Strolling down the Slytherin corridors on the way back to his room, broomstick swinging from one hand, Arithmancy for the Ambitious in the other, Tom heard the sound of Peeves's wild, cackling laughter, and high-pitched yells from Abraxas Malfoy. As he came closer, Tom saw the brass letters on the Head Boy's door rearranging themselves while Peeves sniggered from the ceiling:




Little Abraxas Malfoy was clutching more letters to his chest, shouting hysterically at Peeves to stop being so horrid and leave Tom's door alone.

Tom glowered at him. "What's this?" he asked.

"I'm sorry, Tom," said Abraxas, practically in tears. "He's a rotter, and I hate him! I tried to stop him, truly I did, but he's too high up for me, and I'm only little… I did manage to save your middle name, though…"

Peeves gave a shrill, unpleasant giggle.

"Rotter, am I, ickle Malfy-walfy?" he said. "Well, rotten old Peevsie may be, but at least I don't have CUSTARD IN MY HAIR! Wheeee! Bombs away!"

With a whoop, he whipped a cold custard pie from his doublet, and hurled it at Tom Riddle. It burst on his hair, splattering the door, walls, floor and Abraxas with chilly, glutinous yellow matter and pastry crumbs.

Abraxas looked as if he were about to start crying in earnest, but at the look of cold fury on Tom's face, he froze before the wail was out of his mouth. Many year later, when he was an old man, his daughter-in-law would get angry with him for frightening her precious son with his description of the red, feral glint he had glimpsed that day in those deep-set, inscrutable eyes – though to be sure that was decades after the event, and his memory was no longer all it used to be.

The moment passed, and Tom was all human again. He shook the custard out of his eyes and then, quick as a snake, he drew his wand, and the poltergeist was pressed against the wall as if by an invisible hand.

Tom ran long, spindly fingers through his hair, scraping it back from his eyes in yellow streaks, as he stood on the tiled floor, watching calmly as Peeves gasped, struggled and turned first red, then purple, then blue, as he struggled to breathe. He smiled his charming smile and turned his attention to the door. After a few seconds' thought, he reached out, rearranged the letters on the door and held out his hand for the ones Abraxas was holding, which he put up along with the rest. After a moment, he stood back to survey his handiwork:


"That's more like it," he said.

One flick of his wand, and Peeves, now wheezing and black in the face, fell away from the wall, dragged by an invisible force along the corridor to the nearest bathroom. There was a splash, followed by shrieks of outrage and sounds of a struggle from both Peeves and Moaning Myrtle. Another flick of the wand, and there came the sound of a toilet flushing vigorously, washing the two of them away, down into the sewers.

As the noises died away, Tom turned abruptly to face Abraxas, who cowered against the wall.

"Get this mess cleared up if you want any supper," he said coldly, and sauntered off.


Half an hour later, when all the students were eating in the Great Hall, the window of Tom Riddle's study-bedroom burst open, and Peeves flew in, dripping raw sewage onto the floor. Floating high up, and still scattering filth as he moved, he made a tour of the room, pausing at strategic locations (the parchments and textbooks on the desk, the Quidditch robes draped over a chair) for maximum damage, and finishing up over the bed, where he executed an elaborate, very messy pirouette, followed by a leisurely cartwheel.

His work in the study done, Peeves squeezed himself through the keyhole of the door and out into the corridor. He hovered in front of the brass letters on the door for several minutes, muttering to himself and counting on his fingers. Then his face split into a wicked grin, he clicked his fingers and the letters moved again, obedient to his command. When he stood back to admire his handiwork they formed a new message, reading:


Peeves chuckled softly as he cast a Permanent Sticking Charm on the door.

"That's more like it."

He drifted away, humming to himself.