"#290. I will never murder someone for no good reason. On the other hand, if there is a reason, then I will not stop short at anything but murder."
Tom always planned ahead.
For example, this little field trip with Jerry. His time-turnered self was currently occupying his place at Hogwarts with Slughorn and all the rest. His invisibility spells and silencing charms were impeccable. He was levitating himself above human height so that he wouldn't bump into anyone or otherwise give himself away through splashes and footprints. Every inch of his body was layered in Notice-Me-Not and anti-revealing charms. He even planted a Bubble-Head Charm over his head so that he didn't accidentally inhale something nasty by accident.
Absolutely no one here knew that he was present, and absolutely no one at Hogwarts realized he was gone.
And yet, for all the brilliant, intricately detailed effort he had put into his preparations, nothing could have possibly prepared him for this.
The world all around him was drab, bleak, and gray – a jungle of concrete and electrified barbed wire, rows upon rows of stark wooden shacks that would probably be more useful as chicken coops. It was a grotesquely perfect machine. The stench of thousands of unwashed humans packed on top of each other like rotting sardines stunk worse than burning sulfur; it was the smell of disease and festering pathogens and incalculable misery.
The lines leading into the gas chambers stretched on for more people than Tom could count. And the corpses. All the corpses. They just kept piling higher and higher.
What the heck? Is this for real?
He watched a row of walking skeletons file past him, struggling for words to describe exactly what he was seeing. They looked like aliens, their heads too big for their withered bodies, their limbs too skinny to support their protruding ribs, their sunken eyes dull and unfocused. Dirty striped uniforms hung from sharp hunched shoulders, too baggy and loose for their emaciated frames, the poor material too thin to be useful in a place this cold.
He struggled for words to describe it. Vaguely he remembered Jerry telling him a joke before they went on this trip. Something about the impressive feats of German engineering, how their latest cars could fit more people. What was it again? Two in the front, two in the back, and fifty in the ashtray?
Tom was not the type of person to let arbitrary ideas of right and wrong keep him up at night. If he had to lie, cheat, steal, torture, murder…if that brought him closer to his goal, he'd do it without a second thought.
…it's pointless suffering, he realized. That's all there is to it.
There is no purpose to any of this. None of this brings Grindelwald or the Nazis any closer to their goal – well, their more important goal, which is winning the war, which needs to come first before this more arbitrary desire of theirs to make the whole world blonde.
It's a sight, isn't it?
Tom shook his head.
This was ridiculous.
Tom had hated both Grindelwald and Hitler before – firstly, because they caused him a great deal of inconvenience, as a London native and a light sleeper, and secondly, because he was a future Evil Overlord, and like all Evil Overlords, he despised competition.
But this…pushed that mere dislike from something "no hard feelings; it's nothing personal" to "right, this is getting personal."
As in, it had become his personal mission to see these two jackasses go down, and in the most humiliating way possible.
Because a pair of dictators this STUPID did not deserve their power in the first place.
Okay, first of all, that's a ridiculous amount of potential war effort manpower that they're killing. Secondly, the guards and scientists wasted to keep them here. And then the sheer amount of energy, railroads, and chemical weaponry they're using on these people. The effort expended to transportation, construction, and management – he ranted. This is…a slaughterhouse. It – it's…a mindless mass destruction of their own resources.
An inexplicable anger formed inside his chest, and why he didn't understand. Why was he angry, on behalf of these insignificant, pitiful people? After all, Tom wasn't the one being starved and worked to death. Empathy had no factor in any of his decisions.
If it did serve a purpose, would you allow it to happen?
But there is no possible purpose this could serve that mind control can't do better, Tom protested vehemently. This is stupidity on the highest level.
What if there were people who were genetically resistant to your mind control, and posed an imminent threat to your regime? You'd have to kill them then. Eradicate that particular subset of Uncontrollables from your new world order…
I wouldn't have to do that because I'd just have the majority who were already on my side capture them. Then I'd design a better seal that would work on them and we'd all be hunky-dory.
What if you couldn't?
Blasphemy. I can do anything. You should be ashamed of yourself for even suggesting that.
What if they all had a simultaneous uprising and you didn't have the time to make a new update to your seal?
Me not having the time to − bitch, I have a Time-Turner. Go sit in the corner and think about the absolute stupidity of the statement you just made.
What if they had Time-Turners too, rendering your advantage over them useless?
Then I…Tom quickly changed the subject. Look, all I'm saying is, MY world takeover would be so much better than this. Sure, they'll be my slaves, but for the most part I'm going to let them do their own thing. If I ever have to kill or interrogate someone, I do it quickly and quietly and efficiently. A nice clean Avada Kedavra, or a five-second Legilimens.
So you would kill them. If push came to shove.
Yeah, but I wouldn't waste money, manpower, and resources just to hold them captive and slowly starve or work them to death.
…I'm not doing this Evil Overlord project because I want to hurt people. I just want to have my fun; the world's so boring otherwise.
Jerry smirked inside his head. My, my, Tommy? Do you mean to say you have a moral compass after all? Is that little justification supposed to assign you a moral high ground?
Morality has nothing to do with it, Tom snapped back. Look how much cyanide and metal and energy they're wasting! There's Germans on the front lines running out of bullets and bandages! Think of how much further along they'd be by now in their futile attempt at world conquest if they converted these death camps to factories and other shit pertinent to the war effort!
Not that I'm complaining, mind you; their loss is my gain.
That was why he never bothered to rationalize anything he did – because then it would hold him accountable for good and evil, a quagmire of philosophical debate he had no intention of getting mixed up in. He refused to succumb his freedom of action and thought to the abstract standards of other people.
He had never been opposed to the idea of suffering. He mentally tortured Lestrange on a daily basis, after all – but not because Lestrange was a git that somehow deserved the punishment. Right, so Lestrange was a git, but that wasn't the point – Tom wasn't punishing Lestrange for any wrongdoing on his part; Tom was punishing Lestrange because he felt like it, and it amused him. Simple as that.
Tom wouldn't delude himself into believing this idea of justice. No one deserved anything. If you hurt somebody and the world tried to hurt you back, then it was because they were afraid of you and wanted to preserve their own safety, simple as that. Your own fault for not being more careful and getting caught.
In case it wasn't clear, Tom didn't object to the moral aspect of the genocide one little bit. Nope, no siree. The sight of thousands, millions of humans getting abused and murdered did not affect him in any way at all. Because he was a future Evil Overlord. And Evil Overlords did not have feelings and a sense of ethics outside of the bare minimum they needed in order to understand how keep the general population in line.
Nope, he had no problems with what he was seeing at all. Nope, not at all.
He was completely fine with watching this.
Tom wished he could set the whole thing on fire just to wipe the smug expressions off the faces of the prison guards. That was what bothered him the most about this. All the torture was justified by a bunch of imagined racial constructs from a bunch of pseudoscientists who didn't know what the fuck they were talking about.
Aryan race, my ass. The descendants of those Persian tribes stretched around the Middle East and India. They could have literally chosen any other word they wanted – any other goddamned word they wanted − to describe the Nordic-Germanic family. And instead, they picked a term that was already in use for an entirely different fucking thing.
They seemed so pleased with themselves over this, too. To hell with the poor little Jews and Gypsies and Catholics and Communists and homosexuals – they could rot for all Tom cared. Not that he had anything against them personally. He really didn't give a shit whether they lived or died. There was something more important at stake here, and that was teaching the Nazi bitches a lesson. They're getting too uppity for my liking.
Because that was what they were. A bunch of whiny bitches who couldn't take getting kicked in the ass once and were now begging to be fucked over a second time. And Grindelwald was the biggest pussy of them all, for letting this shit happen right underneath his nose and doing nothing about it.
He was a wizard, for fuck's sake. Wizards didn't care about race or religion, and Tom should know. He had seen the darkest of both worlds, seen the way his fellow countrymen sneered and looked down upon anyone who wasn't white, basically. By contrast, slurs at Hogwarts were based upon blood descent, how much magic your ancestors had, stuff like that.
Not that this was any more of a useful thing to care about than skin colour – both were equally stupid − he was only pointing out the cultural divide. Like shooting yourself in the foot versus cutting your nose to spite your face.
The point was, Grindelwald, as a wizard, should have known better. He was definitely allied with the Nazis in Germany, using the German Muggles to attack the Muggles of the resistant nations in a large-scale war, and distracting both Muggle and Magical governments in the process. In other words, he was at least somewhat reliant on the success of Nazi Germany in this war to bolster his own successes on the magical front.
Was it really that hard, to spare a few – just a few! – Imperius curses? And there was no excuse for not knowing; the warning signs for this genocide had been going on for years before, with the specific laws flaunting racial superiority and the forced relocation into ghettos.
Grindelwald could have stopped all of this before it began; hell, he could have stopped it now, controlled this Hitler guy to give the release order and then do some mass memory modifications on all those involved. But he didn't and he wasn't, and Tom couldn't figure out why. Did he really believe the trite these guys were spouting? Did he have some other brilliant plan underneath this? Was he trying to lose on purpose?
None of you have the right to treat other humans like trash. No one has the right to feel superior over anyone, Tom thought darkly. Not when everyone is equally stupid.
He felt like vomiting. Not because he was disgusted by the genocide or anything. The only thing that disgusted him was the sorry sanitary state of that putrid nest of worms.
You're wearing a Bubble-Head Charm.
Jerry began to laugh hysterically.
Oh, I get it now!
You're just mad because those guys are playing god with the camp prisoners, and taking away the power you are entitled to!
Tom snorted. Don't be ridiculous.
I'm not 'entitled' to anything. No one is entitled to or deserving of anything, as you have taught me countless times.
Fine, poor wording, sorry. But they're abusing the power that you could handle so much better, isn't that right?
That's exactly right.
And not because you actually care about what's happening to all these poor people, right?
Of course not.
A stupid check. He was a high-functioning sociopath. He did not have feelings. Because feelings made you –
I was going to say STUPID. Come on, Jerry! What is this, some sappy bildungsroman? No, I am perfectly aware that humans can physically experience hormone surges that make them stronger in times of intense emotional response.
Ah, the whole "having feelings interferes with logical thought processes" thing.
YES, the whole "having feelings interferes with logical thought processes" thing. As long as I understand what feelings are and how they affect people, I should be fine. Disregarding their effect entirely is silly, but succumbing to them is worse.
I am an amoral sociopath who cares about nothing but his own enjoyment. Neither crippling sentiment nor uncontrolled sadism shall impede my ambition. Cold hard practicality is the only thing that controls my decisions. And I am proud of this fact.
Jerry let him repeat those lines until he believed them.
But that still leaves the matter of your test subjects. What are you going to do, save them all?
If he didn't save them, nothing would happen. In fact, speeding up the process would also pose him an advantage. Germany was hurting itself with these actions, so helping them do more of the same would make the war end faster.
If he did save them, they would owe him their eternal gratitude, and thus this could be a good recruiting ground for a large amount of potential followers. Meanwhile, just by him being here – all he needed was a camera and he could take down the Nazis through mere propaganda, and by default, Grindelwald. Tom knew better than anyone, the power of publicity and appearances.
Au contraire, Jerry. That is exactly what I am going to do.
If you could call what he was planning to do to them…"saving."
Except I'm not saving them; I'm simply…reappropriating human resources. Like I said, I don't care about saving anyone. I just need a starting point for my brain viruses, and it would be a shame if they died before I could observe its effectiveness.
He had nothing to lose, whatever path he chose. Theoretically, he could do the same to the average British slaughterhouse, freeing all the pigs and leading them in a great revolution of Animalism. But the advantages he could gain by taking all these prisoners for himself…Sure, some of them might die, but it wasn't as if he was systematically killing them all without even giving them a chance to do anything.
Certainly, whatever use he found for them would be better than that ignoramus Mengele and his absolutely purposeless pseudoscience. His prisoners – er, willing test subjects – should be honored to finally contribute to something worthwhile.
Of course, smuggling all those people out of a heavily guarded camp without getting caught was easier said than done…
Good thing death was such a common thing in these places that no one bothered checking the difference between a nonexistent pulse and a very slow one.
Painting Draught of Living Death all over the shower heads would be child's play.
That was going to take a lot of money, though. Tom had made quite a fair profit from his stock manipulation schemes, but it wasn't going to be enough. (He also had his business in the Wizarding world, which he had expanded to include all sorts of Muggle stationery, not just ballpoint pens, but that was a backup account for his school supplies and fancy robes to impress the purebloods with only.)
No, he'd need way more money than this. One, for all the Draught of Living Death he would need, and two, for a new secret base to store all his, er, people. He wasn't going to house them in Hogwarts where anyone could walk in on his little operation on accident. There was no telling how the Room of Requirement worked and he wasn't going to get overly dependent on it.
Wait, I have an solution to our funding problem.
What is it?
I hear Basilisk venom is worth a small fortune.
Where the hell am I going to get a Basilisk?
Great Grandpa Sally left you one.
Basilisk – I have a BASILISK?! WHERE?!
Girls' bathroom. Second floor. You can thank me later.
…But it's a girls' bathroom. I'm not allowed in there!
Oh for fuck's sake.
He might have been an incurable sociopath, but he was also a teenage boy, and being inside the girls' restroom was a rather foreign experience for him. Even though there were no girls currently inside, Tom still felt entirely exposed and wrong for some reason.
Maybe because the entire wall was lined with stalls, and nothing but stalls.
Trying to ignore the obvious lack of urinals, Tom edged over to the sinks like Jerry told him to and found the tap with the snake carved on the handle.
Seriously? The famed Chamber of Secrets, in a bathroom.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Now hiss to it!
Yep. Old Sally wasn't very creative with passwords. And here's a hint: the answer is even less secure than password1.
Security through obscurity was 99% of the time a terrible idea. Tom rolled his eyes and hissed ~Open~ at the sinks.
Aaaand there goes the space-time anomalies again.
Ta daa~! Welcome to El Chambero of Secretos.
Never speak Spanish again.
Tom peered down into the dark piping curiously, and immediately wrinkled his nose. For something so renowned by legend, it smelled like shit.
There had to be at least nine centuries' worth of sewage down there.
Do I have to?
Oh, levitate yourself down, you giant sissy.
Tom decided to conjure a HAZMAT suit just in case.
Luckily, the cavern below was a lot more sanitary, aside from the mildew and mineral deposits on the arching stone walls. It seemed that in creating this thing, Salazar Slytherin had broken at least ten different rules of the Evil Overlord List. One, it was overly elaborately decorated in a macabre way, even compared to most forms of medieval architecture, and therefore sacrificed utility for fashion. Two, the only entrance and exit – the restroom sinks – opened very, very slowly and noisily.
Three, it was built in a girls' restroom, because Salazar Slytherin was a secret pervert, and the Chamber of Secrets, a.k.a. Old Sally's Super Special Awesome Secret Pervert Lair, didn't house just any monstrous serpent.
Shut up, Jerry. Tom decided to take this moment to change the subject. He paused to look around at the ornately sloping ceilings. I am almost embarrassed to be related to this guy. Secret lair with a giant monster snake thing, really?
Hey! Basilisk venom and scales are very rare and very costly and will get you a shit ton of money on the black market! Not to mention the sheer amount of experiments you can do with those things!
Tom rolled his eyes, and pulled the sausage he'd saved from breakfast out of his pocket. He then cast some expansion and self-replication charms on it. ~Hey, Basilisk! Do you have a name?~
Did it have a name?
There was a rumbling as a BIG FUCKING SNAKE came out of one of the pipes. Tom immediately looked down and conjured a giant pair of glasses for the Basilisk. Permanent one-way mirrors, so that the Basilisk could still see, but so he didn't have to close his eyes every time he wanted to talk to it.
~Sorry,~ Tom sighed. ~I don't want to die; no hard feelings?~
The Basilisk had stopped paying attention to him by that point. ~Oh, boy! Food for me?~
It turned out that the basilisk hidden in Hogwarts, called Bert, was a relatively even-tempered one. Relatively. Basilisks, as a whole, were rather aggressive creatures, and this one was no exception to the rule. Luckily, humans in general were not considered very tasty creatures by the rest of the animal kingdom, especially in this age, where people could count on regular meals and thus did not have to save up for times of famine in the form of fat anymore. That, combined with his ability to properly communicate with it, allowed him to convince it that a pile of well-prepared meat was a much nicer meal.
Small price to pay for a thousand Galleons per milliliter though, right?
A million Galleons a liter, really?
We control the only basilisk in England. Supply is literally near-nonexistent, and we have a monopoly on the only market source. As long as there is at least one desperate person out there, we can jack up the prices as much as we want, or, at long as said desperate person can still afford it. It doesn't even have to be gold.
We can't just sell venom, though! What if it makes its way back to us? I don't see any phoenixes giving us any tear samples anytime soon.
We'll just synthetically produce some antivenom. For now, though, just ask it where it was the last time it shed its skin.
This particular basilisk had just about reached its prime, and thus had slowed down in its shedding process (probably once every few decades, in comparison to the monthly shed that came shortly after hatching), so the scales would have to be sold a little at a time (which worked out for Tom, because flooding the value with too much all at once would decrease its value).
On the other hand, the venom would always be there for him to experiment with until he had come up with a proper antidote. Then, maybe, he could consider letting the venom out onto the market, too. Or, maybe not. It would be extremely stupid having an extremely useful minion die by something that he could have controlled.
Now, Salazar Slytherin's original intention of keeping the Basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets had been to "get revenge on his enemies" and "purge Hogwarts of filth", whatever that might mean, but Tom wasn't about to embark on the same journey down the rabbit hole.
Besides, there were better uses for a basilisk that didn't involve making it go around giving people the literal death glare or otherwise biting and squishing them.
The weekend after that, Tom used his Time-Turner in combination with several layers of disguises, both magical and physical alike, so that he could sneak off to Knockturn Alley to put out word on the street that basilisk scales were now a commodity (as well as mind-control yet another string of middle-men to set up a selling chain for him) and subsequently head over to Diagon Alley to open up a new secondary account at Gringotts for his new illegal activities. Unlike the wizards, the Goblin Nations were actually well-acquainted with one another, and hiding a bunch of laundered gold out in Switzerland or the Americas had been simple enough.
Just as predicted, once it had been proven that yes, this were real basilisk scales (supposedly from a mysterious source in Greece, leading to uproar with the authorities there), the markets swarmed for attention. Each piece of the hide, sold separately, ended up balancing out at a little over a million galleons even.
The best part was, it was almost impossible to trace it back to him. Tom must have involved at least ten different levels of middle men in his mind-control chain, both in the selling and in the setting up of secret accounts in various countries. The best part was, since all of this was happening during wartime, the international community simply assumed that it was Grindelwald had managed to get his hands on a basilisk somehow, and little orphan schoolboy Tom flew under the radar once again.
The money he received from that sale alone was divided up between his multiple accounts (leaving the initial one he had from the Flourish and Blotts deal completely untouched, by the way) so that the authorities would be unable to trace it to a single person and possibly erroneously connect the dealings to an entire gang of smugglers instead.
With his financial future secured, Tom returned to dealing with the Nazis. First, he managed to find a lovely piece of property to set up his new lab in. Or rather, a nice piece of property that his Anifuted middle-men had scouted and bought for him, smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, unclaimed by any country.
Due to varying laws among different Wizarding governments, the Trace only extended to the borders of one country. Much like how an underage wizard could get away with performing magic in a home or "zone of operation" not their own, foreign wizards could only be persecuted for magic use by their home government, which, of course, did not have the power to detect said use in another country.
Most countries in the world set their age of majority to 17. However, the newly christened country of Isla de Tom set the age of majority to zero for anyone who was Tom Riddle. As this island had been legally bought, paid for, and registered under his name – well, one of his unwitting underlings' names; couldn't be traced back to him, after all – he was legally allowed to do this.
Then, he commissioned (also Anifuted) curse-breakers and wizarding security experts to ward for him, with their memories compeltely wiped once they were done, of course. And, like any responsible person would, Tom hired a different team of people to check their work, modified their memories, and applied the final security measures himself, including liberal sprays of knockout-level Butterbeer concentrate to deter any of those pesky wizard-rules-don't-apply-to-me House-Elves.
From there, replacing the cans of Zyklon B with Draught of Living Death was child's play. Lacing the insides of the ovens with Flame-Freezing charms and one-way portkeys to the inside of his new lab without getting caught was considerably more difficult, but he managed.
Due to the way he'd set up the portkeys and the individual cells in his testing compound, they would simply end up assigned to the next open cell in his lab, each of which was magically protected against breakouts, exiting Portkeys, Apparition, message-sending, and so on. It didn't matter if he was "discovered" at this point, because by then it would be too late – any attempt to escape or communicate with the outside world was impossible once one was inside a cell.
And hey, if a few Nazi guards (or even Grindelwald agents) accidentally came along for the ride for some reason, no harm no foul.
Tom was secretly hoping it would happen. He'd saved the best experiments for them.
A/N: So, regarding the mind-control rune from last chapter, I have my finalists:
- The Peace Sign (Balagor)
- The Cerebrand (Achille Talon)
I can't decide which one I like best. What do you guys think?