Disclaimer: The HP universe is not mine, unfortunately, neither is the history, thankfully. The number I chose is random and isn't meant to represent any particular person.
A/N: This is a response to sick-atxxheart's Tattoo Challenge, prompt 10. The German in this story is phonetic, not the actual words.
For the record, I realise that the dates are off; Tom would have been too young for this to actually occur. But that is the brilliancy of fanfiction and the concept of AU, no?
Before you decide to flame my choice of subject, keep in mind that I am a Jew and have been to Dachau. Out of all of the places I have ever been in my life, it had to have been the worst. I swear I could feel the screams echoing from the walls.
The tattoo wasn't a choice. It was forced on – forced through the screams of the needle, through the tears of his skin. He had no choice. 85124, it read, greying on his forearm. Mocking him. He remembered when he got it. He had been visiting the continent, looking for the elusive Hufflepuff cup when they caught him.
He had wanted nothing to do with Muggles after his childhood. He knew that the blame for his abuse didn't lay with all Muggles, but he couldn't stand being around them. Because of that, he hadn't kept up with Muggle current events and knew nothing of the war that was raging around him. If he had known, he never would have stepped foot out of the UK.
The date was still burned into his memory. 16th July, 1943. That's when they took him from a small Muggle village where he had been searching for the cup. The men in their trucks drove up, kicking up dust everywhere, and had grabbed him before he could get any spell off. His wand had been ripped out of his hand and he was stuffed into the back of a dirty trailer with the villagers. Women and children were crying, seeming to know what was going on, but he had no way to ask them. He knew no German and had no wand with which to cast a translation spell. For the first time in nearly a decade, he was scared.
They drove for days, the elderly and infants slowly dying around him. So many of them died even before they finally reached their destination, their bodies pushed to and piled in the corners. By the time they arrived he was starving, cold and beyond frightened. He had not been in the Muggle world for years, not counting the godforsaken orphanage, and he didn't have his magic to protect him any longer.
Men in drab brown and olive uniforms with a red and white band around their upper arms opened the back of the trailer. He got a glimpse of some sort of strange cross on their arm bands before he was forcibly pulled out of the truck and thrown into line. They yelled things at him he couldn't understand but he did his best to follow the rest of the people. They made their way through a wrought iron gate that read Arbeit macht frei. It burned itself into his memory and he never forgot it. Work brings freedom. He couldn't help but laugh bitterly when he learned that. There was no freedom there.
He followed the line into a nondescript dirty white building where he was 'processed'. They shaved his hair off and took his clothes before spraying him down with painfully cold water. They kept their guns pointed at his head and he had no choice but to sit still while they carved the number 85124 into his arm. He lost his name that day.
They dressed him in drab clothing with a yellow star sewn onto them. He knew the star; the Star of David. A religious symbol for the Jews. They thought he was a Jew and he couldn't tell them he wasn't; they didn't speak English and he didn't speak German. They wouldn't have cared anyway.
He spent his nights in one of the many long barracks set up for the prisoners. They slept four to five per 'bed' for the few hours they were granted a reprieve. All of the other prisoners ignored him, the foreigner. He did eventually learn how to say his name in German though.
Ahkht – fuunf – ighnns – tsvigh – feer
Because he couldn't speak German they sent him to work at the crematorium. Day after day he spent hauling bodies of those he had slept next to onto the rack before pushing them into the ovens. He saw the faces of both the young and the old as they were consumed by the flames, turning to dust. He spent the time between each group of bodies shoveling out the ash into containers to be shipped elsewhere. He never knew where and he didn't want to. He became accustomed and eventually immune to the horrifying smell of burning flesh.
Over time he lost weight. It was impossible to maintain it eating the meagre portions of gruel they were alloted. After a while he looked as horrible as the bodies he burned; all bones and ash. He spent each day wondering when he would be replaced, the next person hauling his body into the furnace. Every night he went to bed wondering if he would live to see morning or if he would be one of the many that were dragged out of their beds. Nobody wondered where they went to... the gunshots answered the unasked question.
The days blended together and he began to run on autopilot. Wake up. Eat. Work. Eat. Sleep. The longer he was there the more frequent his illnesses, but he learned to hide them. If he showed any symptoms of sickness he would have been sent to the gas chambers, or worse, into their 'medical' rooms.
He suspected his magic helped keep him alive. He couldn't perform anything without a wand, but he could swear he felt it when he was close to death. There was no way that he could have stayed alive as long as he did. He survived for two years and nine months, far longer than any other prisoner he knew. Most others were gassed or shipped elsewhere, probably to another camp just like it. Or worse. He even survived through the typhoid epidemic that had cleared out the camp for a short while.
He survived in that place for two years and nine months, long enough for the Americans to come and free him. Them. Free all of them.
One day, new men came into the camp with large crosses on their uniforms. He shied away from them. The guards wore crosses. They tried to speak to him in German but even after two years and nine months he didn't understand any of it. He tried to remember how to say something in English, anything, but it had been so long since he had spoken to another person. After a lot of effort he was able to say, "I am... ahkht – fuunf – ighnns – tsvigh – feer... Tom."
The men looked at him queerly and brought over some soldiers who spoke with a strange accent. Americans. They asked him where he was from and told him that they were going to examine him then send him home. Home?
The next few weeks flew by. They fed him and gave him medicine before proclaiming him healthy and sending him 'home'. They dropped him off at the London airport and he somehow made his way to the Leaky Cauldron. He was taken in by Abraxas Malfoy, one of his schoolmates from Hogwarts. Abraxas never asked him what happened before he found him wandering around in Diagon Alley, no better than a walking skeleton, and he would never tell him.
He spent the next year getting healthy and formulating a plan. He was never going to let anything like that happen again. That camp, Dachau, he learned after quiet research, was created and run by Muggles. Nazis. Dirty Muggles. Wizards would never do anything so heinous; only Muggles.
He created his Death Eaters, Marking their left forearms as his had been. It was a macabre tribute to the pain he went through. He felt exhilarated every time he sent pain to his followers through his Mark, thinking it only fair that they suffer some of what he did for those two years and nine months. He never showed them his though. Never. He kept that under a heavy glamour that only he could see through, so that he would remember what They did.
Slowly he built up his campaign. The Muggles needed to be exterminated. The Mudbloods could not be permitted into their world. They would bring the Muggles, their practises and their prejudices with them. It could not be allowed.
He relished each raid, delighting in the smell of burnt flesh that reminded him of why he started his crusade. It was a comforting smell. Every body he had burnt meant that his time had not yet come. He delighted in tearing down the Muggles who had imprisoned him, regardless of their age. The children were just as responsible as the adults. They were borne from those who had tortured him. Better to kill them early before they had the chance to perform the injustices of their parents.
He had lost his dirty Muggle name when they tattooed him at the camp ...85124... so he took on a new one. Voldemort. Lord Voldemort. Flight from death... from the death camps, the concentration camps. That is how the world knew him. But he knew different. Even if no one else ever would, he knew deep down who he was.