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blood is thinner than syrupy love

Chapter Text

“Darling, could you turn that down?” 


“No, I’m the one driving.”


A couple drove along the road, the woman giving her husband a displeased glare as he continued to drive, snapping her long neck from him to the car’s window. Behind her, a rather plump child played with his action figures in growing boredom. With a frustrated groan, he threw them down and crossed his fat little arms. “I want the telly!”


The woman’s face slightly furrowed her brows, that being the only sign of anger she allowed to show before she turned her head to her son. “There is no telly in this car, darling. I’m sure Auntie Lily has one,” she offered as pleasantly as she could.


Thankfully, it seemed the gods had her in their good graces because the boy only grumbled and dropped it. The woman, Petunia, sighed in relief and focused on her husband. The boy looked over at another child sitting beside him, who, in looks, starkly contrasted the other members of the car. The little thing was as frail and skinny as they come, green eyes almost neon in their color even if they looked dulled with solemnity. The little boy was fiddling with a bit of worn string, a smile dancing at the edges of his lips as he made it wave with his movements.


“What on earth are you doing?” The boy, Dudley, budged in as he leaned forward. 


The smaller boy grimaced and shied away from him, pressing against the car door. “Nothing, Dudley,” he quietly said, eyes flickering to the boy’s face and his string as if he were accepting an oncoming fate.


True to suspicions, Dudley snatched the string and dangled it with a raised brow. “What are you doing with this thing?” He huffed with a malicious grin. “Gonna do your freaky things with it?”


The dark-skinned boy’s face flushed in humiliation. “N-no! What am I going to do with a string, Dudley?” He fired back, helplessly reaching out for it. Dudley only leaned back further.


“Knowing you, you would probably burn it and speak to your satanic god!”


“N-No… it’s not satanic…”


Dudley only sighed loudly and threw the string backward, reveling in the other’s face of despair. He had his fill of fun, but now he was bored again. Dudley picked up his toys once more, ignoring the other boy sulking beside him.


The car suddenly stopped and both boys blinked, looking at the man - Vernon - in the front as he struggled to get himself and his bulk out of the vehicle. He stretched and grumbled, glaring at his family and barking, “out of the car! We’re stopping for gas!”


All three immediately did as told and got out, Dudley letting out a pained noise when a wave of heat hit him. The smaller boy looked unbothered with the sweltering temperatures as he followed Petunia into the gas station, Vernon staying behind to fill the car with gas. A woman greeted them with a happy smile.


“Howdy y'all, you headin’ to SweetBack?” She asked sweetly.


Petunia grunted. “Yes, we are,” she answered eventually as she let Dudley roam around to gather snacks. The small boy, however, stayed faithfully by her side, peering up at the lady before looking back down meekly. Vernon soon joined them and they began to shop around, the little boy making sure to stand a bit away from them as he watched out the window, the sun gently lowering. He grew up in Britain, but the boy could admit that the views were just angelic as he stared mesmerized at the sky’s colors. But out of the corner of the boy’s eye, he noticed a little shadow, blinking and looking over at it with his best ability in the darkness. It hovered around Vernon’s car, which made the boy raise a brow curiously.


“Boy, what the hell are you doing?”


Said child jumped and looked up at Vernon, stammering out a, “nothing Uncle Vernon, sorry Uncle Vernon.”


The mustached man looked unconvinced but looked out to the window, snorting. “Fucking nasty hicks. The only good thing about these parts is the sunrises and sunsets.” With that, the family filed into the car again, but the raven-haired boy couldn’t help but worry. If a stranger had looked at it, surely something was wrong? But it seemed his worry was for naught because Vernon looked unalarmed.


Off on the road again they went, Dudley munching on chips and Petunia sipping coffee. 


Then the car suddenly swerved.


Dudley let out a squeak as Vernon cursed loudly, gripping the steering wheel and trying to fix their course. Petunia cried out in panic when a tire burst, the car screeching as it swerved, and this time Vernon could not stop the car from heading headfirst into a nearby phone line.


Pain exploded into the boy’s head as screams and loud scraping filled his ears, glasses cracking. When his senses came back he was a trembling mess, sobbing and heaving as he tried to open his eyes and look around. He let out a horrified whimper when he felt the warm oozing of blood - his and others - and met eyes with Dudley’s corpse. The boy unbuckled as fast as he could with his shaking hands, crawling out the broken window without care of his stomach getting badly cut.


As the boy writhed on the ground in agony, he could barely feel a warm, gentle hand tilting up his chin, seeing a blurry figure from his watery eyes.


“Oh, look at you, darling.”


And then the boy knew no more.


()()()()()()


He felt cold. Why did he feel so cold?


The boy groggily blinked his eyes open, shivering all over as he curled up and tried to breathe in the freezing air, startled when his breath came out in white puffs. The tiny thing shakily sat up using his thin arms - only to halt when his small fingers curled in wetness.


He swallowed thickly, slowly looking down at his slippery hands.


He gagged and scrambled away from the bloodied floor, soft terrified noises filling the otherwise quiet room. He raised his trembling hands and tried to wipe them on his shirt, clenching his eyes shut.


Why was there blood there? Why was-


A loud bang made the boy scream, head snapping up wooden stairs as a steel door opened slowly before closing. It was dark, his glasses nowhere to be seen, panic flaring inside him as he squinted in the dark. The boy scooted against a cooler as he heard slow footsteps creak down the stairs until finally, he could see the tips of shiny black shoes, then black trousers, and then a handsome face.


A man?


The boy swallowed nervously and curled up more, knees digging into his chin as he eyed the man warily as he crouched a few inches in front of him. “Well then, little doll,” he whispered softly, “What’s your name?”


The boy blanked out.


“Freak-” No.


“Harry,” he amended quickly, face flushing in shame.


The man blinked in surprise, frowning thoughtfully. Then he smiled gently and the boy couldn’t help but notice the tilt they had that made them look sleepy and soft. “Hello Harry, my name is Tom Riddle - call me Riddle,” he introduced.


The boy only nodded slightly, looking back at the blood.


“Oh, dear, curious?” Riddle hummed a soft laugh, “That blood is what remains of your family.”


Harry’s relaxed posture suddenly tensed as he rounded his head to Riddle’s face again, eyes widening in horror. Riddle smiled kindly, “What is it, darling?”


“Y-You killed them!” Harry accused in a tone of terror, wanting to be anywhere but close to this man, trying his best to keep an eye on him as he looked for an escape.


The brunette only chuckled, “Yes, I did. The little one did have a real...exquisite taste, he did.”


Harry blanched, holding in the bile that wished to come out. “You-” killed them. Mr. Riddle killed the Dursleys.


The Dursleys who hurt him. Uncle Vernon, who put out cigarettes on his neck. Aunt Petunia, who hit him with her pan if he cooked something wrong and locked him outside in awful weather if he was bad. Dudley, who took and beat him. Dudley, who broke his bones and tried to push him down the stairs while he did chores.


“H-” ahaha. Mr. Riddle killed his family, he killed the Dursleys.


Tears spilled down his face as small giggles bubbled up his throat, eyes wide and blank as he hid in his knees. “You killed my family!” He shouted, “They’re dead dead dead dead…”


Without knowing, he smiled within the privacy of his knees.


Thank God, I’m finally free…


“Yes, little bird, sweet little thing, you’re free,” came a small hum, a warm hand coming to curl in his hair and *pet*. Harry blinked before his eyes widened in fear. He hadn’t known he said that out loud, oh God oh God-


“Shh, it’s okay,” Riddle cooed softly, pulling Harry to his chest. The boy couldn’t help but melt into it even as he knew he could die, would probably die. His touch-starved body didn’t care and soaked up the cherished warmth, going limp. The boy was so thankful for the contact he barely realized he was picked up until another voice assaulted his ears.


“Is this…” a woman’s voice spoke softly.


“Yes,” Riddle said gently, hand still carding through Harry’s hair. It felt so nice that he felt the need to sleep. He was so tired.


Harry really didn’t want to go to sleep, but as his forehead was kissed - and oh God, that’s never happened before but it felt so nice and good and he wanted even more - his eyelids drooped and he drifted into a slow, peaceful sleep.


()()()()()()


“What are you doing, Tom?”


Riddle cradled the sleeping boy in his arms, eyes rising to meet a woman’s. She looked wary, as she should, but he only shook his head. “I’ve decided not to kill him,” he started slowly, “I’m sure he’ll be useful to us.”


“Useful how ?” The raven-haired woman countered, still looking uncomfortable.


Riddle hummed softly, pulling down a too-big shirt to reveal unsavory wounds - fresh. They were not from the car crash. The woman stared, then looked up at him. She relented and stepped back, “Take him upstairs,” she murmured quietly, “I’ll be there in a moment to treat those.”


Riddle preened in victory, the tall man leaning down to press a gentle kiss on red lips before he carried the little boy upstairs.


“Ma, who was that?”


The short woman looked down at a frowning boy, tiny hand clutching her skirt. She grunted softly and combed her fingers through soft curls. “A new friend,” she said after a beat.


The boy’s face scrunched up in confusion. His gaze trailed to the narrow stairs, eyes darkening.


After all, how could you bring a stranger into a house full of secrets?


Chapter Text

The sunlight was what woke him up, then the yelling. 

 

Harry groggily cracked his eyes open, lids stinging fiercely as they struggled to get wet to greet the world. The boy paused his stirring when he felt a weight on him, looking at a soft blanket with many various emotions, most prominent being glee and unfamiliarity. Harry slowly sat up, rubbing his eyes as he clutched the blanket to his chest. He had never touched something so soft and warm before.

 

And then he remembered there was yelling.

 

“He’s a stranger! He could tell someone about us!”

 

Harry crawled out of the bed, bringing the blanket with him as he stared at the white door that blocked him and the loud noises. He almost wanted to go back to sleep again, but then he wouldn’t figure out what happened last night. All Harry could remember was the car crash and gentle red eyes. Shaking his head, the child raised a shaky hand and turned the knob as quietly as possible, peering out of the doorway.

 

“He’s littler than you, Tom. He won’t do us any harm.”

 

“How can you be so sure?”

 

Harry didn’t like the yelling but followed it, bare feet padding on the landing’s wooden floor as he leaned over to look from the stairs.

 

The man! The handsome man from last night! In the daytime he was a lot less scary, red eyes just amber. He looked frustrated as he talked to a boy who looked a lot like him except for those coldly furious blue eyes.

 

Harry accidentally stepped on another board and it creaked, making both heads snap upwards. The boy froze, standing there in terror as he clutched the blanket closer.

 

The man let out a soft breath of air and slowly began walking upstairs, the child glaring holes into Harry. “Good morning,” he said softly, “Do your cuts hurt?”

 

Harry blinked, head craning as much as it could to look up at the towering male. “It doesn’t hurt…” He mumbled, a slight lisp making itself known.

 

“Good - that’s good.” A hand outstretched to him and Harry blinked at it in puzzlement. When Harry didn’t move Riddle gently grabbed one of Harry’s tiny hands and guided him down the stairs.

 

The other boy from before hadn’t moved, jaw clenched as his eyes conveyed barely concealed rage. “Harry,” Riddle explained with a sharp glint in his eye, “This is my son, Tom.”

 

Harry backtracked, “But I thought…” He trailed off.

 

“Yes, we have the same name,” he said patiently. “Now, Harry, what do you remember of last night?”

 

Harry swallowed and looked down at his blanket, eyeing Riddle uneasily. When the man didn’t seem ready to continue talking, he forced out a small answer. “You k-killed my family.”

 

The boy, Tom, blinked. He quickly turned to his father but was stopped by a hand. “See?” Riddle said, giving a pointed look at Tom.

 

Tom’s glare faltered and he crossed his arms. He growled , “Say a word to the cops about us and I’ll kill you,” he hissed before shoving past his father and storming away.

 

Harry watched him before looking up at Riddle, who was staring at him. “Sir..?” He asked hesitantly.

 

But Riddle smiled, eyes closing. “Nothing, doll,” he chirped. “I’ll introduce you to my wife!”

 

Harry let himself be whisked away into the living room, looking around in awe - for a murderer’s house, it was so homely and lovingly lived in. They walked into the kitchen, Riddle’s hand still holding onto Harry’s as they stopped before a woman. Said woman blinked and looked over at them, quickly turning off the sink and wiping her hands on her apron before crouching low. “Hello, Harry,” she whispered softly, eyes crinkling with her little smile. “My name is Merope Riddle.”

 

Harry doesn’t think he’s ever met a more beautiful woman than this one. The boy flushes and looks down. “H - hello, uhm...Mrs. Rid- Riddle.”

 

“Nonsense!” She admonished softly, “Call me mama.”

 

Riddle hummed a little, a proud smile on his face, which Merope made a show to huff at him before looking back at Harry. “I really would like it if you called me that,” she continued, beaming. “I hope we can become a family.”

 

Huh.

 

Harry stared at her, eyes blanking.

 

A family.

 

Harry’s lips twitched in a sardonic smile, barely hiding it. “Y- yes, ma’a - am,” he said quietly, head bowing.

 

A freak didn’t deserve a family.

 

Just like a broken toy didn’t get played with.

 

Harry felt a little spit crawl up his throat, feeling cheated with Merope’s words even if he already knew a family simply would never be.

 

He didn’t see the knowing glint in Riddle’s eyes.

 

()()()()()()

 

Harry’s hands messed with the soft fur on the blanket he sat with, back pressed comfortably against the corner of the room - the best place to watch out for unwanted visitors. Not like he could stop them, though. 

 

What he was mainly worried about was that boy, Tom. He had looked so angry that Harry shuddered to think what would happen if Mr. Riddle hadn’t been so kind...currently.

 

Harry had to admit, unsettled, that he could not tell how to read that man.

 

He was usually so good at it, being in a constant state of fear of angering people always made him watch for the fogging of eyes, maybe the twitching of a brow. But Riddle always smiled. It was a pretty smile, but Harry didn’t like it because it was perfect and his mind was all too aware of how quickly a smile can turn into a beating-

 

The door was rapped thrice.

 

Harry tensed, scurrying underneath his blanket before he went still, narrowed eyes watching the slow move of the door before Riddle walked right through. The man scanned the room for him, smiling once he saw Harry in the corner. “Hello, Harry.”

 

“M-Mr,” he greeted quietly as he could, leaning backwards when Riddle got too close for comfort and kneeled in front of him. Those eyes were too much and Harry's own flickered down, swallowing as dread began to fill him.

 

“I want to apologize for my son,” Riddle started, “He’s just worried you’ll escape and tell the police.”

 

Harry nodded along slowly, eyes still lowered. It wasn’t like he knew how to survive in the wild, and he doubted he could escape.

 

That got Harry raising his green irises slightly upwards, gazing at Riddle.

 

There was a long pause of silence, and then Harry breathed out his most wanted question:

 

"Why...w-why did you ke-keep me alive?"

 

Riddle blinked in surprise, staring at Harry. He sighed softly and as if gathering his thoughts, folded his hands neatly and professionally. 

 

Harry suddenly felt a true realization that this was a murderer as the man looked down at him with a too-wide smile, teeth bared in something of a mock emotion of happiness.

 

"I need a little doll," he explained sweetly, and Harry was too scared to flinch away when a hand came up to brush hair behind his ear before lightly tilting his chin upwards.

 

Terrified green met gleeful red.

 

"I need someone to lure in little critters," Riddle continued softly, finger leaving. It didn't matter because Harry couldn't stop looking into ruby eyes. "What better way to do that than a little prince?"

 

Harry's eyes watered, lips trembling. "I-I don't want to-to hurt anybody..!" He sobbed, something horribly thick and tight filling his throat and chest.

 

A soft cry of pain filled the room as Harry's hair was pulled, forcing his head back up as Riddle stared at him, smile gone from his delicate face.

 

Harry flinched and squirmed as he leaned in, head tilting, "Sweet darling," he murmured as if contemplating. Then he smiled again, pulling harder and making more pain flare, "I'm so terribly sorry, but… you have no say in this."

 

Harry's hair was jerked again, and before the child could scream, something cold and sharp pressed to his throat. A muffled sound of terror came from him, legs shaking as he heaved out small cries. 

 

"Please, little bird," a soft, velvet voice echoed in his head. "Do you want to have to see your family again?"

 

Harry froze, eyes widening.

 

Somehow, the dread only doubled, cold seizing his tiny body.

 

They were alive? - Who? Was it Dudley? Aunt Petunia-

 

Uncle Vernon?

 

No no no no no no no, he-

 

Harry suddenly was no longer afraid of the knife. Instead, he snapped his blown pupils to Riddle, face deploring and terrified .

 

"Please don't take me back, please, please-" his voice grew higher, graduating to a wail, " I'll do anything you want please! Please please please please !"

 

What if it was Uncle Vernon what if it was Uncle Vernon what if it was Uncle Vernon?

 

Riddle said nothing for a moment, and Harry could only beg so much before the knife nicked him as a result of his feral movements of repulsion. If it was Uncle Vernon Harry wished for death, wished- wished because he-

 

Then the knife was gone and arms were wrapped around him.

 

Harry tried to stop his hyperventilating to focus, clawing at a sweater as he tucked himself closer to the warmth he so craved in his weak mind, lungs screaming at him as he gasped out for air.

 

"I won't take you back, darling," a soft, tender voice said to him, and Harry let out a small whimper in relief as he began to cry harder.

 

A hand carded through his hair as Harry's sobs died down, frail body jumping with his hiccups. He was limp, so when the man pulled away slightly, Harry let out a shaky noise of displeasure.

 

And he yet again stared into amber red.

 

"You know what you have to do if you want to stay, don't you, doll?"

 

Harry's hands tightened around the cloth he fisted.

 

His eyes swam with tears and desperation.

 

Harry curled even closer to the man and that said it all.

 

How sad, that a little boy was more scared of his family than a murderer.

 

Such a pity.



Chapter Text

Harry had been with the Riddles for a few weeks now, and in that time, he had come to many conclusions.

 

Merope and Mr. Riddle were very nice to him, especially Mr. Riddle. Harry knew it was wrong to like someone who put a knife to your throat, but he’s dealt with much worse before.

 

Besides, Riddle gave him his first ever hug, and that had to mean something, didn’t it?

 

Harry was sure that all of the meat they ate was not from animals, but this was the first time he’s ever had consistent meals, so he forced down his questions and ate it. (It also didn’t taste bad like he thought, but he never had much meat before this, so he wasn’t sure).

 

Harry also thought that Riddle’s son, Tom, didn’t hate him as much as he did before. When the older boy passed him by while doing house chores, he always curtly grunted in greeting before continuing on his way. Tom also talked to him sometimes, when he had nothing better to do.

 

“What’s with your accent?”

 

“I’m British.”

 

“Oh. Weird.”

 

They never really had any substance, but Harry was more than happy to talk with him! He’s never spoken with kids besides Dudley, but Tom didn’t bully him, so it was great. 

 

Harry got his own room too! It was so big and spacious that he had no idea how to really act in it. Sometimes he’d miss his cupboard. In there, he could curl up against the walls and feel like he was being embraced. He felt terrible, though, because he didn’t want Riddle to think he was rude. The man had seemed really upset when Harry asked where their cupboard was so he could sleep. But then he had gently pet his head, so Harry didn’t think he was all too mad at him, to his relief.

 

Harry spent his days helping Merope cook in the kitchen and clean the house, but he knew that eventually, he’d have to work . Riddle had made it clear that he would have to lure in people to kill if he was to stay, or else he would have to go back to his family. Harry knew that would mean his parents, who he had always dreamed of meeting - and now they were in the same country, same state - but that also meant whoever survived the car crash. And… and if it was Uncle Vernon…

 

“Harry, dear, could you clean up the table for supper, please?”

 

Harry flinched, looking up at Merope. The woman pursed her lips and reached out, a finger lifting his chin. “Darling,” she said gently, “You feeling down?”

 

Harry bit his lip, hesitantly nodding. He had no idea how to deal with the Riddles, Merope, and Riddle mostly. They were so friendly and open, as if they weren’t murderers, as if they didn’t have a cellar deep down under their house where they kept frozen bodies.

 

Merope paused, holding him in place with a stare. Slowly, she leaned down, and Harry let out a small gasp as he clenched his eyes-

 

But no slap came, and she gently kissed his forehead before leaning back. Harry blinked open his eyes, staring at her in awe and shock. “Why don’t you go clean the table for supper, darling?” She asked gently.

 

Harry hurriedly nodded and scrambled out the kitchen, shaking off the sinking feeling in his chest as he went about his tasks. Discreetly, he brushed his forehead where Merope had kissed him and squirmed around with a wobbly smile.

 

Soon enough, Merope came out with supper, not-beef stew and mashed potatoes. It wasn’t much, but Harry was always assured later that night when Riddle and Tom came home that they would have an even bigger meal. Harry thought it was really odd because the Dursley’s always had big meals, but he was happy enough to be allowed to eat anything at all. 

 

Harry nibbled on his spoon, staring down at his reflection in the broth. He peered from his black locks and watched Merope writing in her journal while eating at the same time. She caught his eyes and quirked a brow, swallowing before setting her pen down, “What is it, sweetheart?”

 

Harry flushed and leaned back in his chair, shuffling around in it. “U-uhm...Why doesn’t J-Joya eat wi-ith us…?” He hesitantly asked, sinking into the chair with humiliation. No matter how many times he tried to say certain words, they just wouldn’t come out.

 

Merope looked confused before she laughed, “Junior don’t eat with us ‘cause he’s always wandering about, wild boy he is. Don’t worry tho, I always make sure to sneak lunch in his travel bag.”

 

Harry frowned but nodded. He hurried himself to talk before he lost his chance, “W-where does Mis-mister Riddle go?”

 

Merope smiled a little, amused with him. “He manages a gas station and a store. He’s usually at the gas station coz’ he don’t like loud noises.”

 

Harry scrunched up his nose. But cars were loud?

 

The woman somehow knew what he was thinking, nodding her head as she plucked up some mashed potatoes with her fork, “S’the noises people make that makes him so bothered. He ain’t never been good with children coz’ of that. It’s a small blessing Junior ain’t like his siblins.”

 

“Y-you have mo-more chil-,” he stumbled around his lisp, “Chilween?"

 

“Yes! Five o’ em’! All older than Junior.” Merope sighed out blissfully, “You’ll meet them someday; they visit sometimes.” But her smile got a little sharp, “They don’t know about the cellar or killin’ tho, darling.”

 

Harry gulped, unnerved by Merope’s bright scarlet eyes. So unlike Riddle’s soft amber, but somehow similar when they got that glint inside them. “Y-yes, ma’am,” he stuttered out.

 

Merope hummed and smiled at him before biting into her fork.

 

()()()()()()

 

Harry was on the lookout for Riddle. It was around 5, meaning the man would return home soon! As the weeks turned into months, Harry had become more and more needy for the gentle brush of the man’s hands or his hugs. Soon Harry came to love it so much he was sure he’d do anything to keep it-including that . If Riddle realized, then he never said anything.

 

Harry flinched as the screen door opened, looking over, expecting Riddle. Instead, it was Junior, or Tom. 

 

The boy clambered into the house, a dirty mess as he looked for something. Harry watched him as he perched on the stair’s railing, blanket wrapped around him. Finally, the frail boy got the nerve to speak up, “Uhm, w-what are y-you doing?”

 

Tom paused his search and let out an angry sigh, raising his eyes only to do a retake. He slowly raised a brow, “Ain’t that unsafe?”

 

Harry frowned, “I-I won’t get hurt.”

 

“I could snap your wrists like a twig,” Tom rebuked as he crossed his arms. If Harry weren’t so interested in what Tom was looking for, he would have been aghast by how motherly the older child was being.

 

“W-what are you lo-looking for?” He repeated, shuffling his way off the railing with wary carefulness before proudly landing on a step.

 

Tom looked bemused by the entire action. “My book.”

 

“B-book?”

 

The auburn-haired boy nodded tersely, “Yeah. S’got a funky lookin’ spine on it.”

 

Harry stilled, squinting at Tom.

 

Tom rubbed his face with his hand. “Not a real spine, you brat.”

 

“Oh.”

 

Harry shuffled his bare feet, and after a moment, he looked back up at Tom, “S-so...what do-does the sp-” he stumbled on the word, twitching. “S-spine mean?”

 

“S’the long part of a book that holds all the pages together,” Tom explained as calmly as he could. To be fair, he was doing decently for a child who never had to deal with another one before.

 

Harry narrowed his eyes in thought, head tilting to the side, “I c-can help you fi-find the book!”

 

The boy looked more than displeased. “Don’t you gotta do somethin’ for Ma?”

 

“I alr-ready did all my ch-chores!”

 

“Fine. You can help me,” Tom grit out.

 

Harry brightened, his green eyes lighting up like a Christmas tree. “T-thank you, J-Jouya!”

 

“It’s Junior.”

 

Harry huffed, wrapping the blanket around himself more securely before he followed the boy around the house. 

 

With an hour’s search done and still no book, Tom was frazzled and angry. Harry trailed behind him cautiously, not too bothered about the boy’s anger. He wasn’t nearly as bad as Uncle Vernon.

 

“Where the fuck is it,” the older boy muttered, biting on his nail.

 

Harry looked up from rummaging around a sofa, head tilting feline-like. “M-mama said you ex-explore,” he started slowly, “Maybe y-you dropped it.”

 

Tom sighed and crashed onto the sofa, “Guess I did. That’s so frustrating. I had filled so much of it.”

 

Harry hesitantly sat next to him, “W-what was inside of it?”

 

The older boy hummed and thrummed his fingers on the hand rest, “I dunno, information, good spots to scout and nap, some recipes,” he shrugged. “Just normal stuff, I guess.”

 

The small thing huffed, and Tom let out a laugh, “Did you expect something else?”

 

“You’re a killer,” he muttered.

 

Tom rolled his eyes. “So? Not everything I do is about killing people.”

 

Harry nodded slightly, frowning as he messed with the hemming on his shirt, one of Tom’s cast-offs.

 

“Why do y-you kill peo-people?” He asked quietly.

 

There was no reply so Harry glanced up. Tom was holding him with an even stare, eyes blank. Harry felt a little spike of fear that he was going to be hurt. 

 

But then Tom looked away.

 

“You’re normal, so you don’t get it,” Tom mumbled. He slipped his knees close to his chest, resting his chin on them. 

 

Harry felt words fizzle off his tongue.

 

He had no idea how to respond.

 

“I guess it’s...It’s just how I grew up,” Tom admitted in a soft sort of tone, “I’ve always liked to-,” he faltered. “Hurt people.”

 

“Even if they’re really nice?” Harry whispered cautiously.

 

Tom’s eyes fogged up.

 

“Yeah,” he whispered back.

 

The door opened and both children raised their heads, a sullen air hanging low around them. Harry looked at Tom, whose face was fighting off a frown. He hesitantly reached out and tugged on Tom’s sleeve, leading him downstairs to greet Riddle. Tom carefully curled his fingers around Harry’s wrist in gratitude.

 

Maybe the Riddles were more normal than Harry thought. Or, at least Tom.

 

()()()()()()

 

“Harry, Harry, wake up .”

 

Harry flinched and curled up tighter around his blanket, eyes forcing themselves open to blink painfully at a Tom. The older boy slapped him around a bit, “C’mon.”

 

Harry groaned and tried not to snap his jaws at Tom’s hand. “No,” he grumbled stubbornly. Then confusion settled in and he raised his head, squinting at Tom. “What do you need?”

 

Tom hummed unsurely, eyeing Harry, but gave in and forced the tiny thing into a sitting position, “We have to go scout.”

 

Harry stilled. “Now..?” He whispered.

 

Tom sighed through his nose and crossed his arms, “Yes, now. It’s been four months. It’ll be easy since I already have someone picked for you.”

 

Harry swallowed and raised his head. “Y-you ch-chose someone?”

 

Tom nodded as he shuffled over to the boy’s drawer, picking out clothes. “Yes, I did. 40-year-old Terry Baskin. She lives with her husband in a trailer and takes a walk every morning at 5,” he recited in a drone, and set down the boy’s clothes for the day.

 

Blue eyes leveled with his.

 

“You can do this, can’t you?”

 

Harry shrunk under the stare and fiddled with his blanket.

 

He forced himself to nod.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The sun was barely peeking over the horizon, but it was beautiful. It also smelled like winter, or what Tom told him Texas smelled like in winter. It was a pleasant scent, something that soothed Harry down to the marrow. Tom’s bare feet softly padded the ground, and Harry could see the blackness of them each time he stepped. “W-why aren’t yo-you wearing sh-...shoes?”

 

Tom blinked slowly, coming back into focus as he looked down at Harry, then to his pale feet. He was silent for a moment but eventually responded, “It’s easier to be silent and sneak up on people.”

 

Harry felt something heavy and tight fill his chest, and he looked away from Tom, swallowing harshly. 

 

“I also like the feel of the earth,” Tom continued softly, still staring at his own feet as they continued down the muddy path. “I feel at home.”

 

Harry hesitantly glanced at him. Tom was smiling a little bit. The small boy looked away again and to his own dirty feet, squinting at them. He didn’t get it.

 

“We’re here.”

 

Harry stopped and froze, body tense as he watched Tom raise his head and stare cooly at a trailer.

 

They were here.

 

Tom dragged them to the barn, taking out a walkie talkie. He looked at Harry. “Do you remember everything I told you yesterday?”

 

Harry gulped and nodded hesitantly. “Y-Yes..”

 

“Good.” He set the device in Harry’s trembling hands, taking out his own and looping the string around his neck. “Then get on it,” he ordered blankly, “Go.”

 

Harry inhaled in sharply.

 

He was so scared.

 

He didn’t want to hurt anyone.

 

The woman had a husband, she probably had kids-

 

But he wanted to stay with the Riddles.

 

He wanted to stay with them so badly he knew he would do whatever they wanted of him. He’d rather have died in the car crash than go back to his family, his family where there was a chance Uncle Vernon was alive because if he was alive then-

 

Harry choked and turned on his heel as he watched Tom run off, breathing heavily as he stared at the empty barnhouse with growing panic and anticipation.

 

How many people did Tom kill here?

 

The boy let out a forced sound through his throat and pushed the doors open a little too harshly, tiny heart battering in his ribcage. 

 

"Just wait until she comes. Lead her into here. I'll crush her skull." Tom's soothing voice reverberated inside Harry's skull, and the tiny thing thinned his lips, squaring his chest as he closed the barn doors.

 

Wait. Lure. That's all he needed to do.

 

Harry could feel his heart pounding in his throat as he watched through the hole in the door.

 

Wait.

 

Lure.

 

Wait.

 

Lure-

 

 

The walkie talkie flared to life. “She’s heading over to you.”

 

Harry saw a dot, and he let out a shuddering breath. 

 

He slowly slipped outside the doors, purposely keeping them open before he scurried and-

 

Oh god.

 

The woman was so close he could tell she had blond hair. Blue eyes. She looked tired but determined and he was going to, going to-

 

“E-Excuse me, ma’am!” Harry cried out.

 

The woman blinked as Harry came up to her, and Harry had no hard time tearing up because all he felt was guilt guilt guilt guilt-

 

“My papa fell down his ladder, and I can’t help him up!” He sobbed, and he knew he got the woman as she looked down at his small shaking body.

 

“Of course, sweetheart, lead me to him right away,” she said urgently. Harry felt something in him wither .

 

He was so evil.

 

Harry pulled on the woman’s shirt. He felt as though his heart stopped beating altogether, but that made no sense because his ears were thundering with his blood, thrumming as loudly and as panicked as he felt. Her poor concerned eyes made his own shimmer and they widened when-

 

Tom was right there.

 

But it wasn't Tom. It couldn’t be because-

 

Those eyes gleaned sharply, a playful smile on his face as he brought down that sledgehammer-

 

A predator.

 

The woman - he can’t remember her name, oh god he can’t remember her name - screamed out and fell to the floor. Harry scurried backwards and fell onto the ground, tears renewing as his chest quickened his rapid movement.

 

“Ah, I missed her skull,” Tom whispered softly. That small smile spread wider as he leisurely stalked closer, wiping the bloody hammer with his forefinger and thumb. “Might as well have fun with you.”

 

The woman’s terrified eyes raised to Tom as he raised the sledgehammer and swung it down, hitting her collar bone.

 

The crack that resounded in the room made Harry flinch and gasp as he clenched his eyes shut against the screams of the poor woman. “Tom..!” Harry wailed. He was so scared, scared of Tom. “Please stop it please stop it please stop it please stop it!”

 

Tom winced, eyes snapping to Harry. They watched Harry as he trembled violently, sobbing out pleas.

 

He tsked and slammed the hammer down once more onto the still whimpering woman, silencing her.

 

Harry tried to scurry backwards as Tom began to walk over to him, shaking his head fearfully. When Harry felt his back hit the wall and let out a terrified noise, Tom reached out and-

 

A wet hand cupped his cheek, tilting his head upwards. Harry let out a strained noise, and Tom set the sledgehammer down on the ground, staining the scattered hay. Another hand joined Harry's face.

 

“Don’t cry, Harry,” Tom whispered. His thumbs stroked Harry’s cheekbones, and the older boy leaned forward. Confusion and worry murked those previously bright eyes. “I’m sorry.”

 

Harry’s lips trembled, parting wetly, but no words escaped.

 

“I,” Tom stopped and let out a soft sigh. Harry let himself be picked up, curling his legs tight around the older boy’s hips. His shirt was wet and stained as a bloody hand stroked his back, but Harry just quietly cried in Tom’s neck, accepting the warmth as the boy began to draw water and clean the scene.

 

Guilt filled Tom’s eyes.

 

()()()()()()

 

Tom didn’t know what he did wrong, but he just knew he did something.

 

Harry wouldn’t stop shaking and crying. Tom thought that maybe Harry hit his head, but he had no injuries.

 

So.

 

Why was he crying?

 

Tom quietly opened the door to the house, looking around. It seemed Merope was busy. The older boy shuffled Harry in his arms before he continued on upstairs to the bathroom. Harry was like a doll as Tom set him down to start a bath.

 

Guilt and worry gnawed on him as he eyed Harry’s tiny body.

 

Tom felt a hard realization all of a sudden that Harry was much younger than him, hardly a decade old. How old was he? Three? Five?

 

Tom’s lips thinned, and he looked back down at the water’s reflection.

 

Tom felt like his chest was being torn through. He hated it.

 

The silence was suffocating.

 

He was so used to Harry babbling.

 

Tom swallowed harshly, and he began to undress Harry, lifting the boy into the tub. Harry froze and looked near afraid of the water, finally making a noise since Tom killed that woman.

 

“It’s…” Tom held in his frustration and confusion. “It’s a bath, Harry,” he uttered quietly.

 

Harry continued to look unnerved, but Tom ignored it in favor of filling a cup with water and pouring it over the boy’s head. Harry flinched but stayed in place, even leaning against the tub as if he would be able to feel Tom’s body heat that way. 

 

Tom rolled his sleeves up and began to wash the child-

 

And paused.



Tom’s eyes stared at Harry’s back.



Cigarette burns.



Tom slowly raised his eyes to Harry’s face.

 

The boy warily looked at him.

 

Tom’s mouth opened and closed with a small click.

 

He continued cleaning Harry without a word.

 

()()()()()()

 

Harry refused to talk.

 

He didn’t think his tongue would work even if he wanted to.

 

Harry’s head throbbed in pain as he was given his blanket by Tom. He let out a small noise of relief as he slowly melted into a puddle and buried himself into the soft furs. Tom didn’t leave him alone, however, and just sat there with his hand on Harry’s back. Harry wanted him to leave so he could go to his special corner, but after a few minutes, he gave up and nosed the sheets, letting out a huff.

 

Tom jolted and looked down at him, but the boy said nothing as he looked back out the window. Harry didn’t know what he was looking for and didn’t care.

 

“Harry,” Tom began softly, and Harry blearily opened his eyes. The older boy was looking at him, blue eyes tinted darker and emptier than Harry had ever seen before. Something gross and vile squirmed in his stomach.



“What was your family like?”



Harry froze, eyes widening in horror.

 

Harry swallowed harshly, and suddenly he remembered that Tom had seen his-

 

“No.”

 

Tom’s blank face froze in surprise, the boy blinking. “No?”

Harry’s tiny body tensed, “No no no please.”

 

Tom looked increasingly distressed as realizations filtered over his glazing eyes. “Harry-”

 

Harry snarled defensively and curled around his blanket, trying to hide from the world as he clawed at his ears. Tom jumped and hastily grabbed the boy’s hands, “H-Harry stop that, you’re-”

 

“Let go!” He screamed.

 

Tom flinched, faltering. Harry used that to his advantage and shoved him off the bed, thin chest beating like a drum as he heaved.

 

Tom stared at him with wide eyes, not a noise in the room besides Harry’s pitched breathing.

 

The lanky boy slowly swallowed, nape flaring in a cold sweat as he hesitantly stood, all too aware of the feral green eyes watching him. His shaky hand fluttered over a bleeding forearm, skin ripped open by tiny blunt nails. 

 

They both said nothing.

 

Tom’s lips thinned, brows creasing together before he quietly left the room.

 

Harry didn’t know what else to do but sit there, lungs still not working properly as his scars burned accusingly, almost like eyes.

 

Almost like... 

 

Tears filled Harry’s eyes, and the toddler’s skinny fingers dug into his face, a breathless exhale of pain coming from his body as he started to cry.

 

()()()()()()

 

“Doll?”

 

Tom slowly raised his eyes, greeting his father’s amber. He knew he must’ve looked pathetic, crying in the dark mudroom right in front of the door. When he didn’t answer, concern shot through Riddle’s eyes, and the man crouched low. Tom’s eyes stung and threatened to leak again when a calloused but loving hand cupped his cheek. “Baby boy,” the man murmured, “What happened?”

 

Tom inhaled as normally as he could, voice meek. “Daddy, there’s something wrong with Harry.”

 

Riddle blinked but Tom didn’t let the man talk as he continued. “He’s got marks and scars all over his body. He freaked out today when I asked him about his family,” the boy’s tone took a dark lit, “He’s like you , Daddy.”

 

Riddle stared at his son as the boy finally quieted, those calm eyes flickering over a tear-streaked face. “I see,” the man said softly.

 

Tom’s spine suddenly sparked something mean -

 

And his eyes widened slightly as Riddle looked up the stairs in thought, thinking of the toddler in a room. “I see,” the man repeated, and Tom’s eyes marbled before they narrowed to murderous slits.



”You knew,” he growled.



Riddle’s cold eyes easily met his, the man’s head tilting precariously.

 

Tom’s shoulders tensed, a deep noise coming from his throat. “You just wanted to see how messed up he was, didn’t you?” He hissed venomously, standing up in his fury.



There was a long pause and both Riddles stared each other down.



“Yes,” he finally said. “I did.”



Tom snapped and took a step forward, teeth baring, “You're disgusting.”

 

But Riddle only sighed softly, looking disappointed in him as he also stood, shaking his hands of dust.

 

“I didn’t let the boy keep his life just so you could play with him, Tom,” the man said, and Tom’s body surged with loathing as the man’s voice stayed soft. “He has potential. That is why he is not in the cellar frozen and dead-”

 

Shut up .”

 

Riddle almost chuckled but the noise was too low, too dark, staring down at Tom as he clasped his hands behind his back. “Are you attached to him?”

 

Tom bristled, smoldering venom in his eyes.

 

Riddle stepped forward, and Tom stood still, frozen, as he cupped the boy’s chin again and brought his face up. 

 

“Tom, don’t let yourself become too attached,” he whispered in his ear, and Tom glared at him from the corner of his eye.

 

“He may turn out to be a dud, he may betray us,” Riddle intoned in a croon, removing stray hairs from the boy’s paling face.

 

“If that happens, we will have to kill him.”

 

Riddle’s empty eyes burned into Tom’s own scared ones, lips tilted in a frightfully blank smile.



“You understand, don’t you?”



Tears filled the creases of Tom’s eyes, and he closed them to hide it, throat moving as he carefully swallowed.



“Yes, sir,” he muttered.



“Atta boy,” Riddle whispered.