Tom Riddle watched his followers disapparate, leaving him alone in the damp graveyard. A storm was coming. Death Eaters, he decided, I'll call them Death Eaters. It was a good name, a name to inspire fear in both the mind and the heart. Followers. Tom kept going back to that. He was their leader – they feared him and followed him. It was a sign that he was close to realizing his dream – complete domination of the world.
A crash of lighting broke his reverie, closely followed by a roll of thunder. Tom flung back his hood and faced the wind, his cloak billowing in the gusts. Rain hurtled down from the sky, but it evaporated with furious hisses before it touched his face.
"I WILL," Tom roared to the black sky, his figure outlined by lightning, "I WILL BE THE DARK LORD!" A bolt of lightning came down with a crash. With a well-bred chime, a small rectangle of thick paper appeared in his hand. It was a pale blue business card glowing violet ink in the half light.
Violet's Apparel and Accessories
Catering to the finest dark lords and ladies through the ages
What the hell? Tom wondered venomously. He noticed the card was ticking faintly. He shook the card experimentally, which did nothing. He flipped it over. A small watch had been drawn in silver ink on the back and the little silver second hand was counting down to zero. What is this?
The second hand reached the zero and the card chimed again. Then Tom was caught in whirlwind dragging him from the graveyard and depositing him – well, he wasn't sure. The thing it mostly closely resembled was the waiting room in a high-end doctor's office. The walls were a tasteful shade of gray, enlivened by discreetly expensive pieces of art. The chairs, including the one on which he was now sitting, were made of a dark wood, softened by plush violet cushions. An aquarium of tropical fish stood on a pedestal in the middle of the room, and there were doors at either end. But if the furnishings were nothing out of the ordinary, Tom had never seen a stranger collection of people – and other beings. Sitting on his left was a man – presumably – entirely covered by a black costume, including a heavy plastic mask that made him look like a preying mantis and distorted his breathing strangely.
Hhhho-per, breathed the man, hhhho-per. He was reading Parenting magazine. Tom tore his attention from his neighbor and glanced at the girl across from him, who was wearing thigh-high leather boots and five – no, four – leather straps. He inspected the girl with some interest, then moved on. Sitting beside her was a something completely covered by what looked like a blanket, which swathed it so completely Tom could not discern so much as its sex. On the left of the blanket-creature was a middle-aged woman with pale skin and heavy dark hair worked in elaborate loops. Her dark red velvet dress was cut far too low for someone her age.
The door at the far end of the room opened and everyone looked up. A blonde in her early twenties bounded into the room, projecting an air of impossible cheerfulness. Tom fingered his wand cautiously. He didn't trust anyone who looked that happy.
"Hi everyone!" she said. "I'm a little bit short-staffed today, so I'm going to be talking to you myself. Do we have any new customers with us?" She looked and immediately spotted Tom.
"You there!" she pointed. "Are you new?" He nodded. Something about this woman made you comply, even though she didn't act menacing and wasn't carrying a wand. Everyone in the room switched their attention to him.
"Wonderful!" said the girl. "I'm Violet and I can't tell you how glad I am that you've joined us! Someone will be with you in just a second to conduct your basic start-up survey. Now, who was here first?" the creature in the blankets raised a hand from beneath the fabric. Violet's look changed to one of good-natured chagrin as she bounced towards him.
"Mr. S., how many times have we discussed this?" she asked, hands on hips. Mr. S. shrugged. Violet adopted a lecturing tone. "This hiding is not good for your image," she said. "I know you think your eyes are your best features, and they're lovely eyes, but by neglecting the rest of your look and never appearing in public you're creating a very bad popular opinion!"
Mr. S. squirmed. "My eye occupies the top of a very tall tower all week and alternate Saturdays," he protested. "How much more public can you get?"
"That's not an answer and you know it!" said Violet.
"Excuse me," said a quiet voice in Tom's ear. He jumped and whipped out his wand, jabbing it into the cheek of an attractive, dark-haired girl sitting on a low table beside him.
"If you could just answer a few questions, sir?" she asked.
"I beg your pardon," Tom said, "What is going on?"
"What do you mean, sir?"
"I mean, I was standing in the graveyard – and there was this lightning crashing everywhere…and the card appeared in my hand…and then it took me here. Was it a portkey?"
"Yes, sir. Did you say anything before the card appeared?"
"Just that I would be the Dark Lord of the world."
"That would be the reason, sir. Violet's cards always appear to prospective clients. It's part of her new aggressive recruiting program." Tom understood the words she was saying, but all together the meaning of the sentence eluded him. Questions popped out of him.
"Who is Violet? Clients for what? What is this place?"
"Violet is the owner of this establishment, sir. She is a professional outfitter. She designs looks for dark lords, dark ladies, evil kings, queens, princes, councilors, you know. This is her corporate headquarters. Now if you would answer some questions, sir?"
"Why does she do that?"
"Why did she do what?"
"Become an outfitter."
"Someone has to. The questions?" Tom waved a feeble hand. He was too bewildered to protest.
"Right." The young lady looked down at a clipboard on her lap and became very professional.
"What is your favorite color?"
"Green." She marked something on the clipboard.
"Do you have many close friends?"
"Yes." Tom grinned triumphantly.
"Do you often pretend to have the best interests of the world at heart?"
"How tall are you?"
"Six feet, one inch." She looked him over doubtfully.
"Just because you're an upcoming Dark Lord doesn't give you the right to lie." Tom blushed.
"Five feet, eleven," he muttered.
"Do you prefer business suits, robes, or casual clothes?"
"What is your greatest weakness?" she asked.
"I don't have one." Tom retorted.
"Over-confidence," she murmured. "What is the secret source of your power?"
"Horc…why would I tell you that?" She looked up and smiled.
"Good answer," she said.
"Choose the one that best describes you: evil head of large corporation, corrupt leader of a nation, deranged psychopath with a gun and/or wand, secret ruler of the universe, corrupt councilor, or other."
"Deranged psychopath with a wand?" Tom guessed wildly.
"Thank you, sir," said the girl, producing a bright smile. "Violet will be with you shortly." She handed the clipboard to Violet, who was measuring the hhhho-per guy for a new helmet and disappeared through the door.
Violet descended on him in a whoosh of blonde hair and floral scent.
"Oh my God, I'm so glad you can be with us today," she said, smiling widely. "I just love new clients. How about you tell me a little bit about yourself?"
"Well, my name is Tom Riddle, but I am Lord Voldemort now…" Tom began.
"Nice," Violet interrupted. "Snappy title. Unusual, but menacing."
"Er- thank you," said Tom. "I killed my father and my grandparents a few years ago because they were disgusting muggle fools, and now I've gathered a band of followers – I'm going to call them Death Eaters – to help me conquer the world."
"Any close friends, trusted councilors, or sexy teenage daughters?"
"No," Tom said, deciding not to point out that twenty-two was somewhat young for teenage daughters.
"So you're alone," she mused. "We could play that up. You're not a bad-looking guy. Dramatic black velvet robes, some stubble, this could work. You have definite possibilities."
Tom was silent – he wasn't sure what to say.
"I don't have time for a full fitting just now," said Violet. "Are you free next Thursday at two-thirty?"
"I guess so," said Tom, racking his brain.
"Wonderful!" Violet tapped the business card he was still clutching with a long nail. "Just keep hold of that and it'll bring you right here, see you soon, sweetie!"
Who calls Dark Lords 'sweetie'? Tom wondered.