Author's Note: I know, I know horribly short chapter, but it felt right to end it here, plus I really do have quite a large pile of school work to do. I am working on the next chapter of Adventures in Witchcraft however. I hope that Tom isn't too OOC here.
The Arrogance of Youth
No sooner met but they looked;
No sooner looked but they loved;
No sooner loved but they sighed;
No sooner signed but they asked one another the reason;
No sooner knew the reason but they sought the remedy;
And in these degrees have they made a pair of stairs to marriage...
-- As You Like It: Act 5 Scene II
Shopkeeper hadn't been Tom Riddle's career of choice, but after being refused the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts, he hadn't many choices left. Professor Slughorn had offered to recommend him for a position within the Ministry of Magic, but as it would have only been an entry-level position, Tom wasn't interested in the least.
At least at Borgin and Burke's, his time was better spent. Not only did it afford him enough money to pay for the one room flat he'd rented out and keep him properly fed, it also allowed him the opportunity to cultivate relationships with wizards of a certain caliber and to study the more… exotic … magic that he was interested in.
Still it was not a purely perfect arrangement. Far too often, Tom found himself almost weeping from the tedious monotony of his daily life.
This day was no different. They hadn't had a single customer all morning long and it was now nearing closing time. In fact, Burke had just instructed Tom to turn the sign hanging on the door from open to close when the door opened and in swept a cloaked wizard.
The wizard gave both Tom and Burke a nod before beginning to meander through the shelves and sifting through the uneven stacks of books and artifacts.
When it became apparent that the late-comer was in no hurry to leave, Burke left Tom to close up the shop on his own. He took the opportunity to observe the wizard. He was obviously very wealthy if the quality of his cloak was any indication. Not only was he wealthy but he was powerful as well. He moved with a fluid grace that only power afforded.
Nearly a half-an-hour after entering the shop, the cloaked wizard approached the counter that Tom was idly wiping with a cleaning cloth. After a quick glance around the shop, the stranger lowered the hood of his cloak.
There was something… familiar about the wizard. He had blonde curly hair that was gathered at the nape of his neck with a black velvet ribbon and wide blue eyes. Tom felt nearly certain that he had seen this man before, but where? Tom hadn't seen much of the world – wizarding or otherwise – so it was unlikely that he'd come across the man before, but still he felt that he should recognize him.
The wizard gave Tom a brilliant smile before gesturing Tom over to the display of jewelry he had been perusing.
When he spoke, it was with heavily accented English. "Have you any other rings?" he queried.
"No, sir," said Tom, still trying to place where he'd seen the wizard in front of him, but being largely unsuccessful.
A frown flitted across the otherwise handsome face. "That is most unfortunate," the man murmured. "I was told that this place was the place to come to if you were seeking artifacts of a more unique nature. You see, I am searching for a ring with a rather unusual stone. It is black, but there is a symbol, the Peverell coat of arms, etched onto the top of the stone. Have you ever come across such a thing? You might recognize the symbol for it has gained some notoriety in the recent years as being the personal mark of the Dark Lord Grindelwald." The man's lips quirked slightly in a most amused manner.
As it happened, Tom had come across such a ring. It had once belonged to his grandfather on his mother's side, but he had removed it from his uncle before murdering his muggle family. He wore it even now on a chain beneath his clothing. Tom, however, had no intention of disclosing this information at all for the ring was much more to him than merely a piece of jewelry. It was precious to him.
"I'm sorry to say that I have not," he answered.
The man's frown deepened. "You are lying," he surmised at once. "Tell me what you know of the ring."
Tom gave the man an apologetic smile. "I'm afraid that you are mistaken. I have no knowledge of any ring fitting your description."
"Am I mistaken?" the man murmured, moving closer to him and pulling out an odd-looking wand from his cloak. He flicked the wand once, and Tom felt a sort of haze attempt to settle over his mind.
The man smiled as Tom felt the haze form tendrils and begin to ensnare his thoughts.
"Tell me what you know of the ring," the man breathed, repeating his earlier command, his musical voice titillating and alluring.
And Tom, who considered himself to have the strongest of wills, suddenly found himself wanting to tell the strange wizard all that he knew of the ring. More than that, he found himself quite willing to do whatever he was ordered to do. He struggled to free himself of the compulsion, but the man pressed on. He closed the lingering distance between the two until Tom could feel the luxurious fabric of his cloak against the skin of his arms. He bent down until his breath tickled Tom's ear.
"Tell me what it is that you know, and I will reward you most handsomely," the man crooned. The hand that was not holding his wand was now gliding across his cheekbones, down his nose, and over his lips. "So beautiful..."
His breath hitched, and he made a strangled noise deep in his throat as the man lowered his lips to his neck. His eyes fluttered closed when the lips met his own and he sighed into the kiss. However, at the feel of a wand against his cheek and a murmured incantation against his lips, he wretched himself away from the wizard. Unfortunately, not before he felt an odd stinging sensation followed by the dripping of blood down his cheek.
He decided not to pay it any mind, for the moment. Still feeling more dazed than he cared to admit, he fumbled for his wand and trained it on the man, who merely cocked his head to the side and gave him an indulgent smile. A flick of his wrist divested Tom of his wand. Another had him in frozen animation.
Before the man could act further, the door of the shop opened, and in stumbled the other owner of the shop, Mr. Borgin, with his arms filled to the brim with trinkets.
"Oh, good, you're still here, Tom. I had hoped you would be. You won't believe what I managed to accrue for us!" He stopped short as he took in the scene before him. "What is this?" he sputtered indignantly. "I say, let him go at once!"
There was no need for the man to do so, however, as the petrification ended when he Apparated away.
Tom fell to the ground feeling quite boneless, and Mr. Borgin hurried to his side.
"Are you alright, Tom? I daresay you've had quite a fright. Just who was that man?" But Mr. Borgin was now backing away from Tom, a look of horror in his watery brown eyes, as he pointed a finger at Tom's cheek.
With some effort, Tom pulled himself to his feet and went directly to the display of mirrors that set to the left of the front counter. His cheek now bore the very same mark that lay upon his ring.
The mark of the Dark Lord Grindelwald.