Chapter 16

"Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. "

― Edna St. Vincent Millay

There is frankness that one must exert when playing chess with physical beings — creatures of unmoving stubbornness often need a push in the right direction when unable to grasp his subtle hints. Which, he hated to admit, happened from time to time due to the incompetence of the fools that harboured titles of position. Tom had hope for the 'boy who lived'... but as of late he was beginning to find himself disappointed in his abilities to move past loss.

Grief was a poison and Harry Potter was succumbing to the deadly toxins seeping through his skin instead of adapting. Perhaps Hermione was right…. wickedness may not tarnish the golden boy's shiny exterior but guilt most certainly did.

It seems like a change of tactics was in order.

Slowly Tom's head tilted to the side as he watched the boy move through the home below him, his attention pulled by the body put to rest in the center of this well-esteemed home. Her figure is almost angelic as she lays upon a bed of roses and nightshade. Harry, of course, was not distracted by the brutality in which her chest was split open by the soft brown curls framing a warm friendly face.

Ah, to which his grief was willing to distraught him. Even the smallest of similarities would send him into a strong wave of distress. It was pathetic really. She claimed he was stronger — He had believed the boy was stronger than that — but that was before the fool went and allowed this killer to play him like a fine fiddle.

That was Tom's job, and he didn't much like sharing his toys.

Nose scrunching with disapproval Tom shifted back into the distance, palming the device in his hand. Quietly the man moved, bringing himself to the house's balcony to overlook the cityscape in the distance. Distant lights were scouring the property. Police officers and agents on the prowl for evidence. Souls that were entirely ignorant of his proximity to the lone boy within the large home.

A lone boy who was currently spiralling like an utter fool.

It seems like Tom was going to have to get his hands dirty, which was the least preferred option but he wasn't going to let the dolt of a boy fall to something as ridiculous as a likeness of Hermione. As far as he knew his Hermione was 'dead' and he needed to accept it and grow from that loss — Not cling to it.

It honestly wasn't that hard of a concept to follow.

With a scoff, Tom lifted himself to the balconies ledge and walked the slim railing towards the rooftop of the building. He would need to have the best vantage point for this excursion, a place where these fools wouldn't think twice about searching. High enough to watch the boy from the skylight above but open enough to watch the stars one to live under a dawning sky. He supposed intervening wouldn't take too much fun out of the game… in fact, it could very well add that much more considering how the boy will react.

A cruel smile slowly pulled at Tom's lips, teeth exposed to the shine of the falling sun. Well in that case. The device is hand clicked as he lifted it to his lips, button pressed to expose his vocals to the floor below.

"Mr. Potter, do pull yourself together."

His voice echoed hauntingly from the house bellow, muffled by glass and walls. The boy jerked, ripping his gun from its holster to point the deadly weapon towards the source of his voice. Of course, dear Harry was entirely unaware that Tom was nowhere to be found within the building. No… he was simply borrowing the home's speaker system.

Tom's laughter filled the room, dancing from speaker to speaker in a jaunting harmony of sound. Harry pivoted sharply, shifting his gun to follow the noise as the sound shifted. The boy knew that Tom himself was not currently present, but he was unwilling to drop his guard.

"Only I get to hold her image over you, do not let this fool get in your head with such idiotic means. It is below you."

He doesn't answer, but Tom catches the shift of darkness over his form like the image of a looming shadow. It was painted in the light of a man losing himself to rage while the word turned red around him. It was a much better sight than his grief. Easier to use. Easier to control.

"Stop looking at what they want you to see and start looking at what they don't want you too, Mr. Potter. Why are they targeting you now? What are they getting out of tormenting you?"

"I thought you would have skipped town by now, Tom." The boy answers with a voice carried by the acoustics of the large room, but Tom didn't miss the way his name was spat with a particular brand of disdain.

"Skip town?" Tom sniffs back and an amused scoff at that. "You insult my sense of honour, Mr. Potter. Running only has a place in a coward's playbook."

"Honour?!" The boy spits, his body contouring in the wake of his fury. "Tell me where was the honour in killing an innocent woman, Tom?"

"I never had the intention of killing Hermione, Mr. Potter." Tom hummed into the room below, his mind falling back on the night in question. The draw of blood. The battle. It had been a glorious incursion."Unfortunately, sweet Hermione had made poor choices that night in particular. I am confident that you will find pleasure in knowing I left that encounter with just as many battle scars as she."

He doesn't move… but there is a sense of disbelief forming on his face. Though Potter could never hide that deep sinister hope that Tom had suffered as much as she must have.

"I have never felt more out of control of my rage before," Tom tsked gently before continuing. "Though that is to be expected when a defiant little witch decides to stab you."

Harry laughs then, a sound bitter as a tart berry bursting across the planes of the tongue. Twisting gnawed muscles until they contort in a way that looked as painful as it tastes. Though Tom wonders if this pain tastes more like dirty pennies to the boy, lingering as if her blood was soaking his tongue with the sheer guilt he bared on her behalf.

"Good." Harry pushes through what every emotion is pulling his ligaments taunt. Tom still sees it though, lingering beneath his skin with a violent crash. The storm of a raging sea throwing itself against the crumbling cliff that was his sanity. "I hope it fucking hurt you sadistic bastard."

"Indeed, dear Hermione exceeded my expectation." As always, Tom silently mused. "But enough about me, Mr. Potter, neither you nor I have come here to exchange pleasantries. We have come here to solve a murder."

"I came here to solve a murder," The boy snarled, slowly backing himself towards the closest wall. Smart. Harry was making sure to cover his back, less vulnerability to the potential dangers. "You are here to do nothing more than antagonize me into doing whatever task your twisted mind has created. Replacing the toy you broke."

Now there was a tone he had never heard from the boy. It was practically murderous. How fascinating.

Perhaps there was hope for that tarnished wickedness just yet.

Murderous was also a much more desirable tone that the 'deer in the headlights' he had witnessed earlier.

"Don't be crass, Mr. Potter," Tom purred. "We both know she was much more delicious than a mere toy."

To Harry's credit, he had not engaged in Tom's banter but instead chose to shoot out one of the speakers — making his feelings towards the matter very clear. Antagonizing him with Hermione was, clearly, an 'off-limits' topic. Fair enough, Tom supposed. It was the least he could do considering he had her, figurative and literal, blood on his hands.

Not that he considered Harry's feelings enough to take the boy upon the prompt but he could play 'kind' well enough for the time being.

There was a distracting flurrying of commotion, the shout of panic and disarray as a team of officers stormed the front doors. Gun poised, ready to take aim at whatever Harry had felt the need to attack. His smirk flickered as the esteemed forces found themselves questioning the boy's actions instead. Albus was quick to take in the flicker of a broken ambience speaker, unlike his fellow companions. To be expected really… but the clear look of disappointment weighed heavy in the old man's eyes.

Never let your guard down and never second guess that boy like you did her, Albus.

That's how you'll lose.

"No need to take it out on the electronics, Mr. Potter. Now, as amusing as watching you struggle is, I have better things to do with my time than watching some idealistic and wanton simpleton control you." Tom sighed with false exasperation, his mouth quirking in mirth as the group of men stiffened in the wake of his voice. "They are projecting Mr. Potter, now ask yourself why?"

Sirius Black, unsurprisingly, didn't hesitate to make a plan of attack after that. With a face set in determined stone, he waved the men passed him, encouraging each to fan out and search the area. It was a valiant effort. Sirius always the dark knight ready to fight corruption with rebellion and sheer defiance. So ready to find the murderer that effectively demolished their investigation with a single person.

They had been their own undoing, to be fair, but none of those barbarians were willing to admit it. Especially to themselves.

The team relied on Hermione's abilities far too much— took advantage of her good nature and paid her with misdeeds. Now the reality of their faults was hanging over them like a noose in the rafters. They could do not but listen as it screamed guilt with disdain so sharp that it made ears bleed in a singular plea of forgiveness. That plea would never be to enough of course.

They would never be worthy of her forgiveness…. and Tom would make sure she came to understand that.

"Mister Black, it's a pleasure as always. Best not waste time with searching as you of all people never locate me. Pure spite does not make for a good police ethic." Tom sighs as he watches his personal bounty hunter shift through the darkness with slow-moving steps. "Besides, there no more clever Lilly's around for you to rely on."

The shot through the room crackled with a thunderous wave within the foyer. Just as violent as the last. The act just as defining. Everyone stiffened, their eyes shifting to their superior officer as he glared up at the speaker he left in shambles. Tom, on the other hand, rolled his eyes at the act.

Honestly… now Tom saw where the boy got his god-awful habits.

"Touchy, touchy," The disappointing click that left Tom's mouth did nothing to hide the amusement behind his words. These boys and their clever woman. How quickly they succumbed without their assistance. First Mrs. Potter herself, then Hermione… one would think Albus would have learned his lesson the first time. "fine since two remain to be rather sensitive let us continue on shall we?"

"Tom," There was a hesitance in Albus' voice as his eyes scanned the roof above. Their eyes met in the cold distance between them; A flaring red beating against twinkling blue. Though Albus did nothing with that information. The man above' s eyes narrowed on the elder's face before stepping back from the edge with an irritated lurch within. Muscles rigid, spine stiff. Tom was furious. How predictable of Albus to know of his whereabouts but to leave the rest of his precious inspectors ignorant. "Why reach out now when you have the eyes of the whole country on high alert?"

"Ah, such a questionable inquiry. One I certainly have asked myself in passing," Tom made a slow circle, turning his back on the scene below and turning his gaze upwards. He couldn't help but wonder what Hermione was getting herself into in his absence — Trouble, most likely. It seemed to be her specialty at this point. "Perhaps It was the fact I found myself in need of stimulation, or perhaps I grew tired of your inability to grasp the easiest of concepts. I gave you everything you needed to solve this case, yet here you are."

"Disappointed in me, Tom?" Albus questioned softly, almost quite enough to be missed but it was not. Tom's eyes snapped back to the man's face, the scowl was deep and unsettling.


"Is that why you took her," The old man was getting much too confident in his words, as unflinching and insensitive as they were. It seemed both Harry and Black looked appalled by the very sounds he continued to make. "The disappointment that she could grasp your clues and we could not?"

There was silence for a long while. One none of them had expected, certainly not Tom himself, but it seeped into the air around them with a poisonous cloud. Noxious in its sheer ignorance. Foolish man. Blinded by his deluded sense of 'greater good'. How ignorant would one have to be to still overlook the accomplishments of a single woman for the star child he had so selfishly set his eyes on.

"I took her from you," Tom's reply was slow, but it rubbed like a stone across a blade. Sharpening a dull surface with such renown force it bit into the skin, intended to harm. A weapon exchanged by the tongue. "Because you did not deserve her. "

"Did you deserve her then?"

"You ignored brilliance for the sake of playing with the broken." He speeches, entirely ignoring the elder man below in favour of talking to him. How dare Albus attempts to steer the conversation with petty ramblings. Such absurd manipulation attempts were things Tom had stopped falling for long ago.

Albus was no longer playing with naive children and broken soldiers. He was playing with fire and grief. Fuel and bitterness. Soon his little minions would realize that too… so Tom continued. "You did not need someone who would see through that saintly veneer of yours. No, you needed a broken soul to worship you with ignorance instead."

"You have never had a soft spot for another person before, Tom. why is she any different?"


Why is — she any different.

Damn it.

"Careful Albus, someone might realize you are building the narrative again." Tom's face pulls into a feral grin as the elderly man below stiffened, those glassy greys falling from the skylight to the face of the girl. A secret they both knew haunted the old man. Screamed at him from the darkness from the fear of a long lost truth being known.

Albus would evade the subject quickly. Drawing the attention away from himself and onto something much more pressing. So Tom prepared to be outed by the man who was so desperate to avoid the truth.

"I see." Albus's voice panged like glass against a solid floor. It seems like the old man was doing quite the opposite of what Tom expected… but it was still something that shattered an unspoken truth across the ground with all its sharp little edges.

Always just had to ruin Tom's fun didn't he? How childish and utterly like Albus.

He knew. The bastard knew that Hermione wasn't dead but continued to let his team believe otherwise. He let them grieve. Let her family grieve…. all whilst holding the truth like a precious tool.

What had given it away?

What mistake had Tom made when it came to planting the evidence? There must have been something the old man had found which gave away the forgery.

Damn it.

A deep rumble echoed across Tom's vocal's before he forced himself to turn away from the scene. He couldn't risk lingering much longer… though — he was willing to still have the last wording the matter.

If Harry wanted something concrete to push him to convict and turn his attention to his mentor then Tom was going to give him a shove.

"Do give my regards to Gellert, Albus." He growled lowly into the device before disposing of the item over the building's ledge. The crash would draw enough attention away from his current position to leave the area without notice.

He had given the boy enough hints.

It was up to him to put it together now.


Harry's mind had stalled, an ungreased cog ticking against the gears of Albus Dumbledore's choice of words. The sound crunched into his mind. Sickly and detached in the very way those words were spoken.

How could Dumbledore address her death this way?

Like— like it was some cheap occurrence that one should forget and forgive?!

Unknowingly Harry's guard dropped, his gun feeling heavy in his hands and it's barrel lowered to the floor. Green eyes scoured Albus's face, analyzing his actions from posture to sight. He was looking to the speakers above, eyes twinkling in a softness Harry himself had only seen a few times before. One he got while talking about sherbet lemons… or a particularly defining case.

Harry followed the line of sight. Gently allowing the words of his rival and mentor to fall deaf on his ears as he eclipsed Albus's being for a mere second. His skin felt cold yet his blood thrummed through his body with a hot flame as his gaze connect with — not the speakers — but one Tom Riddle as he watched them from the skylight above.

Disappointed in me, Tom?

Fury presses across the curves of Riddle's face. The look upon his face was pinched with a disingenuous dissatisfaction. It bought a deep pain, a coldness that didn't belong within Harry's heart. It could have been because Tom hadn't noticed Harry… for his mind was far too encased by the twinkling falsehood that was Albus Dumbledore.


But something… something was telling him it was because they knew each other.

There was a deep familiarity between Albus Dumbledore and Tom Riddle. One more potent than a man and his convicted. A hatred deeper and more vast than any source of spite one might hold towards someone who spent their life hunting them. No, this was… familiar… like the scorn of an unloved child who did nothing but fall short of their parent's expectations. The self-hatred of someone who never felt enough.

"I took her from you," Tom growled and Harry's heart sank. "Because you did not deserve her."

Harry had always known that in Tom's own, sick way, he felt himself a protector of sorts. A black knight that killed predators within the darkness and filled it with beauty. Most of his victims stemmed from a certain... perversity. Monsters with masks of gold which he promptly demolished. Tom painted the world with morbid pictures and a deprived sense of justification. There was always a reason. Always a purpose behind the death.

He had spent so long believing that she was amongst the victim's Tom had claimed through 'necessity'. A mere claim to drive home a point his pursuers were missing — like his parents had been to Sirius.

But this was different. Tom had never been trying to prove a point because harming Hermione was never about him… it was about Albus. It was about the fact Tom respected her and Albus had not.

I never had the intention of killing Hermione, Mr. Potter.

"Did you deserve her then?"

Harry's heart lurched as his woeful green eyes dropped back to the elderly man. There was a calmness to Albus that Harry could not understand. He held a posture that seemed entirely too comfortable in Riddle's presence; there was no eagerness. No need to inform anyone of the knowledge of the killer's presence either. Just… ease as he addressed Tom with the claim.

To Harry's surprise, Riddle was rising to Hermione's defence but there was a certain bitterness behind his voice that Harry could not overlook. It was as if Riddle was not speaking about just Hermione. As if there were some unspoken implication behind this rather molten fury.

Riddle believed Hermione could see the truth of Albus' dark shadows when no one else could and he admired her for that. He had wanted to see her in Albus' downfall… then why would he steal her from it?

Unfortunately, sweet Hermione had made poor choices that night in particular. I am confident that you will find pleasure in knowing I left that encounter with just as many battle scars as she.

He knew then that Riddle had never lied on the matter. There had been no intention to kill Hermione… just simply one that removed her from Albus's influence. And… just like that Riddle's choice of 'Death and the Maiden' had an entirely new meaning that screamed all the horrors of this reality into Harry's mind.

A man on his knees, pleading with Death as if he could have saved the Maiden.

Killing her… had been a mistake.

Harry's knees nearly buckled with the weight of that realization. Albus was the answer to everything. It had been something so vital. So prominent of the whole world view yet Harry had overlooked it because of admiration. This current killer's choice of victims — their choice of flowers with death. The closeness to the Grindelwald cases. Albus's aberration towards the case itself. The riddles. The name it was spelling — God, Hermione's notes named Dumbledore and Riddle left said note at the crime scene to be discovered!

This was about him!

It was always about him.

Harry watched as Albus stiffened, but found himself unsure as to why. It took but a moment to realize that his internal panic had left him deaf to the conversation.


What had he missed?

Albus' eyes had dropped to the girl on the floor before his eyes went glassy with a sudden sadness. There was grief that wrinkled the lines of his eyes and a sharpness of determination behind it. Guilt. Disdain. The need to not waver in the waiver in her presence. Not the victim, of course… but the woman he saw in the face of every victim.

The woman he had failed.

His sister.

"Do give my regards to Gellert, Albus."

Harry's brow pulled in confusion as his superior's face drained for but a moment in the wake of that name. Which… now that Harry thought of it, sounded extremely familiar. Gellert. He had heard that name before.

Somewhere in the back of Harry's head, he knew that Tom's proclamation meant he intended on leaving. The sudden burst of movement around him was clue enough for that. He just couldn't find the will to loosen his cemented knees as he watched Albus sharply turn from his spot on the floor. He was making headway for the main doors and the night beyond without any word to those on a search for the man whose location he knew.

A hand on Harry's shoulder jolted him from his near hypnotic trance he found himself in. With a jerk, green eyes shot to the face of his God-father… a man who looked entirely concerned.


"Who is Gellert?" He had asked it without entirely meaning too. The words spewed forth from his tongue without thought. As if his body had known were to seek the answer.

A stiffness pulled Sirius taunt. Soft greys darted questionably around the room, searching for ears who might listen in on such words. Safety first. Eyes and ears everywhere… and who knew which ones they could trust.

"Not here," Sirius spoke quickly, voice lowered into a soft husk in which only Harry was privy to. It was never a good sign. Though it was one that fit snugly into his newest discoveries.

Discoveries of which he had yet to accept.

But if he was correct… than they were ones that he needed too.


I went 'home' today. Whether

or not it is home is yet to be

seen, of course, but it appears


There is much to do here.

Vast libraries, countless shelves and

books which I intend to become quite

personal with. Learn them from cover to

cover and memorize every word in

between. There is also quite a

spectacular botanical garden within

the grounds.

I once asked my benefactor if it

was for scientific purposes, to

which he smiled but did not answer.

I suspect it is for anything but.

Thankfully, my benefactor is impressed

with my thirst for knowledge, even

more so with my educational

disposition. He said despite my lowly

upbringing I am undeniably


I was meant for great — even

terrible, things.

Albus does not share his eagerness.

Hermione had reread this page in the diary about a dozen times by now. Her mind desperately attempted to tie red strings to the chaotic puzzle that was Dr. Tom Riddle.

Albus… could be anyone of course. There were many Albus' in the world… so what could the chances be that this Albus was indeed Albus Dumbledore?

A billowing emptiness was invading her being, sweeping from limb to limb with beckoning nausea. There were so many implications which could be applied to such circumstances. She, herself, had heard Harry and Sirius questioning Albus's involvement in this matter. She sat for hours watching them pour through files on the Hallow cases. Listened to the horrific death of the youngest Dumbledore which led to Grindelwald's defeat. She had heard of their love. The connection and ultimate betrayal.

But what were the chances that there a killer who had taken a young Tom Riddle in his steed and groomed him?

What were the chances that a killer also knew a man named Albus?

What were the chances that another Albus in the area also was dating a man who happened to be a murder?


All those chances were low.

And she wasn't sure how she felt about that.

Ahhhhhh I know, I know it has been a long time. I'm the worst but hopefully you all can forgive me.

Hope you all liked it, I apologize for the shortness of the chapter.

I scrapped my original plan that I hit a road block on forever ago. Figured taking a clean break work be the best solution. Turns out that was exactly what I needed!

Thank you everyone for being so patient with me!

Happy Halloween season!