Under Lock and Key
24 July 1978 - August 1978
After leaving the head auror's office, Tom went back to the Longbottoms' home and retrieved the money he'd earned and managed to save earlier in the month. He then made his way to Gringotts and opened up an account. He deposited both his money and his horcrux inside his vault.
To ensure that the horcux would be safe, Tom placed several curses on the horcrux that would activate should the person retrieving the horcux not be himself or someone intending to revive him. As an additional precaution, he camouflaged the horcrux so that it'd blend in with his money. He wanted to also place a charm on the vault so that he would be notified if anyone were to enter it, but he ultimately decided against it: Gringotts was known for being one of the safest places to store one's money and valuables, and taking additional precautions would give away the fact that there was something he didn't want found by others sitting in his vault.
It would take a long time before Tom would feel comfortable having his horcrux so far away from him.
Over the following days, Tom began auror training. It was largely a matter of demonstrating what he knew and how skilled he already was at first. Once his knowledge and skill levels were made clear, he'd receive training for areas in which he was lacking.
Tom joined Alice and Frank for lunch on the days they both worked and joined the two individually on the days only one of them did. On one of the latter days, Tom met the head auror's son, Alastor Moody, who had joined Frank for lunch.
Alastor was somewhat gruff but not unfriendly. The man told Tom about how a corner of his nose was chipped off by a dark curse that just grazed by while he caught a Death Eater the prior year. All things considered, it was a minor disfigurement. Worse could have happened had he not moved his head at just the right moment. As it stood, Alastor looked quite normal overall, no missing body parts outside of that small bit of nose.
One day in the middle of August Alice skipped the usual time for lunch as she had detained Regulus Black. Tom was invited to come watch her question the young man about the Sunshine she believed he was dealing as he'd had some in his possession. All throughout Alice's fruitless interrogation Tom kept silent and observed Regulus.
While Regulus kept silent himself, no doubt fully intending to let his mother handle the situation for him, Tom could see that he was nervous. Tom used a low level of legilimency on him, a level that'd go unnoticed, but had no luck in seeing into Regulus's mind. The younger man was clearly familiar with occlumency. Although Tom was certain he could break through Regulus's occlumency if he put some effort into it, he had no reason to draw such attention to himself as putting effort into his legilimency would cause Regulus noticeable pain.
It was quite unusual that Regulus was experienced with occlumency as the Black family wasn't known for inherited skill in the mind arts, and it wasn't something many bothered to learn either. It suggested that Regulus had something to hide, something he needed to keep secret. Perhaps Frank was right about him being a Death Eater or on his way to becoming one.
Alice didn't get far with her questioning before Walburga arrived and retrieved her son, and Walburga paid Tom no mind as his glamor was fully in effect. Regulus would be fined for possession of an illicit substance at most. Alice had no concrete proof of Regulus actually selling the potion and, therefore, had no grounds to detain him or question him further.
September 1978 - October 1978
It wasn't long after that Tom's knowledge and skill levels were determined by his instructor, and once they were, he studied, took written and practical examinations, and helped aurors with their paperwork and muggle memory retrieval and obliviation assignments for several weeks. Meanwhile, he began to receive letters from an anonymous source, who he knew had to be Regulus Black. The boy was less subtle than Alphard, using initials instead of an alias, and his intentions were obviously quite different. Alphard had been looking for a friend and possible lover. Regulus was interested in him for more platonic and potentially more consequential reasons.
In order for Regulus to have even found Tom's name to send him an owl it meant that there was a leak in the Ministry either among the Aurors or among another department that'd been involved in his hiring. It indicated that Regulus was, in fact, a Death Eater as well, for there was no reason for him to be told about Tom otherwise. It was likely that Regulus had been ordered to spy on him or gain his trust. From what he could tell, Regulus was still a student at Hogwarts, so the most the boy could do was exchange letters most of the coming year until he graduated. After that point, Regulus would probably escalate his attempts. Whether Tom responded or not, Regulus would certainly keep trying as he could not fail the Dark Lord.
Tom decided, after not responding to several of Regulus's letters, to take pity on the boy and respond to him. He could easily avoid telling him anything important and potentially twist the situation to his own benefit at some point. Regulus was clever but wasn't nearly as clever as Alphard had been and definitely was not as clever as himself. Tom was certain of it.
Death Eater attacks on muggles appeared to increase as the days passed though Tom had nothing to compare the current levels to. It seemed every other day he was being sent out to retrieve memories from muggles who'd witnessed Death Eater attacks and obliviate them so they wouldn't remember what they'd seen.
Despite how simple the assignments were, Tom hated them. Often he couldn't simply allow a gap in memory and had to plant false memories in the muggles' minds, something that'd explain why their loved ones had disappeared or died. It was bad enough having to take the truth away from them; it was worse that he had to give them lies. However, Tom understood the necessity of obliviating the muggles, which was why he didn't raise any complaints about the assignments. If muggles knew that wizards existed and were responsible for committing heinous acts against them and their loved ones, witch-hunts would absolutely come back. He knew if the roles were reversed wizards would do the same.
28 October 1978
It was in late October, just days before Halloween, that Tom got the news from Alice that Unspeakable Thomas Smith had returned from his medical leave of absence. The two of them met him at his office.
Thomas looked much older now than when Tom had last seen him, but that didn't surprise him considering how many years had passed.
"What can I help you with today?" Thomas asked the pair.
Alice and Tom looked at each other, and Tom motioned for Alice to take the lead. He himself wasn't sure what he could or should say in the current circumstances. She would have a better grasp on the current time.
Alice visibly hesitated before answering the unspeakable. "We need you to take us to see a prophecy, and it's important that we be discreet about it. It's why we waited for you to return from your leave."
Thomas's eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "All unspeakables are discreet, Auror Longbottom. You needn't have waited for me specifically."
Alice disagreed, saying, "It's not clear who we can trust, even among the unspeakables, but we're reasonably certain we can trust you."
A flash of understanding crossed Thomas's face. "Does this have something to do with You-Know-Who?"
"Yes. We have reason to believe that there is a prophecy that speaks of one who can defeat him."
Thomas glanced over at Tom. "And I take it that it has something to do with Auror Trainee Warren? I can't imagine why else you would have brought someone so new to the Ministry around, especially when trust is a concern here."
"Yes. However, there's more to it than that. You see, that's not really Tom's name, and it's very important that you don't reveal his true identity. Due to the circumstances, we believe it is necessary for you to know who he actually is though."
"I'm honored. So what is your name?" Thomas asked, looking at Tom.
Tom dropped his glamor and answered, "Tom Riddle."
Thomas's jaw dropped in surprise. "How?"
"It's a long story," Tom said.
"I'd imagine so," Thomas replied neutrally after regaining his composure. "I take it you've concluded that you were not destined to defeat Grindelwald?"
Tom raised an eyebrow. "I think it'd be rather pointless and a worthless prophecy if so."
"Hmm... You do have a point... I had suspected the prophecy didn't involve Grindelwald, as did several other unspeakables, but prophecies are funny things. I would love to learn how you came to be here as you are. However, I suspect you wouldn't be inclined to tell me since it likely involved dark magic," Thomas astutely noted.
Tom ignored the comment. "So can you take us to see the prophecy?"
"Yes. It's no trouble at all."
Tom reapplied his glamor as Thomas walked over to the door of his office. Thomas motioned for Tom and Alice to exit the office once he opened the door.
After Tom and Alice walked out of the unspeakable's office, Thomas followed, locking the door behind him. Thomas took the lead and guided them through the Department of Mysteries to the Hall of Prophecy and through the Hall of Prophecy to where Tom's prophecies should be located. Until the trio reached their destination, they kept silent and did their best to avoid drawing attention.
Tom was the first to notice something amiss when they arrived. "Why is there only one prophecy?"
"Pardon?" Thomas asked.
"When I last came here, back in my third year, there were two prophecies. Yet now only one appears with my name. Was the other relocated? Was it put under another person's name? Was the other party identified for one of the prophecies?"
Thomas frowned. "That's not how it works. We keep prophecies with the first individual to be identified. We would have simply included the name of any other party involved and left it here."
"Then why is one missing?" Tom pushed.
Thomas thought for a moment before responding. "For one of the prophecies, the other party must have somehow gained access to it and removed it. Seeing how secure this room is, however, that's quite troubling."
Tom sighed. "I suspect I know which one is missing. It's likely the one concerning the Dark Lord."
"That's really bad," Alice said.
"Yes," Tom agreed. "Especially because it means he already knows about me... It's strange this other one still has no name besides mine. Just how far away in my future is this person?"
"Let's play this prophecy just to confirm whether your suspicions are correct. Shall we?" Thomas requested.
Tom pulled the prophecy off the shelf and activated it. As expected, it was the prophecy that did not concern the Dark Lord. Instead, it said, "The phoenix will rest when the hallowed one consumes his soul... summer and winter combine with the kiss of death... and death will touch the one who dies and the one who lives time and time again... the phoenix will rest when the hallowed one gives him the kiss of death..."
"I know this prophecy has generally been dismissed as unimportant compared to the other one, but I hope you understand that all prophecies are important," Thomas said.
"Yes, I know," Tom answered. "This one has always seemed just as foreboding as the other to me."
"I don't think this prophecy is actually a negative one," Alice said. "I think it might actually be romantic in nature."
Tom disagreed. "I mean no disrespect, but that's absurd. There's nothing romantic about that prophecy. Death is clearly involved."
Alice shook her head but didn't bother arguing.
"What I want to know is why the other prophecy is missing," Tom said.
"I do as well," Thomas mused.
"Have there ever been any break-ins?" Alice asked.
Thomas pondered the question. "Break-ins? Hmm... Nothing recently. Nothing for years... Oh! There was one, just one, but it happened a long time ago. Nothing was taken as far as we knew, but the Hall of Prophecy was damaged as a result of their actions."
"Damaged how?" Alice asked.
"And how long ago?" Tom added.
Thomas responded to the two, explaining, "Before the labels under the prophecies in the Hall of Prophecy would update with names automatically whenever a party involved was born or created. After the break-in that happened... about 30 years ago... not long after Grindelwald's defeat and imprisonment, now that I think about it, the updates stopped happening automatically. We've never been able to fix the issue and have had to leave many prophecies nameless and label them with our best guesses. It's incredibly inefficient. We had curse-breakers attempt to resolve the issue, and of course, we have our own methods we've applied as well, but nothing has ever worked."
Tom sighed. "Well, if I was a budding dark lord, I'd probably want to make it harder for people, especially the Ministry, to identify who'd be very likely to fight me and have a good chance of defeating me. A dark lord is a prime candidate for prophecies to be made about after all. I'm a good example of what happens when a prophecy comes out saying someone is destined to fight and potentially defeat a dark lord. I studied and practiced magic to a greater level than most of my peers and more than I might have otherwise had there not been a prophecy indicating my life depended on it. I was also given more resources and assistance in my education and training by others. Additionally, it's possible that the name of the dark lord appeared or would have appeared not long after that break-in, and said budding dark lord didn't want their name to show up, either to hide their identity or to keep our connection unclear and unknown."
"You really believe it was a budding dark lord who was responsible?" Thomas asked. "Surely we would've seen their name sometime prior to the theft of the prophecy."
"Unless they hadn't settled on a moniker yet and their moniker would be what they would exclusively use once they became an active dark lord. Essentially, they may have been born, yes, but they hadn't been created yet," Tom said. "And considering who I believe the current dark lord to be, it would make a lot of sense. His choice of name isn't exactly original. His actual name was likely well-known as well back then if not now."
"And just who do you think it is?" Thomas asked.
Tom shook his head. "Not here. I don't mind saying who, but I'd prefer to not speak openly about it."
"Perfectly understandable," Thomas responded amiably. "Well, if we're done here, then I can escort you both back to my office, and we can continue further discussion there."
Tom said, "That'd suit me just fine. Alice?"
"Yes. That works for me too," Alice said.
As the three left the Hall of Prophecy and headed towards Thomas's office, Tom felt like he was being watched, but when he looked around, he didn't see anyone else around.
After the trio arrived at Thomas's office once more and seated themselves, Tom elaborated on what he suspected, telling Thomas an abbreviated account about his interactions with Sebastian Martin and making sure to avoid any reference to horcruxes.
Once Tom finished, Thomas's face showed clear concern. "I can see why you'd want to limit who is aware of your suspicions. Sebastian Martin is a high-ranking member of France's Ministry of Magic. If it's true that he is You-Know-Who, this could lead to full-out war between the two countries. This is very troubling indeed."
"He's part of the government?" Tom asked, incredulous. "So he's gaining power on two fronts? That is more than troubling. It's downright disastrous! Trying to take down a dark lord is impossible enough. If he has the support of the French Ministry, it means a war has already begun between our countries, whether we accept it or not."
"Who else knows about your suspicions, Tom?" Thomas asked.
"A few aurors who need to know. Why?"
"I know you already have been, but please do be very careful who you share this information with. We may have more people to be wary of than previously thought. While Death Eaters can often be found out due to their mental instability or ego or obvious prejudices, if there are any French spies in our midst, they'll be much harder to identify."
"Do you actually believe there are spies around here?" Alice asked.
"While it isn't very likely, it is entirely possible. Mr. Martin is a powerful man with a great deal of authority entrusted to him. He could very well play from two sides to reach his goals if he sees it as beneficial to do so."
Tom said, "If he does have spies at his disposal, I don't think he'd use them unless he manages to convince France's Ministry that Britain's Ministry has struck them first. I don't believe either country would want to initiate a conflict with the other unless it is believed the other already initiated it. That being the case, he's likely to try to get us to make a move against him or his government first to justify striking back."
Thomas nodded in agreement. "All the more reason to be careful who you share your suspicions with. There are those who would cause the very conflict we wish to avoid."
A clock in the unspeakable's office chimed, drawing Thomas's attention. "Ah. It seems our conversation must end here. You have certainly brought me some information I'll have to ponder. Auror Longbottom, try not to get into too much trouble. Tom, don't be a stranger. If you have some time, feel free to visit. We can chat some more."
The pair shook Thomas's hand one after the other and departed from the unspeakable's office. On their way out of the Department of Mysteries, Tom and Alice passed by an unspeakable headed the direction they'd just left.
28 October 1978 - 30 December 1978
Alice had noted the obvious bond between Tom and the unspeakable, and she decided she would make sure to encourage Tom to take Unspeakable Smith up on his offer. Tom needed friends, and as far as she could tell, only Frank and herself were. It'd be good for him to get out of the house more when off and not only when she or Frank wanted to go somewhere. He wasn't a bad roommate by any means, but it'd be nice to have the house to herself or to just be with Frank without having to consider Tom from time to time.
Thoughts about how to get Tom out of the house aside, Alice pondered on the information that'd been revealed in the Department of Mysteries. Naturally, she did report the information to the head auror, and as she and Frank had previously discussed, she sought his input about whether it'd be worthwhile to get Dumbledore involved. Moody had blatantly been annoyed by the prospect of Dumbledore getting involved with "matters outside of his jurisdiction" but had said he'd leave the decision up to Tom. The head auror's reasoning had been that the more people who knew about Tom's identity, the more he was at risk, but if Tom really wanted Dumbledore to know, he didn't see a way of putting a stop to the information being shared. Moody was against the idea of Alice or Frank sharing the information without Tom's consent. Alice found Moody's reasoning to be perfectly reasonable.
When Alice got home for the night and spoke with Frank, they decided that they'd avoid suggesting Tom have his identity be revealed to Dumbledore unless circumstances necessitated Tom's involvement with the Order of the Phoenix.
Weeks passed, and Death Eater activity continued to escalate. Alice, Frank, and Tom were all kept busy, Alice and Frank even more so due to their involvement with the Order. Alice found herself more exhausted than usual as time went by and her pregnancy progressed, and Frank increasingly voiced his concerns about her working in the field both for the Auror Office and for the Order. By December, Alice put in a request at work to be removed from field work while finishing out her pregnancy, and it was approved. Dumbledore also stopped giving her assignments that could put her physically at risk although she'd noticed her assignments had gotten less and less risky over time prior to her actually asking for less risky assignments. While Alice liked the adrenaline rush that came with working in the field, catching criminals, she could handle just doing paperwork and other assistive tasks for the short term for the sake of the baby.
On Christmas, Alice and Frank spent the early afternoon with Frank's family and the evening with Alice's family. Alice had felt bad about not inviting Tom along, but both Tom and Frank had assured her that Tom would be fine and that he understood that it was for the best that he not join them.
For New Year's Eve, Edgar Bones had invited Alice and Frank, along with other members of the Order of the Phoenix, to his house for a party. Alice very much wanted to bring Tom along, rather than leave him alone at home again, especially once she learned that the holiday was his birthday. While Frank had been hesitant about asking Edgar to allow them to bring Tom along, and Tom had claimed he'd be fine staying home once again, Alice insisted until everyone caved in. With both Alice and Frank vouching for Tom, Edgar begrudgingly agreed to allow Tom to come to the party with them.