All the King's Men
Disclaimer: All of this is based upon the lovely J.K. Rowling's work.
Warnings: Implied physical and sexual abuse. Also, it would make more sense if you have already read HBP.
Thomas Riddle sat on a wall.
An eleven-year-old boy sat on the wall of the Astronomy Tower, his knees drawn up to his chest as he precariously balanced along the edge. His bluish-green eyes stared up at the heavens for a moment before his curiosity got the better of him, and he glanced downward. He gazed down at the grounds below, and he felt as though he were on the edge of a precipice, looking into the abyss.
He shivered suddenly, the midnight hour bringing no warmth to him. He trembled as he thought about what he was to face tomorrow... as he contemplated his return to the orphanage for the summer. For a moment, he allowed his mask to slip, revealing him for what he was: a frightened and desperate child.
A single tear streaked down his face as he recalled the horrors of his home. That place was hell, pure and simple. It was a thing of nightmares and terrors, where he was subjected to horrors beyond imagination.
Or at least, horrors that should be beyond imagination. Yet, they were terrors he was intimately familiar with: harsh and hurtful words, punches and slaps, and hands that traveled to places they should never go, that touched him in ways he should never be touched.
How he hated being a freak, as the orphanage director called him. How he hated having no friends in that place, no one who he could turn to.
He had tried once, telling a boy and girl that were neutral to him, if not friendly. However, they hadn't believed him. They had simply laughed and told the adults what he had said.
His punishment that night was by far the worst, even now the scars were still throbbing and aching in his most private of places. However, the boy managed a small, bitter smile as he recalled what had happened afterwards to the two traitors, what he had done to them in retribution.
Thomas Riddle had a great fall.
The boy started as he heard a noise behind him, nearly falling off of the ledge. Within seconds he was off of the wall, facing the other person with his wand at the ready.
It was instinct. He hadn't even intended to do it, but years of torture had grinded it into him.
Teal eyes widened suddenly. "Headmaster Dippet, please forgive," he apologized quickly to the man, who was currently looking at him with narrowed eyes.
"What're you doing here, Tom?" the man demanded quietly, approaching the boy, who had yet to lower his wand. "You know that you shouldn't be here. You should be in bed."
The boy stepped backwards, his knees hitting the wall he had just been sitting on. "F… forgive me, Headmaster," he whispered meekly, his yew wand now pointed at the floor. "I just wanted somewhere to think quietly." He stared at the man's shoes.
"Regardless, you shouldn't be here," Dippet intoned fiercely, now standing directly in front of the boy. "Just be glad that term has ended, or I would be deducting fifty points and assigning a week of detention."
The boy nodded slowly, his mask finally slipping back into place.
The headmaster gazed at him for a moment, his face softening. He briefly thought about asking the boy what was wrong, but he instantly dismissed the idea.
The child was probably just sad about leaving his friends and returning to the Muggles. Or maybe it was just returning to the Muggle world; the boy had asked to stay over the summer, after all. Obviously, he didn't like non-magical society, not that Dippet could blame him with their idiotic ideas and their lack of magic.
"Come along then, Tom," he said in a gentler voice, grasping the boy by the wrist. He noticed the unmistakable flinch as he fingers dug into the soft and barely-there flesh, but he merely thought that he had startled the boy. He didn't even bother to wonder why.
And all the king's horses and all the king's men…
The headmaster pulled the child along but stopped as he approached the door to the inside. Standing by it was one of his colleagues, Albus Dumbledore.
Dippet smiled, relishing in the fact that he could delegate and wouldn't have to trudge all the way to the dungeons.
"Ah, Albus," the headmaster stated, bringing the boy in front of him. "See to it that Tom here returns to his dorm," he ordered briskly. Without even waiting for a reply, he stepped inside, leaving the boy behind.
The Transfiguration professor blinked, and his eyes traveled to the child in front of him, who was currently staring at the floor once more. Slowly, he approached the Slytherin and came to a stop directly in front of him. He waited for a moment, but the child didn't move to look at him.
"Tom," Albus whispered gently. "Tom, are you…" he attempted a question, but the words couldn't quite form.
At the kind and gentle tone, the boy finally glanced up, and his mask slipped once more.
Albus Dumbledore stared down into impossibly large, blue-green eyes as a flash of memory crossed them, and he suddenly felt the overwhelming urge to bring the child into his arms and hold him for the rest of forever, to hug him and whisper to him kindly and make him laugh and make him smile. It was something he had never really seen the boy do before… unless one counted the time Tom had learned he was wizard.
However, Albus did none of those things. Instead, he settled for a simple smile, a mere twitch of the lips.
And somehow, it looked as though the boy's world had crashed and crumbled into nothingness. The mask snapped back into place, and it was different. It was harder, colder, unforgiving… almost inhuman.
The moment stretched out, and the professor regretted not following his instincts. The urge returned, but it wasn't as strong, and he once more settled for something less… this time in the form of kind words.
"Let's get you to bed, my boy."
Couldn't put Thomas Riddle back together again.
An hour later, the boy stared up at his dark green canopy and listened to the quiet mumbles and breathing of his roommates. He shivered, but it wasn't due to the cold. He shoved the terrible image of wandering hands, labored panting, and horrendous pain out of his mind, searching for something… anything else.
A pair of sparkling blue eyes and soft smile entered into his head, a twinkle and a smile just for him, the only nice thing anyone had ever done for him. He recalled a gentle voice and kind words, the only gifts he had ever received.
He remembered the inquiring look and the feeling of intense longing that had risen in his chest, longing that the professor would ask what was wrong… because he was ready to bare his soul.
He was ready; he needed to do it. He needed to talk, to plead for help. He had hoped that Dumbledore would ask, but the man hadn't.
He had only smiled.
And something had died within Tom that instant. Something had withered in his chest. And it wasn't until years later that he would realize what it was.
And all the king's horses and all the king's men…
Couldn't fix that which was broken…
And would never be the same again.