Why I Didn't Want To Go Home for the Holidays
The dormitories of the Calais Childrens' Orphanage were still and silent at one in the morning. In the very top boys' room, which was small and resembled an attic more than anything else, seven forms slept peacefully under their thin and ragged blankets. As dusty moonglow streamed in through the single window, one of them tossed about fitfully in an unpleasant dream, his black hair tousled from sleep. Settling back down and curling under the covers, his face relaxed and he suddenly looked much younger than the fourteen long years he carried.
Suddenly, the boy snapped awake, although whether it was the rumbling roar of a German fighter plane swooping overhead or the sudden pounding on the door, he didn't know. It certainly wouldn't be the first time German aircraft had run low over the rooftops of Calais - the French town, though Nazi-occupied, was often the scene of fierce aerial dogfights between British and German fighters.
But the earsplitting roar of engines soon died away, and then the half-awake boy could hear it clearly: someone was hammering insistently on the wooden door of the dormitory, demanding breathlessly to be let in.
Silent as a shadow, the boy leaped out of bed and padded over to the door, unlocking it and revealing Madame Charpentier, the headmistress of the orphanage. Standing behind her like a ghost was a dark-haired, pale-skinned girl - her name was Rose, and as a Squib, she was the only other person in the orphanage who was aware of the magical world.
"Hello - I mean, bonjour, madame," he said politely but sleepily. Continuing in French, he asked, "What brings you up here at this ungodly hour?"
Ignoring his lapse - he frequently switched between French and English - the headmistress whispered, "Good, it's you. Come with me, no need to wake anyone else up. I'll explain on the way down."
"Er - down where?" the boy asked, pulling on a shirt as he felt the first beginnings of a twinge of fear.
"The cellar," said Madame Charpentier grimly, leading him down the rickety steps to the second floor. "Nazis came banging at the door again, asking about you two - Cook's keeping them busy at the door while I hide you."
"I'll ask again," he said irritably, now fully awake, "why? I thought they were only interested in Jews."
"Both of your parents were Jewish," the headmistress explained, "and that's enough for them. The same goes for Rose here."
Rose, one of his friends and the only person he could talk to about the magical world, followed next to them, her eyes wide with fear. "I had a friend who got taken to a concentration camp," she mumbled, her voice oddly high-pitched, "before my parents died, and she never came back, and her brother escaped and he told me - he told me he saw her getting taken off to the gas chambers, and her last words to him were to never let anyone forget all the awful things there... oh God, I don't want to get taken..." She let out a small, quickly stifled sob.
"All right, we're there, be quiet," Madame Charpentier said. "Now, I want you two to listen to me," she said seriously. "As Rose knows, this is extremely dangerous. The Gestapo are awful, even more so if you've been hiding, and they will not hesitate to kill you. I don't want any heroics, and most importantly, when you're down there, don't make a sound. Remember that it's not men you're hiding from. It's death itself."
With that, she unlocked the cellar and ushered them inside.
Down in the pitch-dark cellar, the two of them sat silently for what seemed like ages. The only light came from the crack around the trapdoor, which was reflected in the dark-haired boy's eyes like those of a cat. Once a particularly loud footstep came from above. Rose clamped her hand onto his in terror. He let her clutch him, his eyes never leaving the cellar door.
The Nazis were right above them now. Their coarse voices rumbled above them like thunder - it seemed like the first sound in ages. Rose began to sob softly. "Oh God..." she whispered. "Oh, God, oh God," she kept repeating. He tried several times to silence her, but to no avail.
"Rose, quiet down, they'll hear us!" he whispered.
"I – I don't want to leave," Rose sobbed. "I don't want to go to a concentration camp…"
"Just be quiet and they won't find us!" Rose continued to sob despite his whispered pleas. He was getting exasperated. "Rose, shut up or I'll hex you!"
That quieted her down very fast. The threat of being cursed by the fierce black-eyed boy was more immediate and more real than being caught by the Nazis who were now clomping loudly around the orphanage, asking questions and probably making a mess of things. But now the silence was broken, they couldn't keep quiet for long.
"You have your wand with you?" she hissed suspiciously.
"Yes, of course."
"Give us some light, then?"
In response, he pulled it out and muttered, "Lumos." The light that flickered in the damp of the cellar was too dim to see much by, but it was slightly comforting to the Jewish orphans hiding out in the cellar.
"If I'd known the Nazis would invade France I would've stayed at Hogwarts," he muttered.
"Better than going to Beauxbatons – Grindelwald and the Nazi wizards captured it a month ago," she pointed out. "You can always stay next summer. Just my luck I had to be a Squib."
They lapsed into silence, watching the flickering wandlight, which illuminated the fourteen-year-old boy's pale face and the dark circles under his eyes from lack of sleep. It wasn't that the headmistress of the orphanage kept them up excessively, but it was so hard to sleep knowing that you were Jewish in a Nazi-controlled country. Not to mention all the hours they spent hiding in this cellar as the Nazis came through… How he wished he was back in his native England! But he didn't have a home there. The family that had adopted him for the first three years of his life had moved to France before discovering his magic potential and dumping him at the orphanage.
"It'll be all right, won't it?" Rose whispered after awhile. "They won't find us, will they?"
"Of course not," he murmured back. "You'll see, we'll be safe." He put a finger to her lips. "But shhh. I want to hear what's going on upstairs."
Footsteps were thundering above them. Voices were garbling out foreign words – probably German. Madame Charpentier's flustered voice sounded above them, though they couldn't make out her exact words. The next thing they knew boots were clomping above the trapdoor that led to the cellar, and a German voice boomed, "What's down there?"
Both the children froze.
"Oh, it's just storage," Madame Charpentier invented quickly. "Old clothes, food and such. Nothing of interest."
Rose gasped. "Oh, they're going to come down here, they're going to catch us!" He clamped a hand over her mouth but she started to struggle against him. As she did so one of her large feet kicked a box off a shelf with an almighty clatter of breaking glass. He swore under his breath at her and listened upstairs with bated breath.
"Nothing of interest?" the German voice repeated suspiciously. "Let us down there."
"It's just the rats," they heard her lie. Both were petrified with fear.
The man snorted. "Rats, indeed! If you're going to lie, at least make it realistic, you fool!" One booted foot kicked the trapdoor open. The boy put out the light at the end of his wand, wishing with all his heart for an invisibility cloak.
He clomped down the crumbling stairs, the image of a stereotypical Nazi. He was tall, his fair hair and skin made dark by oil and grease and who-knows-what (From the battlefront, they couldn't help but think), and was dressed in an army uniform. Neither of the Jewish orphans could take their eyes off the rifle slung over his shoulder.
He stared at them for a moment, clearly as surprised as they were. Then he seemed to recover himself. "Nothing of interest, eh?" he said scathingly. "Except a pair of Jewish children?"
"How – how would you know if they are Jewish are not?" Madame Charpentier had followed him down the steps, her short gray hair framing a creased and very tense face.
He snorted. "Do you take me for a fool, woman? Why else would they be hidden away down here? They certainly look like Jews!" There was no denying this, though Madame Charpentier was obviously trying to come up with a plausible lie to explain them.
"Get out," the boy growled suddenly. "Get away from here." He pointed his wand at the Nazi, boiling black rage filling him up until there was no room for fear. "I said get away!"
The German laughed. "What are you going to do with a little wooden stick?" he sneered. "Put a magic spell on me?"
"Exactly." His eyes were cold slits. "Reducto!"
With a strangled yell of surprise the Nazi was blasted against the far wall of the cellar. Madame Charpentier cried out and scurried back upstairs. The Nazi, recovering himself, took a blind shot at the boy that thundered through the cellar and blew a chunk out of the wall. He gave an involuntary shout and yelled, "Petrificus totalus!" The spell missed.
"Do that again, you little Jewish scum." The German was back on his feet with his gun pointed right at the Jewish boy's heart. "I dare you."
For a moment no one moved. The boy's face and the Nazi's showed equal hatred; the boy's lips were curled in something halfway between a sneer and a snarl. Then the soldier muttered something extremely rude in German – he didn't need a translation. He snapped. This arrogant Muggle was trying to kill him for no reason other than that he was a Jew! He was beyond reason with rage.
"All right," he growled. "I accept your dare! Crucio!" he screamed.
The man screamed and fell writhing to the floor. The boy, horrified at himself, took the curse off him, yelled, "Stupefy!" and dashed upstairs, yanking Rose along by the arm.
Madame Charpentier was standing at the top of the stairs, her face dead white. "You two have to get out of here," she said hoarsely. "There is another hiding place in here, one the Nazis won't find, but it's only big enough for one."
The two children looked at each other. "Rose can hide," the boy whispered at last. "I'll get out of here. I have my broomstick. I can fly over the Channel and into England. They won't find me there."
Madame Charpentier nodded and hustled off with Rose, calling over her shoulder, "Hurry, child, and luck be with you!"
He didn't waste another second. He scrambled up another flight of stairs, kicked open his trunk, pulled out his broomstick, mumbled a spell to make the whole trunk feather-light, tied it onto the broom using the bedsheets, and darted out the window into the sky.
Madame Charpentier's words of an hour ago, when she had led them down to the cellar, rang through his mind. "It's not men you're hiding from," she had remarked grimly. "It's death itself."
And it wasn't men he was fleeing from now. This was not a flight from Nazis. This was a vol de mort – a flight of death. And after this little brush with death he knew he'd do whatever it took not to die.
With that thought, Tom Riddle kicked his broomstick higher and soared into the night.
A/N: This is a short story for now, BUT, I might continue it if I feel like it. The world could always use another Tom Riddle fic…. This story came to me with the idea that maybe Tom was reluctant to go back to the orphanage because of the Nazis, not because he was being mistreated as so many authors portray it. And why France? Two reasons. One, England was not Nazi-controlled. And two, it gave me an excuse for him to know French and therefore to be familiar with the phrase vol de mort. (Which really does translate to flight from death, by the way) Last but certainly not least, I have nothing against the Jews. I know it's a controversial subject, and I'm not trying to insult anyone here. That's all, TTFN =þ