In the autumn of 1944, Tom Riddle created his very first Horcrux from a cheap, muggle notebook. He hid it well.
In the summer of 1945, Tom Riddle created a second Horcrux out of a ring stolen from his insane and repulsive Uncle Morfin. He hid it well.
In the summer of 1946, young Tom Riddle killed Hepzibah Smith, framing a poor house elf for the murder.
Madame Smith was a rather corpulent, unattractive, self-absorbed old widow. The less said about the pathetic little Hokey, the better. The point was, neither would be missed. What would be missed, however, were Madame Smith's two greatest treasures – the enchanted golden cup of Helga Hufflepuff and the golden locket of Salazar Slytherin.
By this point, nineteen year-old Tom Riddle had made quite a career of getting away with murder. Things certainly came easily to handsome, charming, unscrupulous young men.
In the autumn of 1946, the former Hogwarts Head Boy created a third Horcrux from the golden locket of Salazar Slytherin. He hid it well.
One would excuse the young fellow for being cocky at this point – for he was most certainly on a roll.
In the spring of 1947, Tom Riddle created a fourth Horcrux from Helga's cup. It was the first great error of his short life. For in all his arrogance, he had somehow overlooked the part about the cup being enchanted. True, no one for a thousand years had even the remotest clue what rare spell the gentle Founder had performed over her priceless treasure. An enchantment still was, nevertheless, an enchantment. It was the height of stupidity for any wizard to tamper with an already bespelled object.
Nevertheless, Tom followed his usual procedure. To create each new Horcrux meant the further fracturing of one's own. Only the most reprehensible of human crimes can effectively split a soul. The latest sacrifice on the altar of his already disintegrated humanity was the unfortunate Melhuish Shunpike – a drunken squib who had ineptly picked his pocket outside a Knockturn Alley pub.
In any case, Hufflepuff's cup was already imbued with its own secret magic. Tom Riddle overlooked this crucial fact in his latest attempt at immortality. As a result, when he performed the incantation to imprison a piece of his soul inside the small golden goblet – the collision of magical forces was deafening.
The explosion blew Tom halfway to Liverpool. (some rare form of spontaneous apparation, perhaps) The fact that he wasn't killed instantly was a minor miracle. Days later, when he finally regained consciousness, he'd forgotten all about Hufflepuff's enchanted cup. He'd forgotten all about Horcruxes.
In fact, he'd forgotten his own name.
For the next ten years, a badly disfigured gentleman by the name of John Jones lived quietly at a small mental hospital outside Manchester. He rarely spoke or reacted to anything other than the most simple commands. From the extensive burns all over his body, it was assumed he had received his injuries during the War.
Then suddenly, out of the blue, John Jones performed his first feat of magic in a decade. He summoned a jar of pickle relish for his bologna sandwich. Fortunately, the only witnesses were other mental patients.
When his magic returned, so did all of Tom's memories. And he was furious about the lost years. He was horrified at the damage to his once perfect body. He had been a beautiful young man – now he was thirty years old and badly scarred. It would take even longer to repair the damage which had been beyond the skill of ordinary muggle surgeons.
And even with all the magic in the world, Tom would never be beautiful again.
What caused him even greater distress, was the realization of the loss of a priceless artifact of a Founder. After painstakingly retracing his steps from that disastrous day, no trace of Hufflepuff's cup could ever be found. Obviously, it had disintegrated in the force of the magical explosion - completely obliterating a part of his own soul in the process. Tom was pragmatic about the loss, however, and was determined to never dare make such a foolish mistake again.
In the summer of 1957, the Dark Lord returned to the Wizarding world, and proceeded to build up his powerbase. And as far as that part of our story goes, the rest is history.
Like all evil geniuses, Tom Riddle (known ever afterwards as Lord Voldemort) had a blind spot. His was a total lack of imagination. It simply never occurred to him that there were other possible scenarios in this world. The scenario for the "disappearance" of the golden cup was far more simple:
While patient "John Jones" was suffering from ten years worth of amnesia – a family out on a Sunday picnic discovered a battered, imitation-gold candy bowl. (Obviously, a discarded old carnival souvenir)
When these same clueless Muggles drove home to Stockton-On-Tees, they took the silly trinket with them. Mrs. Muggle was convinced it would make a charming decorative planter for the front garden.
And that was how Helga Hufflepuff's exquisite treasure spent the next fifty years as a lawn ornament stuffed with bright yellow plastic rosebuds.
Oh, and yes. It was also a Horcrux. A very intact Horcrux. Unfortunately, no one was aware of it, except for the fractured sliver of soul trapped inside...
* * * * * * * * * *
IN THE HORCRUX – WEEK ONE
Nineteen year-old Tom Riddle was surely going insane. How long had he been floating here - in this vast, dark nothingness? The last thing he could remember was chanting the ritual for the creation of this latest Horcrux. Then it had all gone boom!
Why did he feel so numb? Why couldn't he hear anything? See anything? Was he...dead? Had he died in the tremendous explosion?
No. He decided he couldn't be dead. He simply didn't feel dead. Perhaps he was in a coma from his injuries? Tom groaned inwardly. Sure. Right. That's all he needed – to be lying comatose in a ward at Saint Mungo's hospital while a squad of surly Aurors waited to arrest him for creating an illegal Horcrux. That was purely dark magic, and dark magic was punishable by a sentence in Azkaban.
Those idiots at the Ministry and their stupid, short-sighted laws banning the use of Dark magics! How did they expect the wizarding world to evolve and stay strong? Light magic was not a panacea! It was only half a loaf, really. Dark magic had so much to offer! Why was dark magic held in such contempt?
Weak fools, with their narrow-minded views of old magic. That was the very reason he intended to one day conquer the Ministry and bring dignity and common sense to the wizarding world.
Oh, yes...and put all those useless, pathetic muggles in their place.
These happy thoughts distracted Tom until he realized he was still trapped in this vast, senseless...nothingness. And he still couldn't feel his body.
IN THE HORCRUX – MONTH SEVEN
It took him a long time to realize the truth of the matter: He was merely a disembodied spirit trapped inside a mystical object. He was a piece of his own soul. He was never getting out of here. Wherever "here" was.
It took all these months for Tom to arrive at such a conclusion, and even longer for him to finally accept his fate. He would linger here, in a sort of limbo, until he was either discovered or accidentally destroyed.
Either way, there would be no happy outcome as far as he was concerned. The reason was quite simple, really - he no longer possessed a body.
Still, one had to make even a half-life bearable. Tom prided himself on his brilliance and logic. As long as he was trapped in this hellish limbo, why not create some kind of life here?
But what kind of life can I live in the middle of nothingness?
Well, first of all, Tom thought. 'Let there be light!'
Nothing. Well, not at first. 'Oh, come on, now! This is all in my head, anyhow! Now for Merlin's sake, focus! Focus, you bloody idiot!'
It took several more weeks before he could concentrate hard enough to paint the landscape with bright streaks. Tom was proud of this small triumph. He felt a true thrill of pleasure when the streaks became an actual morning sky.
IN THE HORCRUX – YEAR TWO
It was a beautiful winter afternoon, Tom decided. It had taken months to concentrate hard enough to make snow. Beautiful bright, white crystalline shapes of all sizes.
Lovely! How odd. He'd never stopped to consider how beautiful the simplest things could be. He'd never taken the time before. Well, now he had all the time in the world to create snow, to paint a setting sun and hang it in a purple sky.
How sickeningly poetic he had become!
IN THE HORCRUX – YEAR FIVE
He could feel his fingers and toes! He could actually move his legs! The greatest moment came, though, when he actually took a deep breath and inhaled sweet air. It was cool and refreshing, and there was the most subtle scent of lavender.
He had done it! He had created it all with his mind! He had made all his senses come alive, little by little, in this Horcrux limbo. Just by sheer force of will!
What really would be lovely, just now...would be a clear, sparkling stream. Filled with ice-cold water trickling down from...ah, yes! A snow-capped mountain glacier. Perfect!
Tom shut his eyes and focused yet again. When he heard the tinkle of water against the rocks, he opened his eyes again.
"Screw you, Dumbledore!" he crowed contemptuously. "Let's see you conjure something that magnificent!"
The water tasted crisp, clean and sweet. Tom grinned again, and concentrated. Ah, yes. Even better. Icy-cold pumpkin juice!
His world, his creation was coming along just beautifully. But there was something missing. If only...
No! Never mind that! He didn't mind being alone. He'd been alone all of his life! All great men were essentially, alone. He didn't need anybody!
IN THE HORCRUX – YEAR FIFTEEN
Forget his plans for world domination! Forget massacring all the mudbloods and ruling with an iron fist! He didn't give a damn. All he wanted was to hear another voice! Anybody's voice! A squalling muggle infant! The droning voice of that ghostly bore, Professor Binns. Yes! He'd take Binns! He'd even take that idiot Peeves playing lame jokes on him! He'd even –
No. Tom stopped himself. He didn't need anybody. Certainly not the company of his inferiors. He'd do just fine, with this lovely little village he'd spent the past month conjuring. It went so nicely with his replica of Hogwarts...even down to the Quidditch Pitch. And hadn't he done a magnificent job on that custom Comet-style broom?
But still...there was nobody to race with –
"Oh, shut up!" he yelled at nobody in particular.
IN THE HORCRUX – YEAR THIRTY
"You do realize, my good fellow," said his scaly friend, "when you die, you'll be going to Hell."
Tom glared at the snake he'd created so many years ago. Yes, he'd created life. He was a God in his own world, after all. Of course, it didn't stop him from wondering just what was going on in the real world. Somewhere outside the Horcrux, life was going on. His physical self still lived. Tom could only wonder what had come to pass out there. Had he already taken over wizarding Britain, and brought that arrogant blowhard, Dumbledore to his knees?
The basilisk's eyes glowed a sickening yellow. "You have nothing to say?"
"How's this? Shut up, you repulsive reptile!"
Sssslingo (for that was her name) gave another derisive hiss. "Shut up? That's the best you can do? You inarticulate, mammalian buffoon!"
"You know, snake...the Dark Lord giveth and the dark Lord can taketh away with one little cutting curse!" Tom sneered right back.
"Oh, like you haven't already done that a hundred times already. And what do you always do afterwards? Bring me back to life, oh fickle one!"
Tom groaned. Some days, it just wasn't worth waking up.
"Or I can always bite you again!" came the hopeful hiss.
IN THE HORCRUX – YEAR FORTY
It was unbearable, this loneliness. True, he'd always had contempt for his fellow man. True, they were all dreadfully insignificant beings. Utter bores. Mundane idiots, the lot of them – muggles, mudbloods, wizards...it hardly mattered.
But that was long ago. An eternity ago. The sad fact was, he'd created a world of beauty and brilliance. But it was empty and soulless. Tom finally understood the joy of being surrounded with the noise and chaos of humanity.
Even if they were scum...dirt beneath his feet, it still would be better than this. He was a king, true. He reigned in a perfect heaven of his own making. But after forty years of isolation...of utter solitude...he'd rather give up his crown and serve in Hell.
At least there'd be company.
IN THE HORCRUX – YEAR FIFTY-ONE
It was inevitable, Tom thought, on the day it finally happened. Even inside the golden shell of his world, he could hear the deafening chant of an unintelligible spell. Somewhere, outside his sky, a wizard was screaming the words which would bring his world to an end.
And in moments, his carefully ordered "paradise" rumbled, shrieked and finally exploded into a billion shards of flame and ash.
It was over, finally. Those were Tom Riddle's final thoughts as every piece of his existence winked out of the world.
WELCOME TO HELL – YEAR ONE
Tom hadn't really known what to expect. He assumed there would be rivers of flame, and pits of despair.
Well, it was certainly as advertised. The screams of agony from the damned. The heat...that oppressive, endless heat.
Oh, and the eternal suffering. Right. Tom tried not to shriek too loudly from the sharp prodding by the assorted horned minions of the Devil.
How long was he going to be pushed up this endless, stone mountain of pain? No. He was being rudely shoved to the hot sand...forced into the most subservient of bows.
Ah, yes. Here was the Ruler of the Underworld, himself. Half-reclining on his throne. The Devil was a hideous being – huge and deformed. Actually, he reminded Tom of that moronic oaf, Hagrid, without the beard.
What exactly was the King of the Damned sitting on? Was that a canvas covered lounger? And what was bubbling around him? Some kind of lava-like swimming pool, encrusted all around with huge, precious gems?
The Devil glared evilly at Tom, and beckoned him forward, with a gnarled, blood-tipped finger. "Step forward, unrepentant sinner!" He gestured towards the boiling red pool – fountains of flames shooting high into the air.
The minions grasped his arms and pushed Tom towards the edge of the superheated lava. Another fawning minion appeared and handed his master a bottle of spa oil and a fresh towel.
'Better to serve in Hell' the words echoed in Tom's head as the bubbling steam rose up towards his eyes.
There was a booming laugh. "Well, so that Potter fellow finally found the last Horcrux, hmm? I must say, out of all the pieces of your soul, you seem to be the least...whiny."
Riddle couldn't help but look smug. "I like to think I've evolved...Sir."
Satan apparently was delighted by his attitude, and gestured him to come even closer. "Yes, well, never mind that. You do realize, of course, that you'll be nineteen years old forever. And you've condemned yourself to be my slave throughout eternity! The torments I have devised for you! The endless agonies! The sufferings I shall unleash upon your unearthly flesh and spirit!"
He paused significantly. "And I do believe it's time for your swim, Mr. Riddle."
"You're not so tough," Tom shrugged, and lowered his body into the fiery lagoon.