parents. Conveniently, there had been a kitchen fire fifteen years earlier, which burned up half the building and sent numerous children's files up in smoke. Including his.
So imagine his supreme pleasure, when he'd finally found a lead on one side of his family through DNA testing and a "friend of the family" working in forensics sciences. He'd been able to trace his biological mother, Merope Gaunt, and her family. She was dead, but her brother Morfin Gaunt was not, and he even lived locally in the boondocks of NY.
He was also a lunatic.
Morfin Gaunt – damn the crazy coot to the coldest pit of hell – knew nothing of the outside world, or Voldemort's family history. And aside from what was probably schizophrenia, he had multiple birth defects, including bulging eyes that stuck out of his head like a toad's and could never focus on one thing in particular (or point in one direction). Morfin was about to leave this world, however. Permanently.
"WHO ARE YOU?" bellowed Morfin, having turned around and dropped the pot of headless reptiles he was presumably serenading in shock at the sight of a young, well-dressed man standing at his kitchen counter. "WHAT ARE YOU DOIN' IN MY HOUSE? GET OUT, YOU FILTHY, DIRT-VEINED MUDBLOOD!"
Mudblood? Voldemort thought, staring at the old man in bemusement. What the hell is that? His heart hardened with disgust, wondering how he could possibly share DNA with this repulsive freak of nature. "I'm here," he replied in a voice that could cut ice, "to put you out of your misery, Uncle Morfin."
His uncle leered at him, although one could hardly tell since both his eyes pointed in different directions, and most of his face was hidden by a dense tangle of greasy hair probably infested with lice. "I ain't related to the likes of you, ye stinky Muggle," he growled menacingly.
Voldemort arched a brow at him.
"Hissss essspasssssis nisssy fisssss ssschisss wissstissshissss-"
Oh brilliant, now he's speaking in tongues. Perhaps he was one of those Christian extremists? Or was he having a seizure?
"What are you saying?" he snapped, once it became clear the hissing thing wasn't ending on its own.
In answer, Morfin picked up a cutlery knife and fingered the dull, red edge of it. "You don't speak it?" he asked in a syrupy croon, although it was unclear whether he was talking to the knife or Voldemort. "Not a Parselmouth, eh? You are just a no good Muggle, not of my heritage, no way, no how… Isssrasss isssni quisssteeknisss."
"Parselmouth?" he repeated blankly. "What is that, reptile language or something?"
"Avada Kedavra!" Morfin suddenly roared, and he hurled his blade, which hit the broken fridge on the opposite side of the room. The throw was terribly off target thanks to his lacking eyesight. Voldemort blinked at the fallen knife, lying about fifteen feet away from him.
When the delirious old man's supposed nephew didn't fall to the floor dead, Morfin screeched in outrage and rushed him, shrieking what was surely unflattering words of choice in Parseltongue.
"Issspasss eehesss nessshassshnasss quesss-!"
In a fluid movement, Voldemort raised his .22 caliber, flicking off the safety and pulling the trigger as naturally as he drew breath. Morfin froze, the ear-piercing crack of a shot that had hit home echoing through the haunt eerily. He sputtered, rancid breath divulging Voldemort's senses before the young man gently pushed his chest with the lava-hot tip of the gun. His uncle swayed like a pendulum – just for a moment – before his body crashed to the floor with a jaw-jarring thud.
Dead as a rat in the metro station.
"That," Voldemort said softly, "was for my mother."
Thirty-five feet away, the front door suddenly crashed open. "Police!" a man yelled across the house. "Do not move, Mr. Riddle. We know you are armed and we have the entire property surrounded."
It took approximately forty-five seconds. Approximately forty-five seconds for the squad of police officers to rush in, to see dead Morfin with a bloody knife in his hand and an untraceable gun three point five feet away from him, Voldemort himself slumped against the fridge stemming the blood of a nasty wound in his abdomen that would surely need stitches, for someone to dial the paramedics, for Detective Kingsley to come forward and bark "Where is he? Show me where he is!"
The detective looked around with the vigilance of a hunting dog, his sparking brown eyes landing on Voldemort quickly, and he growled, reaching back into the crowd of officers to yank out a scuttling body. Stumbling forward, Wormtail stared up in fear at Kingsley, then at Voldemort.
"Y-y-yes?" he stammered.
"Is this him? Tom Riddle?" Kingsley demanded, his deep baritone voice commanding and thunderous.
Wormtail – the screwed, traitorous bastard – cowered but nodded, avoiding Voldemort's amused gaze and quietly squeaking, "You can ask the other two. They'll tell you the same."
The other two? Voldemort thought, laughing good and hard inside. Oh, so he'd been double-crossed by his cronies and a cab driver, had he? Turned into the law enforcement to be whipped into shape? As if any authority could hold him.
Oh Wormtail, you are a dead rat indeed.
"That won't be necessary," said Kingsley calmly. He sounded triumphant, as if pleased with himself for catching one of the biggest names in the criminal underworld in the act. Voldemort fought back more laughter. "Yours is all the confirmation we need, Pettigrew. You'll be relocated and vigilantly protected, although we'll probably call you back to testify for the trial."
"'The trial'?" Voldemort repeated, speaking for the first time and pairing the question with a cocked inky brow.
Kingsley raised his head and his dark eyes narrowed, seeing right through the young man's pretty face and superficial injuries. He straightened. "Oh yes, Tommy boy," he said with relish, eyes on Voldemort. "The trial." The detective bared his teeth in what was less a grin and more the snarl of an alpha wolf. "You're serving time, and I'm going to make sure you stay behind bars for a long, long time, Riddle."
Voldemort merely smiled in response. Jail time, he could handle. A trial? Fine. Kingsley was human, and no Witness Protection Program would save his little informants from the wrath of a crossed mobster. Especially the son of Cygnus Black, one of the biggest mobsters of them all. The only question was: who paid his followers so much cash that they backstabbed the Noble Blacks family so blatantly? Not someone living on a local law enforcement salary, that was for damn sure.
Minutes later, as Voldemort was being shoved into a squad car head-first with his hands cuffed and pinned behind his back, the answer hit him. Of course. The culprit behind this little dastardly scheme was so obvious now! It was one of the largest, most nefarious mob families in the western hemisphere; the Noble Black's longtime rival, and Voldemort's newfound nemesis.
The Three Brothers family.
His brain worked fervently, but he made himself comfortable in the cruiser backseat, glancing out of the window and sending Wormtail a savage grin once he caught his eye. Distinctly, he mouthed, Rat.
The police cruiser pulled away from the curb, but not before he saw Wormtail turn green and double over, throwing up on a patch of browned dandelions and some fed's feet.
Voldemort was still laughing, when they pulled up to the courthouse.
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