It was right around the end of the summer of 1935 in London. That was where and when it all started. The city was still busy and booming with all that new technology and style. It all seemed to be the center of the world, a warm and vibrant place to live. However, not all could feel the warmth and glow in this bright-lighted city of wonder. Their story had to begin in the absolute most depressing place in all of London: Wool's Orphanage. The orphanage resided in a tumbledown, old brick building, that was somehow still standing after thirty or so odd years. It had several thick vines of ivy crawling up the sides and was being consumed by mossy aging bricks. Sometimes it looked more like a giant bush, rather than a place where children were supposed to be living. The building was just as rundown and battered on the inside as it was on the outside. Yet, it was still somehow miraculously operating with at least some substantial comfort. Although, to be fair to the establishment, an orphanage is not meant to be a happy place or a thriving business. As it is well known, an orphanage is a temporary home where children are usually sent to after their parents have died. Naturally, just by existing, little happiness could ever be found in such an awful place.
However, finding happiness wasn't completely impossible.
Let's rewind to a little over eight years ago, before their story even started at Wool's Orphanage. It was once actually a significantly happier place. Not as shabby, but more shiny and new, like most things are when they're in their youth. The orphanage was run and founded by a Mr. Archibald Cole. He was a vibrant, happy man, with a great passion to help the less fortunate. Along with his loving wife, Maggie Cole, they made sure no child was left alone on the streets of London. Mr. Cole loved all the children, unconditionally, when the world appeared not too. Although, it was a rather dull and dingy place to be, the children there were always cared for. Well, decently cared for. At least they weren't starving on the streets. Thankfully, there were many couples that came by and many kids came and went. Unfortunately, Archibald Cole died of illness in the winter of 1925. Even though this man had dozens of children and people to mourn his passing, no one suffered this tragedy more than Maggie Cole. Although, her husband was gone, she had foolishly promised him she would keep the orphanage running on her own after he passed. It was one of the only ones in the city now and she wasn't cruel enough to send all those kids out on the streets. However, after only a few days running the place alone, she soon came to realize that without her dear husband there beside her she really hated children. There were many days she cared about nothing, a day or two when she was far too strict, and some days that she just broke down, crumbling. Also, to add even further to her troubles, her husband's death was only the first of the many tragedies to occur at Wool's Orphanage.
Exactly a year after the death of her husband, a boy was born.
Not Mrs. Cole's child, certainly. She was already past child-bearing years and could barely handle the ones that weren't even hers. It was a young woman, not much older than eighteen, who had just showed up on the steps of the orphanage, pleading for help. She had arrived on New Year's Eve of all the inconvenient days, nearly in labor already. Why was a miracle, such as the birth of child, thought of as such a tragedy? Unfortunately, the poor woman didn't have the will to live any longer and died mere minutes after the birth of the beautiful baby boy, leaving him pretty much the only child to ever be literally born an orphan. His mere existence was a tragedy. However, Mrs. Cole didn't really seem to mind him much.
Despite her deep hatred of children and the dreary coincidence he was born exactly a year after her husband's death, she kind of liked him. The darling child was beautiful, unlike his mother, and he was a very well-behaved baby. He wouldn't start causing her so much grief till much later in his life. She naturally didn't once think that later in his life that boy would be the cause of so many more tragedies across the nation, to try and make up for his own tragic beginnings. Of course, what woman would suspect she was carrying a monster in her arms? She would only see the light when he got older and met her, which is what this story is about. It's not about the unfortunately sad life of a bitter, uptight woman. It's about the simple meeting of a boy and a girl and all the good and bad it caused for the world. The boy met her practically soaked in tragedy, but their meeting was anything but tragic.
They met in that miserable place in London, in the summer of 1935...
"He's such a strange boy."
Currently, this summer, there were a total of five workers employed at Wool's Orphanage. Mrs. Cole had to hire them all a couple weeks after the death of her husband. She obviously couldn't handle running an entire orphanage on her own. Although, to be fair, who could handle over thirty kids 24/7 and not be driven crazy? It's not one of those things that gets easier over time. With five others to help her, they maintained a slightly more orderly establishment. On that particular late August afternoon, two of the workers were sitting at the old wood table by the kitchen, folding dish rags and clean clothes that had just been taken off the line. They sat gossiping about the same old thing, like most woman do in their spare time, hardly getting any work done. Mrs. Cole was still in her office sorting through some paper work about a new arrival. So, they were allowed to move at such a glacial pace and whisper.
"He always has been. Ever since the day he was born, there's been something just a little off about him," the woman sitting beside her answered back, dropping her work just to cover her mouth with her hands. If he saw them talking, whether it was about him or not, they would be punished, "Never cried or made a fuss, as a babe. It's positively abnormal for a baby boy not to cry."
"Sometimes he genuinely frightens me. I think he belongs in the asylum." the other woman admitted, folding another freshly cleaned dish rag and placing it on the small pile of the already folded. The women were trying not to peer over into the room across the way filled with playing children. If they were to catch the subject's eye, they would most certainly be his next victims and suffer many consequences. However, it was really pointless to try and fight the tempting urge. He sucked people in, yet they were still terrified to look at him. Both of the workers sat at the table blatantly staring at the subject of their conversation. It was a young boy, who was no more than eight years of age. He was quietly sitting by himself in the far corner of the playroom, with his head buried in the same old book.
This boy was Tom Riddle.
The boy who was born an orphan. An infamously tragic creature, yet surprisingly a very beautiful one as well. Even at this young age, he was already incredibly good looking, especially considering his circumstances too. The workers tended to say nasty things about his mother's complexion when they thought he wasn't listening. He, however, was the image of childhood perfection. Although, years in the orphanage had turned him into a skinny taut little thing, it made no impact on his looks. His dark black hair was always neat, with every hair in place. His pale white skin was just like unscratched, flawless porcelain. You'd think those hags talking about him would simply adore him and he would be quite popular with all the other kids, the one they'd all want to play with and befriend. However, in truth, Tom Riddle was a monster that they feared above all else. He had a deathly glare that could be miles away and still give you shivers. Not to mention all the strange things that just seemed to happen around him.
Ever since the incident where Billy Stubbs's beloved pet rabbit was hung from the rafters by its ears, the rumor came around that you would be 'cursed' if you even so much as looked at Tom for more than a second. The other orphans had come to think of him as pure evil, the son of Satan, the devil in disguise. Meanwhile, the staff whispered about his seemingly new sociopathic behavior. He was born an odd child, but for some reason in recent days it had gotten a lot worse. Very soon Tom would bump up his status to a full-blown psychopath and would probably try to kill one of them in the near future. Even though no one could prove it was him, the rabbit didn't hang itself from the rafters, now did it?
All the rumors were true. Well, mostly true…
You see, Tom Riddle had discovered around age six that he had these strange powers that could make things happen. It was not exactly 'cursing', but these abnormal abilities. Even he had no idea why or how he got them. But, it's not like he was going to object to being out of the ordinary in a place where everyone was so painfully plain and boring. Based on mostly conjecture and the little facts he had, Tom predicted he was born with these strange powers. He was born an irregular freak. Mrs. Cole had told him his mother had been in the circus, when he had a very brief nagging period about where his real parents had gone. It made sense he was a freakish being, having been spawned from show freaks.
Tom hadn't really had much awareness or control over his powers until a couple years ago. However, ever since then, he'd been using them to torment and torture the other orphans of the orphanage. Eventually, everyone started to leave him alone, out of the fear of what he could possibly do to them if they got too close. Their imaginations ran wild, but were not considered to be so outlandish since Tom had grown the creativity and mindset of a serial killer. In his mind, everyone around him was garbage and filth. There wasn't anyone worth talking to or befriending in such a dull, miserable place. The others just didn't get what it was like to have all this power and be so viciously different. Even at such a young age, they were all engineered to shun the abnormalities that made people different, which evidently left Tom exiled from the others, whether he tortured them with his powers or not. He was perfectly fine with it, though. He would have rather been left alone anyway.
Tom looked up from his reading to give the two women, both blatantly staring at him from the hall, a glare of pure detest. They shot up from their seats immediately and started fast-walking down the hall, clunking clumsily over their chairs in a desperate attempt to get away. He smirked to himself a little and went back to his reading, like he hadn't done a thing. Unfortunately, Tom only got in a few sentences, when Mrs. Cole came marching into the room. At first, he thought it was to scold him for the obvious act of terror he had inflicted on those hags. However, then he noticed there was a girl awkwardly shuffling behind her. Mrs. Cole clapped her hands, getting the attention of all the kids in the room and they all gathered in front of her and the newest arrival.
"Everyone I'd like to announce we have a new member joining us today. Please make her feel welcome." Mrs. Cole smiled. The kids tried looking behind her, to catch glimpses of this addition, but the girl was hiding silently behind Mrs. Cole, clutching onto her trunk for dear life. Tom was the only one to get a good view of her because he had refused to get out of the corner for something as trivial as a new girl. However, he did look at her. Tom had glanced at her, out of curiosity and maybe the slightest hope for someone interesting. She was staring at him too, just staring at him. Her eyes were transfixed on the corner, like she was unsure if he was real or ghost. Tom pretended to go back to his book, in the hopes she would quit her incessant stare. Finally, after what seemed like several moments, she stopped and walked out in front of Mrs. Cole so everyone could see what Tom saw. The girl appeared to be around eight. Her hair was down in large wavy hazel locks that seemed to perfectly match her eyes and contour her pale rosy cheeks. She dressed a little nicer than the other girls, but not very fancy. The peter pan collared floral dress rose just above her knees, displaying two short legs with a speckle of scattered scars. Tom's stare had gotten caught specifically on the gruesome imperfect sight with a slight curiosity. She was a rather plain looking girl, beyond her intriguing series of scars, yet had some sort of radiance about her that made her sparkle and stand out amongst the crowd. It was most likely just the illusion of being the shiny new arrival. It would soon go away as she became assimilated into one of them. Although, Tom strangely felt that there was something about her that was familiar to him, like he'd seen that incessant stare and light eyes before. However, there was no possible way he could've known her unless she had been here before, which was even more unlikely, considering both your parents normally only died once.
"Why don't you introduce yourself, dear?" Mrs. Cole suggested, gesturing with her hands for the girl to step closer to the other kids. She decided to remain her distance, but still spoke on command.
"I—m—Frankie. It's a—a pleasure to meet you all." she muttered, at the floor more than anyone in particular. Tom was listening from the corner, unable to really do much else considering the scene the new girl was making. He noticed it was an awkward, stiff introduction. The girl didn't give much confidence in her own name and forgot to give her surname with it. It wasn't a particularly odd thing, considering her age, Tom was just making more observations and judgments. A wave of whispers washed through the crowd. They were most likely judging her after only introducing herself, like Tom was, only louder.
"I'll take this, dear. Why don't you start getting acquainted with everyone before supper starts?" Mrs. Cole insisted, grabbing the trunk from her. Frankie looked as if she wanted to protest, but didn't say anything about it. The second Mrs. Cole stepped out of the room the other girls immediately swarmed around her, while the boys trudged off back to their own games. Tom stopped his unintentional staring, as the annoying group of other orphanage girls began introducing themselves. She was most likely going to become one of them within the hour. However, something about her made him look up yet again, unable to focus on the words of his book. Even though the scene she was making was mostly over, it was odd. The more he looked at her, the more she looked like she didn't belong with them. The more out-of-place she seemed in the group she was supposed to mirror identically. Maybe it was just because she was a new element, but Tom thought she had a different aura then the rest of them. Then, unexpectedly, Frankie looked his way again too. While the group of girls were busy talking with a slight exclusion, she casually slipped out and started walking towards him.
"Hello, my name is Frankie. What's yours?" she smiled, holding out her hand. Tom didn't answer her. He was frankly shocked from the sudden friendly gesture. It had been so long since someone attempted to be so kind with him. Perhaps, the other girls hadn't told her about him yet, which was strange because it seemed like their favorite thing was to tell stories of their run-ins with him in the past. They were all insufferably, dramatic damsels. Surely, they must've told her how strange he was and how he would curse her if she didn't stay away.
Well, it didn't matter if she didn't know right now. She would learn soon enough. No matter how different she seemed from the rest, once she found out about him she would be the same as everyone else. He was just about to tell her to go away, when Amy Benson swooped in, grabbed Frankie's other hand, and pulled her back toward the group. Tom sighed in relief at the problem that had solved itself and simply went back to reading, desperately trying to think no more about her oddity. Meanwhile, Amy was still pulling along the confused new girl who didn't understand what was happening.
"What're you crazy? You shouldn't go near him." Amy gulped, once she believed they were at a safe enough distance.
"Why? He seemed really nice." Frankie stated, gazing back at him in the corner of room. Even though she never really got the chance to talk to the boy, he didn't seem all that bad. He actually looked kind of lonely, sitting there, separated from everyone else.
"He's incredibly dangerous! You'll get cursed if you so much as even look at him." Amy trembled. The other girls joined in on the paranoia, immediately knowing she was talking about Tom, and started telling their own stories about him. However, Frankie was barely listening whatsoever, her gaze was still fixed on the boy himself. They were so afraid that they wouldn't even use his name. The boy was referred to as 'He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, or 'You-Know-Who'. Despite the fact, Frankie didn't even know who and she couldn't accredit these outlandish stories, she was expected to hate him. She didn't understand why, though. Why was everyone so frightened of him? The more she looked at him, the more he just seemed like a normal, lonely boy.
"Supper is ready!" Mrs. Cole called. Everyone hurried towards the door with tremendous speed, except Frankie and Tom. He sat unaffected by this sudden announcement, while she was wondering whether he had heard her or not. Amy came back and grabbed her once more, leaving Tom alone. He soon finished the paragraph he was reading and shut the book, only to find that he had once again been left behind. Tom silently sneaked back up to his room, while the other kids were washing up, not wanting to be at such a social occasion with that strange new girl around.
Once supper was over, the kids were forced to return upstairs to their rooms until the lights were supposed to go out. Frankie had not been showed her room when she arrived, so she wandered the darkening upstairs corridor, very lost. She didn't want to bother Mrs. Cole or the workers with something so trivial and be a burden on them, so she decided to figure it out herself. Not knowing what else to try, Frankie decided to open one of the many doors without knocking. What she found in room 27 was Tom Riddle, sitting on the bed, reading in the dim light, looking no different than he had downstairs in the corner. He looked up, saw her awkwardly standing in his doorway, and scowled.
"What do you want?" Tom demanded, clearly angered by this sudden unwanted intrusion.
"I'm sorry. Mrs. Cole never showed me my room, so I—"
"So, you just decided burst into people's rooms and disturb them. Brilliant idea." Tom remarked, having already mastered perfect sarcasm at only eight years of age. Surprisingly, Frankie didn't take his anger and sarcasm to any offense.
She just smiled.
"Not a very well thought out plan, I suppose." Frankie laughed. The laugh seemed to fill him with a warm, fluttering feeling. Something he'd not experienced since his powers came in. It was the kind of laugh that made you want to laugh as well, even if the situation wasn't even remotely funny. However, for someone like him, laughing at something other than the pure pain of others was pretty much impossible.
"If it's your room you're looking for, it should be one right next to this one. Room 26." he answered, pointing at the far wall to his left. Although, he didn't actually know that. There were a few vacancies at the moment, but 26 was generally always empty. If it was not, Tom made it so. Kids would rather double up on rooms, then be close enough to the Antichrist that he could hear them breathing through the thin walls.
Once Mrs. Cole finished checking her trunk for valuables, she would already find Frankie snuggled up in room 26, convinced she belonged there. It was not her room. However, it could've been hers, if Tom really wished it to be. And, for a curious moment, that was what Tom wished.
"Thanks!" she remarked, giving him a small wave goodbye before shuffling out to head to what was her right. The word filled Tom with some kind of other kind of gooey feeling he was not used to. He had heard it somewhere before. Not just anybody's "thanks", her thanks. How was that possible? Why couldn't he remember? He dropped the notion in seconds, figuring it was pointless to try and solve it. Even if he did, it certainly had no meaning to it. For all he knew, he saw her on the streets one day and picked up her dropped handkerchief, or something else positively trivial. It surely didn't matter. Tom had just gone back to reading and got through a few sentences, when the door suddenly burst open again.
"I never got your name." Frankie added. She had rushed back just for that, to learn his name. She had acted as if it was the most important thing in the world. His cursed common name.
"It's Tom. Tom Riddle" Tom answered.
"Okay, then. Bye Tom. I'll see you tomorrow!" she exclaimed, waving goodbye again as she closed the door once more. Meanwhile, Tom stared blankly at the door for a second, confused about what just happened. She knew. The stories, all the whispers and rumors, he knew that she had heard them after Amy had pulled her away. Yet she laughed normally in his presence, even smiled when she spoke to him. This girl was an utterly bizarre anomaly and he already wanted nothing more to do with her. However, there was another small part of him that kind of wished she'd once again come flying through the door to ask him more trivial, meaningless questions.