I know I haven't been updating as often as I should (and unfortunately I don't think that will change with school starting again) but I just want to offer my heartfelt thanks to those of you who are still keeping up with this story. I've read a lot of Tom Riddle fanfiction over the summer, and I know my own stories pale in comparison to some of the absolutely phenomenal fics on here that make my Tom look very OOC. So, I'm honestly shocked people are still reading this, which pales in comparison to so many others, and I really am grateful. Again, thank you all so much.
"Mrs Cole," Danielle asked politely, clasping her hands behind her back and smiling up at the orphanage head, "Do you know where Tom went?"
"Outside, dearie," she replied absent-mindedly, not looking up from the stack of paperwork piled on her desk.
Danielle's smile disappeared. Well, that was it. They would never find him now. But the always-optimistic Billy patted her shoulder, saying, "We're sure to find him eventually."
She tried to search for Tom's footprints once they went outside, but the freshly fallen snow had completely covered any sort of tracks he might have made. Danielle groaned and wrapped her scarf firmly around her neck, staying close to Billy so as to conserve body heat.
"If you don't mind me asking, Clara, why exactly d'you want to spy on Riddle?" he asked as they braved their way through the grounds of the orphanage.
"He's up to something he shouldn't be," was all Danielle could think of. "I need you to act as a decoy."
Her great-uncle looked worried. "A decoy for what?"
She paused and bit her lip, looking thoughtfully at him. She hadn't figured this one out properly. There was no way Billy would be able to escape if Tom tried Legilimency on him. "I don't know," she said honestly. "Let's just try to find him first, all right?"
She had a hunch where he might have gone, and when they ventured by the Leaky Cauldron she stopped and said to Billy, "I think he's in there."
He frowned. "By that bookshop?"
"Yes," Danielle lied. She wasn't about to open up a whole other can of Flobberworms and explain to Billy why there was actually another building there that he wasn't able to see. "Can you keep a lookout?"
"Sure," the boy readily agreed, and Danielle went into the pub.
It was warm and crowded, with wizards and witches of all ages sitting at the bar and around the tables scattered around the interior. Danielle wrapped her scarf around her face so that just her eyes were showing. Tom would probably be able to recognize her, but having some sort of disguise, albeit a poor one, made her feel better all the same.
She ordered a Butterbeer and as she sat at the bar, sipping the delightfully foamy liquid, her eyes fell on a tall figure standing by the fire. Bits of snow were melting into his dark hair and his ghostly-white skin sharply contrasted his black coat. He appeared to be arguing with the man next to him.
Danielle stealthily pulled out her wand and cast a spell that would temporarily sharpen her hearing, knowing that Hogwarts wouldn't be able to find out she had used underage magic since the area she was in had such a high concentration of witches and wizards.
"I'm sorry, but you cannot use the Floo network!" the man was saying. "Grindelwald has blocked all forms of travel across Europe."
"There must be some way," Tom replied in a low, charming voice. "It is important that I get over there. Surely you understand, sir."
"I do, but you'll get yourself and everybody in this room killed!" the man said, his voice rising higher. A bit of liquid sloshed out of the cup he was holding and he impatiently grabbed another one, downing it within three seconds. Danielle guessed he and Mrs Cole would get along very well.
"Are you certain that it is an impossibility?" Tom asked. His voice turned pleading, and Danielle wondered if he was still acting.
"Yes," the man said impatiently. "Now get out of here before I hex you."
Danielle quickly ducked her head back down as he went back behind the bar, red in the face. Tom stared at the fire for another moment before turning sharply on his heel and striding out of the pub.
She massaged her temples while waiting to make sure he was completely gone. She was disappointed and, more importantly, disgusted with herself. He hadn't come back to London to be with her, as she'd been stupid enough to believe—he'd come back to see if there was some way he could get to Albania. Danielle couldn't believe she'd been naïve enough to think that he did it for her.
Feeling her heart drop, she finished her Butterbeer and left the pub as well. Billy rushed up to her as soon as she came into view. "I saw Riddle leave," he said triumphantly. "Did you talk to him?"
Danielle shook her head. "I made sure he didn't see me."
Billy paused. He knew that they didn't go to an asylum like the rest of the orphans believed, and he suspected there was something odd about them, but he had never questioned exactly what. Danielle figured he didn't really want to know.
"Are we going back already?" he asked.
"Yes," she said. "I have all the information I need."
She looked closely at his face. It was plain that he wanted to stay away from the orphanage a little bit longer. "Fine," she relented. "Let's go get something to eat."
But they were only halfway to a Muggle café when a distant alarm began to wail. "An air-raid in the middle of the day?" Danielle groaned.
Billy shrugged. "It's not like the Germans are going to wait until dark." He led her down a nearby flight of stairs into an underground shelter. They wove their way through the crowd that was pouring into it as the loud drone of the airplanes became audible above them.
Danielle wrapped her coat more tightly around her shoulders, thinking of casting a warming spell but ultimately deciding it would be too risky. She hoped Tom had made it back to the orphanage in time—although she knew he would be perfectly safe. It wasn't as if he would hesitate to use magic if he was in any sort of danger.
A bomb must have landed particularly close to their shelter, because there was a deafening explosion and the very earth shook around them, sending chunks of rock falling down from the ceiling. As Danielle shook the debris out of her hair a loud shriek sounded from several rows away.
"Shush, Cecilia," a male voice soothed—a familiar male voice. Danielle leaned forward and tried to catch a glimpse of the speaker. There he was again—a man who looked like the older version of Tom. Her heart stuttered.
Making a split-second decision, she muttered to Billy, "Be back in a minute," and hurried over to where the man was sitting with a pretty girl with coiffed hair and large eyes.
Tom's double looked irritably up at her, not seeming to recognize her from earlier that day. "Yes?" he asked touchily.
"Er, hello," Danielle replied, suddenly remembering she hadn't thought of anything to say. "I was just—you look very familiar."
"I'm Tom Riddle," he said haughtily, and her heart skipped a beat.
"Oh," she said. "I've heard of you…" He looked away, bored, and in a desperate attempt to get him to listen she blurted out, "I know your son!"
His head snapped around and he glared daggers at her. "Don't say that," he hissed, but Danielle wasn't scared of a Muggle.
"He told me that his mother died and you've been heartbroken ever since," she invented wildly on the spot. "I just wanted to offer my condolences."
"That witch was no wife of mine," Tom Senior spat. "She hoodwinked me."
Hoodwinked? Danielle wondered if that meant she'd used a Love Potion on him, and her throat suddenly went dry. "What—what was her name?" she asked.
"Merope Gaunt," the elder Riddle said, spitting on the ground. "Dirty, disgusting family that was…"
"Wait," Danielle gaped. "Did you say family?"
"Yes," Tom replied suspiciously. "The old man, Marvolo, was carted off to some prison. Good riddance. His son Morfin still lives there. The wife died years ago."
Danielle's eyes widened. How could Tom still have family when Vetus Periculosus claimed every member in its victim's family? She could understand Marvolo still being alive if it was the mother who carried the gene, but how could Morfin—Tom's uncle—have survived?
"Listen here," Riddle Senior was saying. "Don't tell him you met me at all. I have no son as far as I'm concerned."
"Of course," said Danielle. She turned around and walked back to Billy, ignoring the white-hot pain that was suddenly stabbing at her forehead.
She knew Tom was a half-blood—it was common knowledge in her time that Voldemort was not of pure blood—and the fact that he had a Muggle father and witch mother, that, too, was taught, but she hadn't known that his mother, who had died in childbirth, was a direct descendent of Slytherin. She wondered how many other times Professor Binns had spoken about the Riddle family in her fourth-year History of Magic class, and regretted sleeping for the majority of them. Of course, she'd had no idea then that the information would become as valuable as it would. She guessed Tom already knew that he had a Muggle father and she wasn't sure of the investigating he'd done into his mother's family.
So how could he still have remaining family on Merope Gaunt's side? The mystery plagued Danielle even as her headache got worse and the right side of her body temporarily went numb.
She only knew one thing to do. If Tom was going to work on his own, then she had every right to work on her own as well.
Tom never gave any indication that he knew she had been spying on him at the Leaky Cauldron, so of course Danielle didn't bring up the matter. She wondered if he had given up on finding a way out of Britain for the time being.
Georgina, meanwhile, was another mystery. She was very outgoing and bold, speaking to the other orphans as if they were equals. Tom's animosity toward her was evident; he'd told Danielle that she was using Occlumency against him. She wasn't sure whether this was occurring because Georgina was exceptionally powerful or because Tom was getting weaker.
If Danielle hadn't known, she would have hardly guessed that it was Christmas, since the holiday was always a dismal one at the orphanage. Danielle and Tom didn't exchange any presents. She suspected that he'd gotten rid of the diary she'd given him the year before, so she didn't feel the need to buy him anything else.
No mention was made of Tom's seventeenth birthday on New Year's Eve, aside from Danielle slyly asking, "Aren't you glad you don't have to use the Undefinable Location charm anymore?" He gave her a condescending look, unimpressed.
They were sitting in the bedroom she shared with Georgina while the annual illicit party was currently raging downstairs. Georgina had gone down to investigate, so Danielle had chosen to spend the time with Tom instead. She was sprawled out unceremoniously on her bed and he was sitting beside her, studying one of his textbooks intently. It was unusual they got to be this close for such a prolonged period of time, and she reveled in the semi-normality of it.
Neither of them spoke, each finally content, until a ring sounded from downstairs as the clock chimed midnight.
"Happy 1944," Danielle told Tom and reached up to kiss him. He held her for a second longer than he usually did, but just as she deepened the kiss she was wracked by a violent wave of dizziness and her grip slackened on him.
"What happened?" he asked as she struggled to clear her head.
"Nothing…I just moved too fast," she lied. He continued to look suspicious and, pretending to shrug it off, Danielle quickly looked around for something to do. Her eyes landed on a pile of books sitting on Georgina's bedside table and she grabbed the first one she could, flipping through it without looking at the words.
"You are interested in time-travel?" Tom questioned, and Danielle's head snapped up, alarm clearly visible on her face.
"What?" she stammered.
But he simply smirked in response and she glanced down at the book she had been pretending to read. The Mechanics and Paradoxes of Time-Travel, the title read. Why in the name of Merlin's pants would Georgina be reading that book?
"Oh…" Danielle said, relieved. "Yes. I find the entire concept fascinating."
"Really?" Tom asked, still smirking. She glared at him and smoothed her finger out on the page she had landed on. "…the time-traveler's curse is an ailment that has been studied for years…"
Danielle rolled her eyes. The paradoxes that were associated with messing up the timeline were certainly curses all right—she sincerely hoped she hadn't caused any. Then again, Dumbledore didn't seem too worried whenever she brought up the subject, so she doubted she should be either.
Without warning, Georgina burst into the room and Tom immediately stood up. "Don't let me disturb you," Georgina said sarcastically.
"It's not what it looks like," Danielle began, but the other girl gave her a knowing look.
"I've known about you two since I got here," she answered. "I can tell by the way you look at him. But don't worry, your secret is safe with me." Her eyes landed on the book Danielle was holding open. "Why are you reading that?" she demanded, sounded almost panicked.
"Er, sorry," Danielle quickly apologized, handing it back to her.
The force of Georgina's answering glare startled her, and she recoiled back from the angry gaze. Why was she so upset? Danielle watched her warily, feeling a sense of despair set in as yet another question popped up. It seemed that no matter what she did, she couldn't stay content for long.