Knock Before You Enter
He is four, the first time. It is not the first time it has happened; not even somewhere in the first one hundred. But this is the first time he notices, and is annoyed by, the way the staff just enter his room.
He shares it. This will change in a few years, but for now, he shares his room with a few other boys, around his own age. And no matter who is inside, the staff will just walk in, without knocking, without checking no one minds.
He is four, trying to sleep, because he had a nightmare last night and the resulting insomnia left him tired. (Not, of course, that anyone knows; even at such a young age, Tom sees fear as a weakness, and refuses to share his weaknesses with anyone.)
The woman – she's been here longer than he has – walks in, without knocking, without asking. He was close to sleep, to slipping away, and she brings him back with a jolt.
He was always a light sleeper.
He sits up, angry, demands to know what she's doing. She offers a little laugh – she thinks it girlish, cute, but she is well into her fifties now, and nothing about her is girlish or cute – and tells him that she's doing her job, of course.
(It's a reminder, whether she intends it to be or not, that this is a workplace, not a home; he has no home, no family, no one who matters or cares.)
The interaction puts him in a bad mood for days; and from then on, he notices each and every time someone enters the room without knocking.
He is seven when he gets his own room. It isn't very big, and it doesn't feel like it really belongs to him, but he's aware that it is his own space. He settles his things into the room – it takes a matter of minutes, as Tom doesn't have many things – then sits on the bed in silence. This is his space, and no one else is allowed inside, he decides, without his permission.
Hardly a day passes before someone does; a different member of staff, who brings in his clean clothes. He flips; begins to yell and scream and throws the clothes onto the floor. This is his room, his, and no one is allowed in unless he says so.
The worker looks at him with both annoyance and pity, and tells him firmly that he can't make the rules – this is his room, but he is not in charge. He begins to feel the first stirrings of embarrassment, and it shows on his face. She asks him, almost kindly, if he'd prefer her to knock before she entered.
He glares, nods. She tells him to pick up his things, and then she leaves. For a few weeks, she knocks before she enters his room, though no one else does. After those few weeks, though, she forgets and slips back into the old way. And Tom vows that one day, one day, no one will dare disobey him this way. One day, no one will dare enter a room without his permission.
He is disgusted by his room at Hogwarts. He had grown used to his own space at the orphanage (though he still bitterly resented his lack of privacy) and now he is back to where he started, sharing with others. Five beds, he thinks, glaring at the room. Five beds, so five boys, meaning four roommates.
Even as he thinks it, two of them burst into the room, laughing happily (and Tom thinks, briefly, that he has never laughed like that, so easy and bright and carefree) and offer him a vague hello as they choose their beds. Tom continues to glare, at them, now, and both their expressions turn to unease. Even as those boys busy themselves awkwardly with their unpacking, his other two roommates walk in, letting the door slam behind them.
No one knocked. This is his room, and he was inside alone. Tom slides into bed and glares at the hangings, knowing that none of the boys will agree to knock before they enter. Knowing that, really, he has no right to ask them to.
But it gets to him, each and every time, that they can enter his room (only it's not exactly his, is it?) without his permission.
He's worked hard to make prefect. He was twelve when he decide that a prefect was something worth being – a kind of power, a kind of control. And now, he's made it. Fooled all the teachers, the headmaster. They think of him as Tom Riddle, the poor but brilliant orphan, parentless but so bright, practically homeless but so nice.
And only he truly knows that Tom Riddle, their Tom Riddle, does not exist. Only he knows the darkness inside, the shadow that makes him dream of death, murder, the blackness that swaddles his soul. Only he knows who he really is.
(Mad, he thinks, sometimes. There's a madness inside, with the darkness, or maybe it even is the darkness. He doesn't care; one day, he knows, he'll be able to stop pretending, and embrace the darkness and the madness with it.)
He looks around the prefect carriage, chooses his seat carefully (the seat is important, the seat dictates the power others see him with) and waits. He listens to the sound of the other students, and jolts a little as the door slides open.
They didn't knock, simply entered as though they have every right. Maybe they do, Tom thinks. Maybe they have as much right as him. (But no, he is Lord Voldemort, and better than them, and they owe him their respect.)
Borgin and Burkes is the worst. The bell over the door makes that annoying sound every time someone enters, but no one knocks. At night, when it's dark outside and Tom's getting ready to lock up, people still walk in, sometimes silent, (either because they see themselves as better than him, he a lowly shop assistant and they a rich, powerful customer, or because something about that boy behind the counter makes them uneasy) sometimes saying brightly how they thought they might be too late, that he might have closed already.
He always smiles politely, offers assistance, plays the perfect clerk. And his hand caresses his wand, and his mind fights for control, fights to stop himself simply ending the life inside the store with him.
(At that point, murder was something that was done when it had to be, because of all the effort it took to cover it up. Not too long after, Tom stopped caring, and murdered simply because he could.)
It doesn't take his Death Eaters too long to click. He never tells them to knock before they enter, but whenever someone walked in without it, he would curse them, until everyone learned. And, later, when he'd built up more supporters, he would simply kill those who disrespected him by interrupting his privacy so carefully.
No one dare enter without his permission. No one dare burst inside (no girlish giggle, no annoyed pity, no carefree laughs, no nothing) no one dare interrupt him.
Lord Voldemort has what Tom Riddle never could; Lord Voldemort has privacy and respect.
(He hears, somewhere, someone talk of the inner child. And he laughs. He has no inner child; he never was one. All he has inside is shadows and madness, and he knows it's better that way.)
He sits in a room, in the Malfoy Manor, pleased with himself for over taking their house, for destroying their privacy, for taking away everything they had, because he lost everything not long ago, and it still stings his ego.
The door behind him starts to open, slowly, and he freezes.
When he speaks, he says only four words, his tone low and angry, the warning clear.
"Knock before you enter."
There is a noise, a frightened sort of squeak, and the door closes heavily as whoever was behind it lets go and runs. He hears their footsteps, echoing.
And he laughs. For a long, long time, Lord Voldemort (not Tom Riddle; Tom Riddle was a powerless child who submerged himself in shadows) still in the dim room, in the house that he doesn't own but is now his, and laughs.
He is anger and fear and madness and darkness. He is power, he is great, he is Lord.