Spoilers for Book 6. Done for the Battlefields' line challange. Can hatred make you perfect?
They were in the drawing room when he entered the house that he should have been raised in. He'd often thought he would be more disappointed, upon arriving, that he hadn't been raised here, but after all, it was a decidedly Muggle house, if an upper crust Muggle house, and he'd seen finer on the few occasions he'd visited his fellow students. His grandparents were on the couch, listening as his father read aloud to them. He didn't bother paying attention to the words. Instead he paid attention to his father's face, the way the firelight accentuated the shadows, and the muscles moved under the skin.
It was, he thought bitterly, no wonder that his uncle had mistaken him for his father at first. It made him feel sick.
He stood there for three minutes before he grew bored with his observations and moved into the firelight. It amused him, faintly, to know he could have stood there until the family rose to go to bed or change their clothes or whatever silly habits they had and no one would have noticed. As it was, it was comically clichÃ©d the way they started and stared at him. He was half certain his grandfather intended to ask who he was when the old fool opened his mouth, but another step into the light and a cool smirk assured the silence continued.
"Well, isn't this a cozy picture? The entire family, sitting around, enjoying the fire. Really, the only thing missing is the devoted wife..." He sneered, his eyes meeting his father's. "Now, where could she be, hmm?"
His father finally managed to speak, although it was a bare croak that failed utterly at being impressive. "How..." he paused to clear his throat, "How did you get in?"
He didn't bother responding. Instead he DisApparated, appearing just in front of the fire. "Easily."
All three Muggles turned as quickly as they could. The older two stared at him again, but his father gave him a look of contempt. "I see. Just like your mother. Well, I wanted nothing to do with her and her conjuring and I'll have nothing to do with you." With that, the fool went back to reading his book, albeit silently this time.
"You won't?" The sick feeling in his stomach grew, twisted, screamed. "As easy as that, hmm?"
The man ignored him. His grandparents tried to do the same, but it was clear they were still wary. They clearly knew that a boy who could disappear and reappear at will was not to be trifled with. It was, he thought, possibly the most sensible realization they'd ever made.
He withdrew his wand very deliberately, making sure they could all see exactly what he was doing. "Are you so certain, Father," it was the only time he'd address the man by his title and then only in tones of contempt, "that I'm not the one who will have nothing to do with you?" He tilted his head and grinned. His grandparents were now clearly watching him, uncertain whether to run or remain. His father was still resolutely ignoring him. Just for the fun of it, he switched languages, hissing softly. "I think that no one will have anything to do with you ever again."
To make certain he had his father's attention, he killed his grandparents first.
It was a complicated spell, yes, but no more complicated than the one before it or the one before that. Anyone could do it with the right training, the right amount of power to back them. He wasn't afraid. He'd taken precautions. Even if the unthinkable happened and he botched the entire proceeding, it wasn't as if he could die.
Of course, possibility of death or not, there was no reason to be stupid. Failure was still failure. He double, triple, quadruple checked his calculations, his conjugation, the way he had woven transfiguration with potions, charms with the dark arts. He checked his ingredients, making certain each was of the perfect size, shape, and texture.
The one risk he took was reciting the spell in Parseltongue rather than the human Latin.
He could feel the magic as he spoke, as his wand traced shapes through the air, as the potion in the cauldron turned colours. It wound around his legs in long, adder sinuous movements, crawling up his skin and tangling in the dark strands of his hair. When he picked up the carefully prepared goblet, dipped it into the potion and drank, he could taste it, a clear, burning fire.
He didn't scream. He could feel his skin shedding, peeling off in great, long strips, but he didn't scream. His eyes itched, burned, then seemed to dissolve, but no sound emerged. His mouth opened, lips pulled back from the teeth, but he bit his tongue, focused through the pain of having his entire nervous system pulled out through his finger tips, and above all, he remained silent.
When it was over, he vomited. Leeched of their magic, the little bits of scale and horn and blood that he'd swallowed spilled back out onto the floor, spattering over his carefully drawn symbols. Stomach acid met spell and the chalky lines vanished in hissing snakes of smoke. By the time he was done, he couldn't move.
He wasn't afraid. Last time, he hadn't been able to move for a week. He'd survived, stood at last, and walked away from the ruins of his spell, stronger for the sacrifice.
It would be the same this time.
It was only two days later when he dragged himself off of the hard cavern floor. The air around him was black, his fires long since burned out. He relit them with a weary gesture and examined his handy work in the glassy surface of the cavern's lake. Small, blind fish darted through a reflection as pale as they were. His eyes were blood shot to the point of being pure red, but they no longer burned. He blinked a couple of times. Perhaps the change was permanent...time would tell.
It wasn't what he was aiming for, but it was progress. For now, it would do.
His temper had slipped twice already. He refused to let it slip again, despite the constant reminder of who he had been and the old man's damned refusal to see who he was now, to acknowledge his achievements and what he'd become.
"Let us speak openly. Why have you come here tonight, surrounded by henchmen, to request a job we both know you do not want?"
It was difficult, very difficult, to turn the sudden, icy chill in his gut to surprise on his face. He was close...so close...and yet when the man he would give the mocking title of employer looked at him, he could already taste his defeat. "A job I do not want? On the contrary, Dumbledore, I want it very much." He willed the old fool to take the answer, to stop his prying and simply give him what he wanted, to let him take one more step to his goal.
"Oh, you want to come back to Hogwarts, but you do not want to teach any more than you wanted to when you were eighteen. What is it you're after, Tom? Why not try an open request for once?"
Years, so many years, he'd spent building his defenses, living and breathing magic until it was more a part of him than any Wizard since the founding, until he was scarcely human anymore, let alone a filthy half blood, and the old man truly expected him to hand over his secrets so easily? The castle around him called to him, his birthright as truly as the ring buried in his ancestral shack or the whispered conversations with vipers. He could hear the basilisk stirring hungrily in her chamber. He could feel the power his forefather and his friends had poured into the walls, power he could tap, power that would move him from the reach of all that was Muggle and mortal for good. He would no longer need the pawns sitting down in Hogsmeade getting drunk to run errands for him while he continued his study. He would not need to devote precious minutes preparing lessons for children that would never appreciate what he'd done, not unless there was one child among the many who knew an ambition as strong as his, who he would have to be careful with lest he train his own downfall.
He would be immortal.
He would be invincible.
He would be home.
Of all the things Dumbledore knew, he was certain that the old man didn't know this, that this question was genuine. However, he'd never been able to lie, to throw his old teacher off of the scent. His options now were to offer up a map to his remaining weakness or to withdraw and find another way. He had never retreated, not from the most difficult spell or transformation or pain. "If you do not want to give me a job - "
"Of course I don't. And I don't think for a moment you expected me to. Nevertheless, you came here, you asked, you must have a purpose."
It galled him to retreat now. "This is your final word?"
"Then we have nothing more to say to each other."
"No, nothing," the sentiment in the air was thick enough to choke on. "The time is long gone when I could frighten you with a burning wardrobe and force you to make repayment for your crimes. But I wish I could, Tom...I wish I could..."
His mind focused, burned the image of Dumbledore's patronizing expression into it until its afterimage burned his retinas. He'd thought to find the old man weakened with age and sentimentality, but instead he'd found a part of his past, a drop of Muggle blood, that he'd missed, that was still alive and strong enough to face him. He could sense the power in the room, all funneling toward the Headmaster's desk.
He had been wrong, but he couldn't be wrong forever.
Love leads to foolish, needless self sacrifice.
Age leads to infirmity and death.
This piece of the past would be gone, eventually. He would simply have to wait, to work around it, and, while he was at it, to deny it as much aid as he could. They would see how firm an army Dumbledore could raise from a school of students who didn't understand the Dark.
He sat in his father's chair by the fire, the book the man had been reading in his lap. He'd carefully marked the page that had been open that night. Around the room, like a dragon's horde, lay little trinkets that had caught his eye, tokens of his victims. It was almost ironic that his affinity lay with snakes rather than magpies.
His eyes skimmed the page, slit pupils wide to catch the light. Muggle words, useless blathering, but there was one passage, one line, one collection of letters on the page that had caught his attention, had caused him to lift the book from his father's dead fingers and take it with him. It seemed even Muggles could have wisdom. He read the words to Nagini the way his father had read them to his grandparents, the hissed words punctuated by the crackle of the fire.
"As Love, if Love is perfect, casts out fear, so Hate, if Hate is perfect, casts out fear."
He'd flipped through the rest of the book to see if this Tennyson person had stumbled across anymore gems of truth, but those words along held his interest. Perfect hatred...such a powerful concept, if one thought about it. Far more powerful than perfect love and all of the weakness it allowed, surely. He stretched out one, long fingered hand, studying it in the firelight. There was nothing there, anymore, to remind him of the Muggle who had rejected his mother and himself, nothing of the taint, nothing of the folly that had left her dead in a Muggle orphanage with only enough breath to name him.
His hatred had become his perfection and he feared nothing.