Hello... Who are you?
Based on your clothing, your posture, and your overall demeanor… not someone who belongs here. That much is obvious.
In your defense, not many people do belong here. There is a reason Mr. Burke sends me out to sell or acquire precious artifacts. This is a dark store in a dark part of town; we don’t exactly get a lot of street traffic.
So… what brings you here?
Your robes are dark and nondescript, but your black hair is so wild I can’t help but think it’s that way on purpose. And your bag, is that mokeskin? That’s not cheap. Either you have money or you have generous friends. Your glasses look new too; they are black-rimmed and gleaming, leaving me to believe that they have been enchanted in some way. To repel moisture and stay clear, I imagine, or perhaps to not break. Maybe you like to run about in the rain. Maybe you’re clumsy.
Maybe you just like a little danger.
Okay… I bite.
What are you looking for in a shop like Borgin and Burkes?
You search the shelves, but your eyes are narrowed and there is the smallest crease between your brows. It's clear that you don’t know what most of our enchanted wares are, and that bothers you—but you needn’t worry too much. We keep the most dangerous items in the basement, away from such curious, prying eyes. And hands, I see. My lips twitch when I catch you reaching out to graze the metal surface of an ancient teapot—Mr. Burke claims that it once belonged to Elladora Ketteridge, though I can tell he is lying—but it’s only magical enchantment, as far as we can tell, is to consistently boil water to the perfect degree for tea, and to keep the water at that temperature long after it's been poured. Nothing harmful there except an ungodly price tag and the danger of being duped into thinking you own a part of wizarding history.
Yes, we keep the truly dangerous items away from the storefront… and we do so specifically for people like you, who touch before thinking. But you shouldn’t feel bad for being curious—even if it is rather reckless, considering where you are—or for not knowing what you’re looking at. Not knowing is the nature of these things.
Cursed objects don’t come with a warning label.
You nearly stumble when you miss the one other occupant in the store, caught up in your searching as you are. I can’t blame you for not seeing him. He’s a regular—‘Joe’, he calls himself, though we know that is not his name—and he is an expert at going unnoticed… among other things.
“Sorry,” you mumble, then move on. Joe ignores you.
But you seem more than apologetic. You look… embarrassed. Your face flares red and your stature has wilted. You’re ashamed. Is it because you feel you shouldn’t have been so ignorant as to have bumped right into someone? Or is there something more at play?
You turn the corner, and in doing so you face me. It was only a matter of time. I am clearly an employee of this shop, as I have been organizing the fangs from magical creatures (which we claim were not illegally obtained) since you’ve walked in. You scratch the back of your head sheepishly and say your first words to me.
“Hello… do you work here?”
Now I can clearly see your eyes. They’re green, extremely bright green. I am reminded of flashes of deadly magic. Of power.
I want it.
“Guilty,” I say. You grin. “Can I help you find something?”
“I hope so,” you say. “I’m looking for… well, I’m looking for something kind of… odd.”
Everything about you is awkward right now. The way your eyes dart from to the ground and back to me again; the way your hand goes from your neck to your hair, where you try—subconsciously, it seems—to flatten it. I give you my most charming smile. “Most people who brave coming into Borgin and Burke’s are,” I say. “What did you have in mind?”
Your face starts to color again. You blush easily, don’t you? “Something that will help strengthen mental barriers,” you mumble. “Something wearable, like a necklace or a ring or something. The less obtrusive the better.”
I allow my brows to raise only slightly, but I am deeply intrigued. Such an item would only be useful against a witch or wizard who was actively practicing Legilimency against you, and few are skilled in that particular branch of magic. I have personally only ever come across two wizards who are skilled in such an art.
Besides myself, of course.
Who is trying to get in your head? And why?
But I only nod. “Of course,” I say, ever the obedient shop boy. I place the fang I was holding in its place—one that once belonged to an Acromantula, cleaned of all its precious venom, and therefore reducing it to little more than a trinket. “I see why you came to us. Such items are rare, true, but more importantly, the acquisition of such things tends to raise concerns… but here at Burgin and Borke’s, we respect our client’s privacy. We don’t ask intrusive questions.”
I motion for you to follow me. “This way,” I say, and you quickly fall into step at my side. I take you to the back of the store, where we keep all our charmed, cursed, or otherwise enchanted jewelry that is safe enough for display in an equally enchanted glass case. I step behind the counter and lead you down to where we have what you are looking for.
“We have a few options, depending on your needs,” I say.
“I-it’s not for me,” you splutter. “It’s for a friend.”
I don’t even need to look into your eyes to know that’s a lie.
You swallow hard, and I imagine that sounded unbelievable even to you. I’m not surprised though. I have played this game many times—selling a questionable item to someone who swears that they are here to purchase it for someone else. Rarely, they are telling the truth, as they are merely some lackey for someone else who pulls the strings in their lives. Mostly, they are liars.
“I see,” I say. “Of course not.”
I don’t mean to say it condescendingly, but perhaps there is a note of disdain in my voice anyway. You let out a long breath like you’ve been holding this confession in for a long time. “All right, it is for me,” you say. “But it’s not for some dodgy reason, I swear. I…”
You look around the shop. I assume you are looking for the wizard you bumped into earlier, to see if he might be listening. ‘Joe’ is still here, but he is on the other side of the store, looking at the fangs I was just organizing. You turn around to face me again, and when you speak next it is in a much lower voice.
“I just started training to be an auror,” you say.
An auror. Here, in my shop. Interesting. Also, in most cases, unwelcome. I allow my apprehension to show on my face. “Are you now?” I say. The iciness in my tone is carefully done. Still polite, but with an edge. My smile is as pleasant as it is cold.
“It’s not like that,” you say quickly. “I don’t care… I don’t…”
You pause, struggling with how to best move forward. Will you be bold enough to so much as insinuate that we are doing anything illegal here? That this shop is dark and unethical? If you do, I may have to force you to leave, and that would be very disappointing to me. Surely you know better than to do that.
To my pleasant surprise, you wisely drop that train of thought. You run your hand through your hair again, flattening it down over your forehead like you’re trying to hide your face as much as possible. “I just need what I need and I’ll be on my way,” you murmur.
I break with my own conduct, too curious not to inquire further. “Why would an auror-in-training need such an item?” I ask. “If I am not mistaken, Occlumency is a standard part of the training procedure. These objects will not offer nearly as much protection as being independently proficient in the mind arts will.”
Your face goes so red that I am reminded of another flash of magic. Expelliarmus. It makes the green of your eyes look even brighter still. “It is,” you mumble. “We are being trained in it now, in fact… and, well…. It’s giving me a lot of trouble.” You scoff at yourself. “A lot of trouble,” you add on, grumbling.
“Ah,” I say, then ask no more. I now how such Ministry approved training goes, especially for the more difficult to attain positions. You’re afraid you’re going to get kicked out of the program.
You’re looking to cheat. Internally, I am grinning to myself. Either you are in denial about what you are doing, or we have very different definitions of the word dodgy.
“I only plan on wearing it for a little while,” you say as though you have heard my thoughts—but, well, we both know that can’t be true. “Just until I can get up to speed on Occlumency on my own. I’m passing with flying colors in every other aspect of our training. It’s just… this mind art nonsense, I’m bloody terrible at it. I don’t understand why.”
“It is a very obscure branch of magic,” I say reassuringly. “I imagine most people would struggle with it. If they would even attempt to learn such complicated spell work, that it. Few ever even consider it, as it is so difficult and convoluted.”
I let the iciness in my smile and tone melt away, and the tenseness in your posture lessens. “Yeah… yeah. You’re right. Thanks. So… Which of these do you recommend?”
I consider this for a moment. The rings are by far the most powerful. And yet, I am now personally invested. I am a Legilimens. I like to be able to see the truth in one’s eyes easily; if I sell you the best of what we have to offer, I am giving you some fraction of protection against me. Not that I don’t think I could work past a mental strengthening enchantment, but you might notice if I do. And what good is being able to see deceit if you know?
There is no quicker way to scare someone away than to reveal that you can read their thoughts.
“For you, I would recommend this necklace here,” I say. I pull the silver chain from the case “It is nondescript and long enough that you could easily hide it beneath your robes. No one would notice it, unlike a ring, which is visible at all time. You simply have to make sure it is in contact with your skin to be effective.”
You seem to think this over for a moment, then nod. “All right,” you say. You are so trusting of my commendation that you don’t even ask about the others. That’s a problem. Don’t you know that you should always research all your available options before making a decision? “I’ll take it.”
I take the necklace to wear we keep our cash box, an ancient thing we keep behind the counter that may be one of the darkest objects in this shop. It is cursed in a way that, should anyone who has not smeared the surface with their blood onto it while saying the correct enchantment, it will burn white-hot if touched. And if someone should be stupid enough to use any kind of magic on it, well… let’s just say that Mr. Burke has come into his shop in the morning on more than one occasion, finding upon entering a paralyzed body with blackened, wrinkled skin behind his counter. He says he left the corpses in nearby alleys until the bolder residents of Knockturn Alley got the hint. Information that he would surely not divulge in anyone else, but what can I say? People trust me.
But I have, of course, performed the necessary blood ritual, and so the box moves easily for me. You stare at it disdainfully, like you can sense the dark magic radiating off it. You probably can, young auror-in-training.
“I must warn you,” I say. “These objects are expensive. This necklace alone costs 17 galleons.”
“That’s fine,” you say, then reach into your mokeskin bag. You pull out another leather pouch heavy with coins, and after counting out seventeen galleons, you slide them across the table.
Well. That answers the question of whether you are wealthy or not. You just don’t flaunt it. You’re not like the Malfoys or the Lestranges, are you?
“Thank you,” I say, taking the coins and depositing them neatly into the cursed box. I wrap the chain neatly in a silky white cloth, then hand it to you. “The cloth is charmed as well. It will make the silver gleam if you are so inclined as to polish it.”
“Thanks,” you say. You take your purchase and stash it in your mokeskin bag, where only you will be able to retrieve it later. “Er… I’m Harry, by the way.” You stick your arm out over the counter, offering me your hand. “Harry Potter.”
Potter. That is a name I know, but not a family line that I have delved into extensively. Pureblooded, but not so rare and so diligently recorded in wizarding history to be considered one of the Sacred 28. This explains why you don’t look that familiar to me. I imagine we attended Hogwarts at the same time, but you were certainly not in Slytherin. I would peg you for a Gryffindor, then. Purchasing a cursed object to cheat your way through Auror training was a very Slytherin thing to do, but having the gall to come here in the first place and touch the wares screams Gryffindor louder than the sorting hat.
Potter… No, I’ve never bothered to invest in that name before… but I will now.
“A pleasure,” I say. “I’m Tom Riddle.”
“Oh!” Your eyes going wide as though in recognition. “You were Head Boy when I was a in fifth year. I thought you looked familiar, but I couldn’t place where or how.”
A decent one, and if I was judging by your tone and expression alone, rather believable. But I can see it clearly in those bright eyes. You knew who I was the moment you saw me, didn’t you? You just pretended not to. Is that why you were so awkward? I can understand that. I may not have had time to notice Gryffindors years below me, but you almost certainly knew all about me.
Top grades, Prefect, Head Boy. And there are other parts of my legacy that live on, but I am confident that those will remain confined in Slytherin House.
But you… you probably only remember me as the perfect student that Gryffindor loved to hate. The one that was bound to go on to do great, great things… so what am I doing here, working as a mere shop boy in Knockturn Alley? I can tell you want to ask, but you’re not so tactless.
“I was the Head Boy, yes,” I say. “Three years ago now. It seems like it was only yesterday.”
You smirk, and it is this smile—one that is crooked, one that is accompanied by a glint in your eyes—that causes a memory to spring to life in my mind.
I do remember you.
“Your friend. The bushy-haired girl,” I say. “She became a prefect when I was Head Boy…”
I can tell you are recalling it then just as I am. The beginning of your fifth year, my seventh.
That moment on the train.
“Yeah,” you say. “Hermione. She went on to be Head Girl, you know.”
I grimace. “I am not surprised,” I say—though I am disappointed.
You laugh, but it’s a forced sound. “Right… well. Anyway…”
You take a step back awkwardly, once more running your fingers through your hair, flattening it over your forehead. Why do you keep doing that? It must be a nervous tick of yours.
“It was good seeing you again, Riddle,” you say.
I let the grimace slip from my face, replaced by a more genuine smile. “And you, Potter… And should you find yourself needing to acquire any other questionable objects to cheat your way through your training… you know where to find us.”
I wink before I can stop myself. “Quite a Slytherin move for a Gryffindor.”
Your face once more burns red. It’s actually rather endearing. “I—I’m not…”
But whatever it is you are not, you are incapable of saying. “Good evening,” you snap suddenly, and you turn and leave, all but slamming the door behind you as you go.
I’m not sure if I should be offended or if I should laugh.
"A baby auror, huh?” leers a raspy voice in the corner. “Now that is interesting.”
I scowl. “Joe, either buy something or get out,” I say wearily. I’ve dealt with him long enough that I know he only responds to directness.
And sometimes, not even that. “I’m perusing,” he says. “Am I not a valued customer? Am I not allowed to take my time as I look through your many fascinating wares?”
I hold back a sigh. Of course he is right; ‘Joe’ has been buying from and selling for this shop for ages, dealing with the sort of folk who respond better to a hag in tatters in shady alleyways than to handsome, tall shop boys with dazzling smiles. He’s useful, if also an annoyance. But I have to accommodate him.
It’s all a part of the façade.
“We close at nine,” I say, ignoring his question. And though I cannot see his face beneath his hood, I know he is smiling triumphantly.
Someday, I will crush rats like these for even thinking to defy me.
Someday, I will rule the world with the might of my magic and the powerful backing of my many, loyal followers.
But will I need to destroy you, young auror-in-training? Boy with the enticing green eyes who is in the process of becoming, officially, the sort of wizard whose job it will be to defy me?
Will I need to crush you, Harry?