Chapter 59

The Dame and Her Trinkets

Two years past. Two years seemed like it be enough time, enough time to make a decision, enough time to have become truly immortal, considering Tom's extraordinary skills. Unfortunately, there sat Tom, on a dusty stool at the cashier desk of Borgin and Burkes, completely unchanged. He was just flipping through The Secret of the Darkest Art like it was just some boring, common, muggle book, instead of the most powerful and evil source of reading material to have ever been written. It's not like the information within the pages intrigued him as much as it had those many years ago when Frankie had first discovered it. Now, it was basically just memorizing the techniques and saving them away for future reference when he eventually got out of Borgin and Burkes. If he ever got out of there that was.

His main motive for being employed at this shop was to find something rare enough to make a Horcrux, but in the two years he'd been there had found nothing that "intrigued" him. Everything seemed too common for his taste. The next Horcrux had to be like the Diadem. Historical, one-of-a-kind, significant, those were the items he wanted. Sure, some of the things brought in were rare, but still not an item anyone would kill to get their hands on, an item they couldn't destroy even if they wanted to.

"Are you reading that damn book again?" a voice asked, unknowingly breaking Tom from his deep mental thoughts. He looked up from the book slowly to find one of his bosses glaring down at him. The shop was run by Mr. Borgin and Mr. Burke, if it couldn't have been already guessed by the name of the shop, however only ever Mr. Burke was ever around to run it. Mr. Borgin practically never ever came back in whenever he went out. Even Tom had only seen him a few times over the two years he had worked here. Mr. Burke was getting on his jacket and trying to stop his greasy black hair from getting into his eyes.

"Yes, sir." Tom answered, obediently. He had learned by now talking back was the wrong idea in a place like this, Mr. Burke was far more dangerous of a man then you could have thought. Like Tom had noticed, when someone came in with something extremely peculiar that Mr. Burke really, really wanted, you saw it in his eyes. There was this mad, crazy look that looked as though he would just kill them to have it. Tom only noticed because, in the past, he had gotten the exact same look. His eyes flashed red and his gaze looked murderous, like he was going to kill whatever he was staring at.

"Good. Glad you're still educating yourself in the dark ways, might come in handy..." he answered. Surprisingly, he didn't shout and swipe the book from Tom's hand this time. He usually hated Tom reading at his desk when he was supposed to be there 'working'. Perhaps, he was just into much of a rush to care, which meant whatever he was going out for must've been something good. He started for the door immediately, stomping away from Tom and swinging open the tinkling door. "Man the shop. I'm going out for a bit."

A few long minutes went by where all you could here was the dull ticking of the old grandfather clock in the corner, which never seemed to get sold for some odd reason. Then suddenly, the bell on the door chimed with the first customer of the day. A young woman walked in who was around Tom's age, like most girls who wandered in here, with long raven hair. She was looking around for a few seconds at the creepy skulls and eyes in bottles before turning her attention to him. "Hello."

"Good day, miss." Tom answered, turning on his charms now that there was someone present. He stared into her dark eyes so intensely it looked as though he was trying to peer into her very soul and mind. "Is there anything I can help you with?"

"Oh—not particularly. I just—"she stammered, not daring to meet his cold gaze again. But suddenly his dark eyes were not on her as well. His eyes were fixed on something outside. A noise, a muffled noise, made by something in the alley. The sound that was like a hacking cough could be heard as something jet black had flown across the window.

"Great, then get out of the way." Tom muttered, cruelly. He pushed passed her and ran out to the front of the shop. Tom stood in the narrow alley, looking around a little, before finally spotted what it had been. He sighed as a fat blob of an owl sat on the roof, looking quite reluctant to leave its spot, as it stared towards the horizon.

"Twilit! Get down here you dumb bird. You don't want to be attacked by the crows again do you?" he demanded. The owl noticed his voice and flapped his wings in preparation to go down. Twilit took one or two flaps before he practically fell off the roof into Tom's arms. He sighed and carried him inside; ignoring the stares he was getting from the young woman he had been talking to. "Finally…"

Attached of course was a letter. This one was tied with a pumpkin orange ribbon and had black cats and pumpkins drawn on it that were apparently supposed to be somewhat frightening. Only she would send a letter like this...

Dear Tom,

Happy Halloween! I hope you're doing well over at Borgin and Burkes. I'm sorry I still haven't been over to visit, but Dumbledore has been keeping me pretty busy over here in the castle. Also, quite honestly, Mr. Burke scares me. Remember that time I accidently went down Knockturn Ally and went in Borgin and Burkes? You pulled me out right after I touched that strange locket. You thought it was going to be cursed sitting in a place like that, but I really don't think it was. Then, Mr. Burke came down shouting at us to get out. School has started once again and it's just been rather hectic with all the new first years. No one names I recognize yet, but I suppose in a few more years I'll be seeing all are friends children running around the school like we did. It feels like only yesterday sometimes.

I really hope you're not overworking yourself over there. I worry about you a lot, it's not healthy to work so much. You should really take a break and come visit the castle. I'm sure Dumbledore would love to see you again, I know I would. I haven't seen you in almost two years. The last time I saw you was when I was out shopping with Ogg and Hagrid for some of the nastier pest control items in Knockturn Alley and you were working. It was only for a second, do you remember? I'm sure you can't, I don't even think you saw me…"

Yes, she was still at the castle. It was her own sort of place holder job, until she figured out where she was going in life. But, unlike Tom, she held no ulterior motive for being there. She loved the school and was most likely going to stay there. Forever, unless he manned up and collected her before then.

Tom was reading the letter so intently; he had not noticed the young woman leave. Nor did he notice the next person walking in. Well, whoever they were, they asked him quizzically, "A letter from Frankie?"

"How in the—"

Then, Tom actually looked up. His short, chubby, mouse-like friend stood before him almost unrecognizable. He was looking quite professional and mature, after two years' time and held a look of a more accomplished man rather than a boy who got teased almost every day and was always treated like a slave by his supposed friends. He might've even lost a bit of weight. "What are you doing here, Peter?"

"Just came for a visit, you must get bored sitting here all the time." he shrugged, like it was just a stop on his way home.

"How could you guess? Not only does he no let me go out to get some of these things, he hardly allows me to be out of this stool." Tom answered, bitterly.

"Well, you're the one who wanted this job in the first place and technically retrieving artifacts is not part of your job. You're just a store clerk." Peter said, in the same matter-of-fact tone Tom and Frankie always used. However, Tom had never heard Peter use it before. "I'm sure once he feels he can trust you with dangerous artifacts he'll let you retrieve them."

"It's been over two years! Why doesn't he trust me already?" Tom argued.

"He probably thinks you look like you're going to walk off with something valuable." Peter sighed, unable to do anything more for his friend's bruised ego. "So, what did Frankie write? Haven't seen her in ages, but she still writes me and Ellyn all the time."

"That's a lie. You and Ellyn work in the department of Magical Education. You can visit her whenever." Tom snapped back, knowing by ages Peter meant like months, not even a year.

"We're not supposed to actually go down there unless there's some kind of emergency and it's not like the Heir of Slytherin is just running around nowadays." Now, younger Peter would've never said that, he would've most likely agreed and offer to take Tom down there with them the next time they went. That was a thing about working at the Ministry you had that look, that confidence. All the Slytherin boys had that now. While Tom, who had always had it, felt it slipping away every second he worked in this dusty old shop. "So, what's going on?"

"It's the same old, same old, down at the school. Dumbledore is keeping her 'busy' supposedly. Honestly, how should I know? I'm stuck here and she's trapped there." he answered back, grudgingly. Tom knew that Peter already knew what was going on at school. He didn't need him to tell him.

"God, it's not like she's being held there against her will," Peter argued back. "If you miss her so much, take a day off and go visit her."

"I'm not leaving, not till Burke trusts me." Tom replied. It was an excuse of course. He couldn't even begin to tell Peter about the Horcruxes. No one could know. If he started telling anyone, eventually it'd get to her and she was the last person he wanted to know. At least, currently she was the last person. It was always a back-and-forth debate with himself whether to tell her about them or not. Tom concluded to wait until he had seven and had actually achieved immortality before telling her anything. That way if she were to turn away from this side of him, Tom would still have what he had always wanted.

"Just give it a little more time." Peter sighed, once more, probably growing tired of telling Tom the exact same things over and over. "You are going to for back for her, aren't you?"

"Who knows what I'll do. Even I haven't a clue most of the time." Tom replied. He sometimes wondered if he should just stop trying to hold onto her and just let her go. Deep down Tom knew that Frankie would be repulsed if she knew all his secrets and he was too deep in the dark to just simply let them go. He had Horcruxes, for starters, and it wasn't like he planned on sticking his soul back together. To her, they were dark and repulsive creations and he had three of them.

The door slammed close as Mr. Burke returned to the shop. He looked even more aggravated than before he had left and had a few new crumbs on his jacket. He immediately took notice of Peter and Tom and walked over.

"Stop loitering around, you." he sneered at Peter, towering over him like a giant despite Peter's growth spurt. "Tom, get back to work!"

"Ack! I'll see you some other time then, Tom." he squeaked, making a break for the exit. Suddenly, Tom could see the small mousy boy returning to his old self once more.

"Bye Peter." Tom said, sounding bored and listless, but also had somewhat of a smile on his face as he stared down at his book. His friend had not changed completely after all.

"I don't pay you to sit around chatting you useless desk clerk!" Burke shouted. Tom had forgotten he was even there and looked back up to see the glare of his boss.

"Sorry, sir. He just came in." Tom claimed, innocently. Even though he really wanted to retort on how he doesn't pay him much at all, he restrained himself.

"Well, don't let it happen again…"

"How was Ms. Smith?" Tom asked, analyzing the crumbs on his jacket and his attitude. He could tell he had gone to the house of Ms. Hepzibah Smith, a wealthy witch who was a frequent shopper at Borgin and Burkes. Every time he went to her house he came back empty handed, covered in cake crumbs, and releasing the anger he had not shown in her presences.

"Stingy broad is keeping all the good treasures to herself. She won't even let me have a look," Burke muttered back, darkly "And after I sold some of them to her…"

"What is it this time, sir?" Tom asked, curiously.

"She's got some goblin-made armor that would go for quite the galleons." he answered. "You should go try Tom—fancies you she does…"

"But, sir, I'm just a 'useless desk clerk'." Tom replied in excuse, faking an innocent sort of mocking tone of voice.

"You may be a worthless piece of nothing, but I've seen you work. You can get a woman to buy or sell anything." Burke added, not seeming to notice Tom's wittily sarcastic phrase. What Mr. Burke said even sounded like praise, not a very good thing to be praised for, but praise none the less.

"It's not really my doing. Women are just stupid when it comes to men." Tom said, thinking about one in particular. His sweet, little, Marjorie. Out of all the girls he had ever swindled into love, she had been the most foolish.

"Look you want to do this or not!" Burke shouted, obviously taking notice of the wit and sarcasm now.

"Fine, then."

He got dismissed from work early and was confined to his room on the second floor of the store to get ready to see Hepzibah. Burke wanted him to make himself presentable and practice. Practice, what? If he meant swindling women of valuable keepsakes, Tom did not need practice. He had once convinced a young lady to buy a rather beautiful cursed opal necklace for twice its worth. As she was walking down Knockturn Alley she decided to try it on… It was brought almost immediately by Mr. Burke, laughing sinisterly at the 'poor luck' the girl had died mere feet from the store. They took what was left of her money and god knows where Burke had taken the body. Yet even though it was supposed to be a gruesome experience, it was one of the only times he had ever praised Tom for something.

Since he had no need of practice he just sat at his desk reading Frankie's letter over and over. He remembered the time she almost touched that locket. It was gold and oddly shaped and gave him an extremely bad feeling. He hadn't wanted her to touch it. He also remembered that minuscule second they saw each other. It was his first summer working, almost a complete year since the wedding, and he was making change for a toothless old man buying a shrunken head. Tom had seen her hazel shade shining in the summer light as she walked by and knew there was only one person in such a place who would have that particular shade. A bag of flesh eating slug repellent in her arms, she gazed into Borgin and Burkes as she passed with Hagrid and Ogg. She had given him a friendly wave, hoping he would return it, however, he hadn't. Of course, Tom would've flat out run out of the shop for that chance to talk to her for even a minute or two. But it was a shining moment that he let walk on past. She wasn't allowed to stop and he wasn't allowed to leave.

Tom arrived at the manor at four, where the old woman lived with her house elf, Hokey. He knew it rather well by now for it was actually not the first time he had ventured to Ms. Hepzibah Smith's manor. He had met her in the shop his very first morning on the job and took interest in him right away. Ever since then she kept insisting he come over to her house. Mr. Burke, always thinking he might bring back something good from her collection, let her take him. Tom sighed and straightened the tie of is suit, making sure even though he felt like hell he would look as presentable as he could. He ran the doorbell once and could instantly here a hurry of steps and crashing of items to get it, most likely Hokey.

"Good evening. Is Ms. Hepzibah Smith in at the moment?" he greeted the small elf, as she opened the door.

"Of course, she's been expecting you. This way, sir." Hokey answered, in her high squeaky voice. She gave him a low bow, trying her best not to make eye contact and allowed him into the house. Hokey led him through the slightly cluttered room, tripping over even more items then she had getting to the door. They soon saw Ms. Hepzibah smith sitting in her chair as usual. She was very overweight and wore robes of pure pink and an elaborate ginger wig at all times

"I brought you flowers." Tom smiled, quietly, producing a giant bundle of roses from midair. He stared at them for a moment. Roses. The symbol of love and beauty. All the girls swooned for this old magic trick, yet every time he performed it he always thought of her burying her face into bouquet of light pink carnations, inhaling their Sugar Quill-like scent on the very last day of school. Tom always had to try his best to block it from his mind or he would end up with the same pink bouquet in his hand.

"You naughty boy, you shouldn't have!" she squealed, excitedly, grabbing the bouquet of roses from his hand and setting them into the empty vase on the table besides her. She was expecting them. "You do spoil this old lady, Tom….Sit down, sit down…. Where's Hokey? Ah…"

"Help yourself, Tom," Hepzibah remarked, practically shoving a plate filled with pastries in his face the second he sat down in the opposing armchair. "I know how you love my cakes. Now, how are you? You look pale. They overwork you at that shop. I've said it a hundred times…."

He forced a crooked mechanical smile and Hepzibah simpered. She seemed to know now that Tom had ulterior motives for coming to see her just by the look on his face.

"Well, what's your excuse for visiting this time?" she asked.

"Mr. Burke would like to make an improved offer on the goblin-made armor," Tom added. "Five hundred Galleons, he feels it is a more than fair—"

"Now, now, not so fast, or I think you're only here for my trinkets!" Hepzibah pouted.

"I am ordered here because of them," he answered, quietly. "I am only a poor assistant, madam, who must do as he is told. Mr. Burke wishes for me to inquire—"

"Oh, Mr. Burke, phooey!" Hepzibah whined. "I've something to show you that I've never shown Mr. Burke! Can you keep a secret, Tom? Will you promise you won't tell Mr. Burke I've got it? He'd never let me rest if he knew I'd shown it to you, and I'm not selling it, not to Burke, not anyone! But you, Tom, you'll appreciate it for its history, not how many galleons you can get for it."

"I'd be glad to see anything Miss Hepzibah shows me." Tom answered, flashing a charming smile. Hepzibah gave another delighted squeal and clapped her hands to summon Hokey.

"I had Hokey bring it out for me….Hokey, where are you? I want you to show Mr. Riddle our finest treasure….In fact, bring both while you're at it…."

"Here, madam." Hokey squeaked, when she returned with whatever it was. Two leather boxes stacked on top of each other that both looked rather ordinary. She shimmied around tables and clutter until she was by Hepzibah's side again.

"Now," she said, happily, taking both the boxes from the tiny elf and placing them in her oversized lap. "I think you'll like this, Tom….Oh, if my family knew I was showing you….They can't wait to get their hands on this!"

She opened the first box and Tom peered inside to have a look. It looked to be just a shiny gold goblet, however, with the wrappings it was hard to tell. Surely, it had to be something far more extraordinary than that.

"I wonder whether you know what it is, Tom. Pick it up, have a good look!" she whispered, as if it were some sort of secret. Tom extended his hand and lifted the cup up from its silky wrappings.

"A badger," Tom whispered, softly. The four founders of Hogwarts each had an animal to follow along with their house and this was one of them. A badger. There was only one person this cup could have belonged to. "Then this was….?"

"Helga Hufflepuff's, as you very well know, you clever boy!" Hepzibah clapped and gave a pinch of whatever fat was left of his cheek. "Didn't I tell you I was distantly descended? This has been handed down in the family for years and years. Lovely, isn't it? And all sorts of powers it's supposed to possess too, but I haven't tested them thoroughly, I just keep it safe in here…."

She swiped the cup from Tom's skeleton-like fingers and gently placed it back in its box. Hepzibah spent a few moments trying to get the cup back into its original position, obsessing a bit on having it be in the exact same spot it was before she took it out. A few moments she should've been looking at Tom. He gave a cold, icy glare as he watched her. A dark look passed and went as she finally got the cup into a position she was content with.

"Now then," she smiled, looking around wildly for something. "Where's Hokey? Oh yes, there you are— take that away now, Hokey."

He watched silently as the small elf took away the first treasure. Hepzibah, however, was moving onto the second box and Tom turned back to it with curiosity. This second box was smaller and much flatter, but whatever was in there was surely not to disappoint.

"I think you'll like this even more, Tom," Hepzibah whispered. "Lean in a little dear boy so you can see….Of course, Burke knows I've got this one, I bought it from him, and I daresay he'd love to get it back when I'm gone…."

She flicked open the clasp and lifted the lid of the box open. There amongst the scarlet velvet was a heavy gold locket. It was the strange one he and Frankie had seen that one day in Borgin and Burkes. He wouldn't have recognized it if it hadn't been for Frankie's letter. However, this time he noticed something new, something that he had not the last time. On the front, was a slithering serpent in the shape of an S.

"Slytherin's mark." Tom whispered, taking it from the box and shining it up to the light.

"That's right!" she smiled happily, at the sight of him gazing at her treasure such a mesmerized gaze. "I had to pay an arm and a leg for it, but I couldn't let it pass, not a real treasure like that, had to have it for my collection. Burke bought it, apparently, from a ragged-looking woman who seemed to have stolen it, but had no idea of its true value—"

Tom knew in an instant that she was talking about his mother and his eyes flashed scarlet in anger at her words about her. How dare she call her a thief? Although, he can recall his uncle has said something of the sort. "Robbed us, mind, before she ran off! Where's the locket, eh, where's Slytherin's locket?" At the time he didn't know what to make of it. Tom was just so angry at him, for calling her slut and talking so ill of her. It was what made Tom, strike him down and frame him for the murder of the Riddles. It's also what made him respect her and start protecting her in death, for she was not to blame. It was his father and his grandfather and his uncle…"Dishonored us, she did, that little slut! And who're you, coming here and asking questions about all that? It's over, innit. . . It's over. . ."

"—I daresay Burke paid her a pittance but there you are...Pretty, isn't it? And again, all kinds of powers attributed to it, though I just keep it nice and safe…" she went on saying.

What a foolish thing to do…

If Slytherin's Locket belonged to him, like it should have, he wouldn't let it waste away in a box collecting dust, that's for sure. She suddenly reached out for the locket and of course he didn't want to let it go. It was his mother's last and only keepsake, his ancestor's locket, it practically belonged to him. However, he let it slip through his fingers as the second treasure was taken from him.

"So there you are, Tom, dear, and I hoped you enjoyed that!"

He had enjoyed it all too much and now that the treasures were taken from him he held a bright red gaze, the gaze of anger and desire.

"Are you all right, dear?" she asked, her foolish smile faltering.

"Oh, yes," Tom answered, weakly. "Yes, I'm very well…."

"I thought—but a trick of the light, I suppose—" Hepzibah laughed, nervously. "Here, Hokey, take these away and lock them up again…. The usual enchantments…"

"I really must be off now." he said, hastily. His desires were beginning to show a little too much. It was time to withdrawal for the day. Tom could've always killed her right then and there, but the risks seemed to run to high. He needed to bide his time, think and strategize a little beforehand, or else he would slip up.

"Aw, that's too bad. Can't you stay just a little longer?" Hepzibah pouted.

"As much as I would like too, Mr. Burke wants me to get back to my duties as a shopkeeper." Tom answered.

"Alright then, until next time." she smiled, giving him a small wave goodbye.

"Until next time, Ms. Smith…" he whispered, making a bit of rush for the door. Tom looked to be somewhat excited and full of so much more life then he had been early.

This was it! It was just too perfect, two birds with one stone. He hadn't seen any such object that had intrigued in such a while. The significance that they held was just exquisite. They would be the perfect things to make Horcruxes out of. He still needed four more. A nightmare from long ago had told him seven was the number he needed to strive for if he ever wanted to become immortal. Such an invincible, unbreakable number of Horcruxes, nothing and no one could stop him.

Mrs. Hepzibah Smith died a few days later. The cause, Hokey poisoning her afternoon cup of tea. That was a real laugh. Meanwhile, Tom was stuffing a shiny gold cup and locket next to his silver tiara and raggedy old diary into a small bag with an Undetectable Extension charm on it. He really did need to find a place to hide these things, several places, in fact. Besides the fact Mr. Burke would kill him if he knew Tom possessed any of these items, except his diary, putting them all in one place would be careless. But, for now, he had no choice but to keep them hidden in the bag and pray Burke didn't find them.

Now, it was time for him to return to his stool, sit, and try to write a reply to her without mentioning absolutely anything about how he was feeling or doing. It was quite a hard thing to do, considering he had just gotten away with murdering someone for the third time. But Tom somehow managed to compose a short simple letter to her, talking of Peter's brief visit and a couple of stories of odd things that had happened to him while he was working. He gave it to Twilit and he took off again.

He now only needed two more Horcruxes. Making the cup a Horcrux with Hepzibah as his victim and the locket with some muggle tramp he found fool enough to be wandering the streets that night. Just two more. The physical strain had gotten worse making two at once, since Burke got his goblin-made armor as well as some other juicy trinkets he let Tom take a few days off, which he spent hacking and cold sweating in bed. It felt different having five Horcruxes, like something inside him had changed. He felt even weaker than he had ever felt before. However, this time something miraculous occurred. Tom, rather than staying in the hospital wing for weeks, came back from the strain mere days later. It was odd, abnormally odd. In fact, he felt better than he ever had before. Tom felt stronger, more powerful, maybe even a little more invincible. It was also shocking and maybe even a little bit frightening to him. It was proof that he was becoming altered and the Horcruxes were working on him. He was turning into something else.