He scares the other children

No more Snape-centric fics from me, but I have long wanted to time-travel back to the 1930s and take a look at how Albus mishandled his first encounter with the most dangerous Dark wizard of all time – and when fandoms collide, it is a sweet, sweet moment.

Chapter 1: Mrs Cole

She'd been so busy, what with the chicken pox on top of everything else, that she'd forgotten that the gentleman would be calling today, about Tom Riddle, and she'd been quite amazed at the sight of him - a very Bohemian-looking gentleman, in a plum velvet suit, with a mass of long auburn hair and a beard; he looked like an artist or a poet.

He'd held out his hand to her, introduced himself, but she hadn't quite caught the name, Albert Dumberton or something like that – and then she'd remembered the letter, and that had been a bit odd, too, addressed in purple ink and an awful lot of stamps on the envelope.

She's shown him into her office, eyed him cautiously, and asked whether he was family – because if he was family, it was a bit rich, him showing up now, eleven years after Tom was born ...

He'd said he was a teacher, at some school called Hogwarts, but how come he was interested in Tom? Tom couldn't have won a scholarship – because she'd certainly never entered him for one.

The man had said that Tom's name had been down at the school since birth, and she'd been interested immediately, because whoever registered him must be a relative - and if there was a family, they could jolly well take Tom off her hands!

And then the gentleman had showed her the piece of paper, and that made it all clear, Hogwarts was a school for the gifted, and Tom Riddle is certainly gifted ... and somehow there was a bottle of gin on the table and two glasses, and while normally she wouldn't dream of taking a drink during work hours, it was only politeness to offer refreshment to her guest.

She'd smiled at him, because everything was perfectly in order, and Tom would be going off to a school that would be just right for him, and the paper had said something about a fund, so she didn't even have to worry about finding the money for books and uniforms ...

The gentleman had asked her whether Tom was born in the orphanage, so she'd poured another drink and told him the story – how could she forget it? New Year's Eve, bitter cold, and that poor girl staggering up the front steps ... they'd had to deliver the baby themselves, they couldn't get a doctor, not at that hour of the night – lucky the old matron had a lot of experience and was something of a midwife, but the mother had died, nothing seemed to have gone terribly wrong but the poor girl just didn't seem to have any will to keep going after Tom was safely born.

Then the gentleman had asked about Tom's father, and she'd told him what Tom's mother had said, "I hope he looks like his papa," and the girl was right to hope it, too, because she was no beauty - and that was being kind. Well, her son is handsome enough - but handsome is as handsome does ...

And the girl had insisted that her baby be called Tom, for his father, and Marvolo, for her father – funny name, they'd wondered if she came from a circus, funny name like that, and that funny old fashioned dress she was wearing, a sort of long robe, the kind of thing women wore in the last century ...

The poor girl had said that the baby's surname was to be Riddle, Mrs Riddle, she'd called herself, but there was no wedding band on her finger - and then she'd thought, we don't want to speak ill of the dead ...

She'd helped herself to another measure of gin, and then it had come out, "He's a funny boy," and the gentleman didn't seem surprised. She'd nearly said more, but she'd pulled herself up, she didn't like Tom, and God knows she'd be glad to be rid of him - best she didn't say anything more ...

But the gentleman really seemed interested, and he'd assured her that Tom had a place at his school, whatever she said - so she'd decided that she should tell him. He was a teacher there, he had a right to know, and maybe it wouldn't be a problem at his school, maybe they'd be able to manage Tom - so she'd said, in a rush, "He scares the other children." And she'd thought, and he scares the staff, I know Martha for one is afraid of him ...

He'd asked whether Tom was a bully, and she'd frowned, Tom is tall for his age, but he never gets into fights, he never pushes the smaller children around - but there have been all those nasty incidents ... the business with the rabbit, for a start.

She'd taken another gulp of gin, and she'd known that her face had started to glow, Tom said he didn't strangle Billy Stubb's rabbit, and how could he have got up into the rafters anyway? But he'd quarrelled with Billy the day before, Billy had called Tom a freak, and nasty things seem to happen to people who quarrel with Tom ... and then there's that other business, Amy Benson and Dennis Bishop, they'd both started wetting the bed and crying at night after that outing to the seaside, but they won't talk about whatever it was that Tom did to them in the cave.

And then she'd looked the gentleman squarely in the eye, and it hadn't been the gin talking when she said, "I don't think many people will be sorry to see the back of him."

The gentleman had explained that Tom would have to come back to them, at least every summer, and she'd thought, at least that's something, and now she's ushering him into Tom's room, and telling Tom that he's got a vistor, Mr Dumberton, no, Dunderbore, and it's probably easiest if the gentleman tells him the good news about his scholarship to Hogwarts.