AN: Broken Hearts on Canvas is told in two parts. It's very different, but hopefully in a good way. There is no magic, only a mean little boy and an estranged girl who likes to hold hands with monsters.
Part 1 – the Orphanage Ghoul
"I am selfish. All artists are selfish and self-centered,"
- Chaim Potok, My Name is Asher Lev
1947 - present
"Good night, Madame," calls Hermione, wrapping a scarf about her neck and zipping up. Behind her, Madame Pomfrey begins to shut down the shop.
"Oui, oui. Good night, Errrmeeahne," the woman returns, in a thick French accent that mangles her name into a thing of rolling 'r's and horror. "Remember, ve are opening early tomorrow!"
"Got it." Hermione says adieu and ducks out of the dress shop, glad to be away from the overpowering stench of floral perfume and the very finest of London's stuck-up English prunes. For some reason, all those snooty customers seem to think she has the fashionable brains of Chanel - all because she has a snazzy-looking nametag and stylish uniform - when in actuality, she couldn't fill the tip of a thimble with vocabulary that is even remotely vogue.
She tries to explain this to customers time and time again: I just work here, but they never listen.
The tragically large amount of brain cells deleted by their nose-hair-murdering perfumes and all those fashion magazines must be the cause of their short-term deafness, surely.
Hermione consoles herself with the encouraging thought that soon she will have scraped up enough money to finally go to school, to make something of herself and get a real job. To be her own boss.
Outside on the damp street, she shivers when a fiercely cold wind roars by, tightens her scarf, and flings an arm up in the air to catch a cab. She has to get back to the Dursleys, the family of three she most unfortunately bunks with due to the fact she can't afford her own apartment, and Petunia Dursley is going to pass a gallstone if she shows up late again.
God forbid the neighbors know about the bookworm living in their spare bedroom, Hermione thinks, snorting under her breath. The Dursleys are unbelievably preoccupied with appearances. She is going to have them diagnosed for OCD by a therapist tomorrow morning.
For a short moment as she defrosts inside the backseat of the cab, Hermione fondly recalls the red-headed family she worked for when she was nine. She remembers Ron (she'd had a horrible crush on him when they first hired her, hadn't she?), Fred and George (she tattled on them for their pranks incessantly), Charlie (who had a kind of geeky fascination with dragons), and sweet newborn Ginny with the cutest tuft of carroty hair on her head. She wonders what ever happened to her dear Weasleys…
Suddenly, her pleasant memories are rudely interrupted – as they always are – and a cold chill flushes down Hermione's spine, making her close her eyes and clench her fists against the panic that suddenly rises in a sickening, claustrophobic wave that taunts every one of her senses. That threatens to eat her whole.
It is brought on by no one other than him.
The boy who turned her childhood into a never-ending nightmare, who broke every promise and spins more lies than there are numbers, who looks like an angel but has the mental complex of a contemporary Lucifer. Even now, after six years, the slippery snake has a way of sneaking into her every thought just as he did when they were children.
He is the Devil reincarnated.
He'd been her world for six years.
He is, naturally, Tom Riddle.
1936 – eleven years earlier
"Here you are, luv," says Mrs. Weasley, a kind smile on her freckly face as she bends down toward Hermione. "Put that in your pocket and make sure no one sees it. I don't want any of those crooks getting your pay – you worked hard for it."
"Thanks, Mrs. Weasley." Hermione puts the two shillings deep inside her satchel and waves to the Weasley family. All six of them are bundled in their homey flat two sizes too small just inside the threshold she now stands on. Five red-headed children shout out their returning goodbyes – Mr. Weasley, who is off in the factory where he works part-time and builds parts for ships, already said his parting an hour past – and Mrs. Weasley, rosy-cheeked and kindly stern as a Mary Poppins, hustles Hermione away, warning her to get going before it got dark.
The door to the Weasley's apartment snaps shut, bolts clunking with the turn of the lock. Mrs. Weasley's delicious meal fills Hermione's stomach pleasantly and she sighs, turning on her heel and starting down the narrow, steep stairs to the first floor.
Sometimes, she wishes that she was one of the Weasley children. They are always so cheery, as if they don't have a care in the world. Not a care for their financial situation. Not a care for the Great Depression that had swept over all of England like a flash flood, along with other heavy burdens of a world war.
Hermione doesn't have the luxury of being careless though.
Still, things are getting better, she reminds herself. I'm making money for all of us. At this thought, an enormous sense of pride fills the small space in her body unoccupied by Mrs. Weasley's hearty supper, and she lifts her chin a little higher as she marches down the rainy street. Yes, she is the supporter now. It is she who keeps her family running, who prevents the Grangers from slinking down into a slump impossible to dig out of.
It wasn't always this way though.
Just last year, she was going to an all-girls charter school, with supplied uniforms, a tidy little courtyard that had a cherry-red swing, and more books than she could count in the second-floor library. She'd started going there when she turned five and excelled quickly, skipping first and second grade with her impressive reading skills, then shooting right up to third before entering her fourth year at the age of seven. Her parents had been very proud.
And much more sorry to make her leave.
But their lives at home had become unmanageable – destitute even – and Mum and Papa were desperate after their family dentistry went out of business. Hermione had asked why they went out of business. Mum said people didn't have enough money to buy bread these days, much less enough to go to a pricey dentist to have their teeth checked. Papa said people didn't worry about cavities anymore; they worried about terrorists and Jews and Hitler.
When Mum and Papa couldn't find any new jobs, they enrolled for unemployment. The first check from the government, or the dole as Papa calls it, came days before the rent was due. It wasn't enough. Mum cried that night. Papa cried too, outside their one-bedroom flat long after midnight when he thought they'd all gone to bed. But Hermione saw.
Within the next week, she was pulled out of school to work.
Mum apologized to Hermione every day for months, saying she knew how much her baby girl loved to learn and that they'd get it all back one day so Papa could have his patients and she could have her education again – but after another six months without success of either, the apologies became less frequent, the promises less likely to follow through – until they dwindled down to nothing but starry dreams.
Papa comes home late most of the time now. What exactly he does out and about in London, they don't know. Mum would ask before, but Papa gets angry and yells at her when she does. Hermione had never heard her Papa – her sweet, tactile Papa – raise his voice before that.
Mum and Papa hardly ever talk anymore.
That's why Hermione has to work, why she has to make money, to put food on the table. Because she is the last string holding her broken family together.
Every morning except for Sundays, she wakes up at six AM and walks halfway across London to the little apartment building the Weasleys live in, and she cleans and scrubs the Weasleys' homey flat until every available surface shines like the top of the Chrysler building. Or so Charlie, the second-oldest of the Weasleys, who visits on holidays and lives in New York as a freelance journalist, had once said when he came over one Christmas and saw the waxed hardwood floors. Charlie wants to be a writer and make fantasy fiction about dragons. Hermione thinks his career choice intriguing.
Hermione doesn't know she has just seen her beloved Weasleys for the very last time.
"Mum, I'm back," she shouts, stepping into their flat and dumping her satchel on the floor. Her skin's sticky with sweat and drizzle from the long walk over. She retrieves the two shillings and fists them, hiding both hands behind her back and creeping forward.
"Muuuummm." She listens for a response, but doesn't get any. "Mum! Where are you?"
"In here, baby" comes the tired reply. Mum's voice travels out of the bedroom they all share and Hermione moves toward it, past the four-foot wide kitchen, tiny bath, and the radio and armchair serving as their living room. Her incredible hair cast a wobbly shadow.
"Mum, look what I've got," Hermione says excitedly, unraveling her hands into the open. But her mother does not turn from where she half-bends out the window, smoking a cigarette. The woman's gaunt body, which has shrunk two sizes in the past year, looks skeletal from this angle.
"I made two shillings," she continues, not one to be discouraged easily. "I found a penny on the way here and bought us half a loaf of rye. It's in my satchel now-"
"Baby." Mum is crying. "Baby, baby."
Hermione stops babbling and frowns at the back of her mother's head, swathed in a cloud of toxic smoke and failed dreams. "Yeah?" she asks.
"Oh baby," her mother continues to murmur, sounding dizzy. She moans softly. "Baby, baby…"
Hermione chews her thumbnail, a bad habit no one has yet to reprimand her for, and eyes her mother. "Mum?"
At the familiar call, the gaunt woman finally turns around, tossing the finished cigarette out of the half-open window behind her and tugging down the Venetian blind. It only comes down partway and hangs at a crooked angle. Grey evening light slashes into the bedroom in strips. The other half of the room, the side her mother stands on, is plunged into murky darkness.
Something shiny glints in Mum's hand.
"Baby, please don't give me that look," she says, tightening her grip on the pliers and blinking back tears. "I don't want to do this – you know that – but we need the money."
Hermione stares at her.
"Come here, baby." She waves her over with hands once soft and ripe with flesh, that once tucked back frizzy wisps behind Hermione's ears and caught the chocolate ice cream dribbling down her chin when she ate too fast. They look like spiders with bones for legs now.
"Baby." Mum's brow furrows with confusion. Hermione always listens to her. She's a good daughter. Never disobedient. "Come on now."
"Where's Papa?" Hermione whispers.
Mum's expression closes. It shuts down, a shoe shop gone out of business; it darkens, a storm building up thunder; it shivers, just as glass does seconds before it shatters into a thousand itty bitty pieces. "Papa left," she says flatly.
"Left? For how long-?"
"I don't know." Her mother is agitated and tears at her hair with one hand, dangerously whipping around the pliers with the other. "Forever, I suppose. We haven't seen him in days, so he could be at the bottom of the Seine for all I know, couldn't he?"
Hermione begins to cry.
At the sight, Mum's face softens like warm bread dough. "Oh baby, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to…" She sighs. "There's just not enough money. Not for everything we need. But if I could just-" She stops, then starts again. "Look, I'll make it quick. They're baby teeth, so they'll grow back. All I need is two molars. One is worth four pounds, you know. That could get us food for a few weeks, and then the other could pay for Mummy's special sugar. You know how much I love my special sugar, baby…"
Hermione's stiff with fear and her tears stop running now. She stands frozen while the shell of her mother croons and tries to calm her, her bony spider hands shaking from withdrawal and brown eyes eerily vacant. Hermione knows what she has to do then.
Mum knows too, a mere second before she does it.
"Don't you run, Hermione Jean Granger," she warns, lifting the pliers and coming forward slowly. Hermione tenses. "Don't you dare-"
The scream chases her out the flat, overwhelming the sound of the two shillings Hermione left on the bedroom floor, of the pliers sticking headfirst into the plaster wall exactly where her head was a second ago, of her footsteps rushing and tripping and fumbling down the stairs, of her falling down the last flight and ripping open a gash on her palm when it caught on a loose nail.
It chases her all the way to the inner city, where she finally stops running and catches her breath on the edge of an alley, gasping. She looks up at the sky through a messy explosion of matted brown hair.
London is a dangerous place at night, Hermione knows, and it doesn't help any that she's bleeding. She'll be helpless if one of those disturbed gents she's heard about tries to snatch her, and it gets real cold after eight o' clock in the fall. She needs somewhere to go. She needs help. She needs-
She needs Mum.
And she's crying again, in the way that only a child can cry. She cries with wild abandon and no care for anyone or anything else, with absolute misery, with gasps for air and hiccups when she eats up her tears and a huge wail just when she almost stops, burying her face in her sleeves and snotting all over them.
Just then, from a nearby café emerges a retired policeman by the name of Moody. His beer belly is warm with drink, his mind sharp and vigilant as ever. The sound of crying startles him and he looks around, his eyes – or should we say, one good eye – landing on a little girl with terrible hair crouched in an alleyway. He scowls and marches over.
"What are you doing out here alone, eh?" a gruff voice demands, startling Hermione out of the depths of self-pity and enticing her to look up. Her eyes goes wide.
The man before her is large and portly, with a jagged scar webbing across his cheek, scruffy blondish hair, a bowler hat, and a most intriguing glass eye. He wears a black trench coat as well and, rather interestingly, the jacket would have looked extremely suspicious on any other person, but it only made this particular man seem imposing and curiously mysterious.
"Well?" the man barks. "What are you doing out here? It's past curfew for you, innit?"
"I…I'm alone," she finally says. "I haven't got anywhere to go."
"No? Well, what about your parents?" the man says shrewdly.
"Haven't got any." Hermione doesn't usually lie, but she knows that if she tells the man about her mother he'll take her back no matter how hard she pleads otherwise, and she can't go back home. She remembers the pliers with a shudder.
"Well damn." The man sets his hands on his hips and growls in thought, looking around and scowling some more. "Well then, maybe you can go to…nah, can't do that…what about…? No, no, he moved out to Tyneside…and then there's…meh, perhaps not…maybe…maybe…Nah…never, not in a million years…well, there is that one…meh… Blast." He smacks his meaty hands together, matter-of-factly. "Yep, that oughta do it."
"What oughta do what?" Hermione inquires. Curiosity invested in the man's strange way of talking makes her forget her earlier troubles.
"Mrs. Cole oughta take you in, little missy, that's what oughta what," the man says sharply. "Now stand up, we've got places to go – well, one place anyway – and that woman owes me a favor. Yep, she'll take you in. Sure. No problem. That oughta do it." He starts to stride off, limping slightly due to what Hermione now notices is a right wooden leg. She hurries after him.
"Who is 'Mrs. Cole'?" she says, after they even their pace and cross the busy street. The man growls in annoyance.
"Mrs. Cole," he grumbles. "She is going to be your matron. She runs one of the orphanages here. It's a fine place, and you'll be lucky should she take you in."
Hermione nods, although she is taken off guard by this new bit of information. Orphanage? she thinks and hesitates in the middle of the crossing, without the man in the bowler hat noticing at all. She stares after his flapping black trench coat, ignoring the honks of cabs and their angry drivers screeching at her. She wonders if she should run now, back to her mother. Before it's too late.
It's been too late for months now, the voice of reason reminds her. Papa isn't ever coming back and Mum's been gone for a long, long time. Where else can you go?
The man in the bowler hat, who has seemed to finally realize she isn't following, turns back. "Hey! You coming or not, eh?"
"Coming." The answer is immediate, said in a whisper too quiet to hear in the city. Louder, she says, "Coming!" And then she sprints to catch up.
Hermione's first morning at an orphanage is an unpleasant one.
When she wakes up in her own bed (which is shabby, but very clean, just like the rest of the orphanage) and looks around to see a greyish, sad-looking room, she's bewildered. What is she doing here? Where is here? How did she get there? Where are Mum and Papa? Then she's petrified. Something's happened. Something really, truly terrible happened, didn't it?
But then the confusing remnants of dreams slithers away from her conscience and she realizes exactly where she is. And how she got there. And why she's there. And the really, truly terrible happening.
Mum and Papa are gone.
The man in the bowler hat – Moody, as it had been revealed when they arrived at the orphanage late last night and a woman (apparently Mrs. Cole) fondly called him this – found her after she ran away and brought her here. To an orphanage. To the orphanage she would now be growing up in.
She buries her face in the thin, limp pillow under her and cries.
Mrs. Cole, later on, finds her like this, and an understanding look comes over the woman's face - replacing the anxiety that usually flurries there like a skittish fleet of mice – and she soothes Hermione, coaxing her to go down to the eating hall and meet the other children. She says it isn't all bad. She says Hermione can make friends here and maybe even get a new home, with loving parents and a dog or two.
Despite everything, this calms Hermione. Even though she doesn't like the idea of having a new family.
After Hermione changes into 'uniform,' she follows Mrs. Cole out of her new room and into a spotless but obviously ancient hallway. It has black-and-white tiles for floors and a few children with morning duties scrubbing corners, soapy sponge and bucket in-hand. Mrs. Cole nods approvingly as they pass the children, who stare curiously after her and laugh when they see her bushy hair. Hermione flushes, embarrassed.
I don't think I'll like it here very much, she can't help thinking as they pass through more of the quaint building. Most of the interior is gray and washed out, impeccably clean and mismatching in furniture, and Mrs. Cole keeps up a comforting stream of blabber as they go down to what the matron calls 'the eating hall.' Hermione's attention is only distracted away from the setting of her new home by a few choice words, like not many toys and a lovely little beach we go to once a year. Oh, you'll love it, dear – and especially, the library.
"Library?" she says, straightening. "You have a library?"
"Oh, well, sort of." Mrs. Cole shrugs. "It's more of a relaxing room, really. It's got a few comfy chairs and some picture books there. You like to read, dear?"
Hermione nods. She'd have to investigate this so-called library later.
"Here we are," Mrs. Cole says, stopping them inside the eating hall, which is actually a large square room with greyish walls and two tall windows on each side of the back one. About six or so long tables jam-packed with children varying in all ages, a main buffet table where everyone apparently loads up their plates, and a good sixty kids wait for her.
"You'll fit in just fine," Mrs. Cole assures, patting Hermione on the head and irritating the little girl by doing so. The matron nudges her forward. "Go on, take a plate and pick a seat. I'll see you later." And she walks off, folding her hands behind her back like a drill sergeant and calling over an aproned helper for assistance. The doors swing shut behind her and Hermione is on her own.
She steels herself and goes over to the buffet table, selecting food slowly so she can take in more of the children inside the cafeteria. They all seem generally happy, yet there is an underlying glumness to their laughter and shouts. But of course, no matter how clean the orphanage they live in is, she reflects, it is undeniably a rather glum place to grow up in.
She bites the nail of her thumb, contemplating, and eventually wanders over to a table.
Its inhabitants notice her immediately.
"Who're you?" says one boy, sizing her up with blue-grey eyes and peering at her large hair.
"Hermione Granger," she answers timidly.
"Your hair looks like the wrong end of a broomstick." He grins nastily and his friends laugh, putting in more unkind comments until Hermione goes red in the face and stands back up, grabbing her plate and moving further down the table, to sit by a girl with mousy blonde hair.
The boys laugh harder.
The blonde girl looks up, glances at Hermione (then her hair, naturally), and finally at the snickering dolts. Her mouth screws up so it looks like she's bit into a moldy lemon. "Who're you?" she asks.
Hermione sighs. "I'm Hermione Granger."
"I've nevah heard o' that name before."
Well, now you have, Hermione can't help thinking rather rudely. But she doesn't let her feelings show. "What's your name?" she says instead, trying to be nice.
"Martha." Martha shoots another distasteful look at the boys down the table, muttering, "Those rats are Billy Stubbs, Eric Whalley, Sean O'Sullivan, and Peter Kowsakowski."
"Oooh," Hermione says, catching Martha's tone. "So I should stay clear of them?"
"'Them'?" Martha says, surprised. She shakes her head vigorously. "Nah, they're harmless. Stupid, yeah, but harmless." Her eyes narrow into slits and she looks around Hermione, at something behind her. "Who you should really stay away from isTom Riddle."
Tom Riddle? Hermione turns, craning her neck to try and see who Martha is glaring so intensely at. "Which one?" she says, scanning the vast sea of faces without success.
"The…uh…sort of good-looking one," Martha mumbles quickly. Angrily, she adds, "But if you tell anyone I said that, I'll pop you so hard you'll 'ave a black eye, Hermione!"
Hermione blinks. "Er, alright." She peers through the crowd again and after a minute Martha sighs, sticking out a finger in emphasis.
"What are you, blind? He's right there."
"I'm not blind-" Hermione starts to say waspishly, but her retort falls short at the sight of an extremely handsome boy sitting across the room, at his very own table with a finished plate of food and a napkin neatly spread across his lap.
"That's Tom Riddle," says Martha, satisfied.
Hermione isn't paying any attention to her, however. For some mysterious reason, she is transfixed by the boy. He's all alone. He has dark hair and, from what she can tell, dark eyes too. He's rather serious also, but doesn't look much older than the rest of them, and he currently scribbles something into an open notebook, glancing intently between it and the cup in front of him. Whatever he's up to seems to be very important.
What's he writing? Hermione wonders, chewing her thumbnail in thought. She wants very much to ask him.
"How old is he?" she says, turning away and finally starting on her own meal. The cereal she had poured out is soggy now. She eats it anyway. "Tom Riddle, I mean."
"Ten." Martha takes a chomp of a greasy bacon strip. Hermione notes that Tom Riddle is one year her senior. "He's lived in the orphanage his whole life though. He was born here." She reveals this in an ominous and knowing way, as if telling a well-known ghost story that never fails to induce goosebumps and spooked shudders no matter how many times it's been told.
"So what's the big deal?" Hermione says, pressing. "I mean, you don't seem to like him much."
Martha snorts. "No one does. I mean-" She sweeps a glance around them, one that surprises Hermione. The look in and of itself is surprising due to its contents: dislike and, oddly enough… apprehension. "He's a little funny – and I don't mean the good kind. Riddle does some…some scary stuff."
Scary stuff? Hermione leans forward, fascinated. "What kind of scary stuff?"
"Just stuff." Martha fidgets. Swats at a scavenging fly. "He makes bad things happen, so we just leave him alone. He likes to be alone anyway."
Hermione frowns. Who would like being alone? She hates being alone. Then there's no one to tell all the facts she knows to, to ask questions, to read with or laugh with or be smiled at by…
She finds herself thinking of Mum and Papa.
She and Martha don't talk again for the rest of breakfast.
It is seven-thirty at night when Hermione can finally go to the library.
She had been very busy today, spending most of her time with Mrs. Cole and touring the orphanage some more. The matron told her about the orphanage's practices, weekly trips to the chapel for worship, and all the rules. Mrs. Cole said she was to get a chores list soon, but that it could wait until she settled in some more. Hermione didn't mind. She was used to cleaning.
Right before supper, Mrs. Cole had delivered her to the eating hall again (although the orphanage is so small Hermione is sure she could've found it on her own), and she'd asked her if there was anything else she'd like to know. Hermione said she wanted to know how to go to the library.
Once she had the directions down, Hermione marched off into the eating hall and ate supper with Martha, although they didn't talk and Martha's obnoxious chewing bugged the living daylights out of her. But it was better than sitting with Billy Stubbs and all the other stupid-harmless-dolts.
Now, Hermione holds her breath and slowly pushes open the door to the library, which whinnies under her touch and groans like an old timer. Peeking her head inside, she is severely disappointed.
Mrs. Cole is right.
The library is nothing more than a tiny room, just like all the other boring grey rooms of the orphanage, with a few rows of shelves and some raggedy, outdated armchairs. It is nothing like the one from her old charter school, which is bigger than the eating hall and filled with more books than King Edward VIII has pounds.
Still, it's something, she reminds herself.
With this uplifting (sort of) thought in mind, Hermione dives into the shelves.
About twenty minutes later, the-creaky-old-timer door gives a groan, and Hermione nearly drops Great Expectations in her fright. She catches it barely though and darts behind the very end of the row into hiding. Squinting over the top of the book cover, through yellowing pages and squelched eyelashes, she sees a boy walk inside her newfound safe haven.
Looking closer, she sees the boy is no less than the orphanage's personal ghoul.
It's Tom Riddle.
AN: I wish Tom Riddle went to my orphanage. (Not that I live in an orphanage, but...)
Thanks for reading and please review! I'd love to hear your thoughts. :)