Never let it be said that Dr. Tom Riddle was anything but a meticulous person. His clinic was absolutely immaculate, his tools perfectly stored and organised, and his schedule planned to the last minute.
His reputation was flawless, as well. Despite being a young, small town odontologist, he was known for giving the less fortunate dental check-ups, free of charge. And he planned on giving discounts based on income in the near future. His clinic may be private, but it was the only one in Little Whinging; some people could not afford to go elsewhere and benefit from NHS, and he would readily welcome them. He was the kind, attentive and charitable Dr. Riddle, after all, and it would do wonders for his reputation.
He depended on his reputation, you see. Even a man as meticulous as himself could make mistakes, and if he happened to make a small, tiny, human slip-up, only his reputation would cover for him.
Because Tom, as a person, wasn’t perfect. There was something marring his soul, hidden from sight, sullying his psyche and making him act in unfortunately messy ways. Sometimes…
Sometimes, he had these urges.
Like an artist when a muse would strike them with inspiration, or an athlete when they felt the need for their muscles to burn, the strain of exercise on their body.
Sometimes, when a patient laid down before him, utterly helpless in a bib as he loomed over them, and they bared their mouth for him and all he could see was filth, disgusting, repugnant, yellowing teeth and decay, the stench of rot hitting his nostrils…
He saw red. And sometimes, his self-control wasn’t enough. Sometimes, he would see red staining their dental bib, dripping down the polished white floor in intricate patterns, staining his sterilised scalpel.
Drip, drip, drip.
It sounded like music to his ears.
“Please…” His patient begged, a drawn out, gurgling sound. The man’s teeth were coated in blood, shielding Tom’s eyes from their imperfection.
He leaned in close, a pleasant smile on his face.
“You’re bleeding, Burke,” Tom crooned softly. “Because you don’t floss.”
A whimper escaped the man, the nasty piece of work he was. He’d been Tom’s employer when he’d worked in retail, and made his late adolescence absolutely miserable. It was nothing short of a miracle that a patient who had personally wronged him had dared to walk into his clinic. The urge had reared its ugly head in no time, because he knew what Borgin’s teeth looked like.
It made his revenge taste sweeter. Fate always found ways to favour him.
Tom plunged the scalpel into his carotid artery, and the nasty piece of flesh that liked to call himself a man, squirmed, and then stilled.
Drip, drip, drip.
And with that sweet symphony playing in his mind, and the beautiful canvas on the floor burned in his memory, he started the clean-up process. The floor was immaculate, the evidence burned, his tools sterilised, the body disposed of where no one would ever find it.
Dr. Riddle, after all, was nothing but a meticulous person. His spotless criminal record could vouch for that.
It was the first time Tom got the urge to kill someone before taking a look at their mouth.
He didn’t know what did it. Vibrant emerald eyes hidden behind outdated glasses, barely held together by tape, so he was low-income, but so were most of his patients on a day like this one. A dark mop of unruly black hair, but it looked like it was that way naturally, not unkempt. Tan skin, probably mixed origin, but Tom had never held any preference for ethnicity in his urges, before.
The teenager was short, shorter than he would expect for the age in his file. His complexion was thin but his hands were calloused and the faintest hints of muscle were apparent on his arms. He was probably used to hard labour, all skin, muscle and bones, no hint of fat to be noted.
He was wearing what were clearly hand-me-downs: a grey short-sleeved t-shirt, sports trousers, and a battered pair of trainers that looked like they’d seen their fair share of trouble.
He was sixteen and he hadn’t come with a guardian, odd as it was. Perfect.
“Harry Potter, right?” Tom asked, a warm smile on his face. “You are a bit early.”
The teen returned his smile, a bit of anxiety creeping around the edges. “I’m… I’m sorry, doctor. I just didn’t want to miss my appointment. It’s…not a problem, is it?”
Harry fidgeted in place. Tom wondered what his grey t-shirt would look like splattered in blood.
“No, not at all. Please, do come in,” he said pleasantly, waving for the teen to enter his office.
The urge got stronger and stronger, but his affable persona was second nature. Harry shuffled inside, and sat on the recliner.
“Please get comfortable,” Tom crooned, subtly motioning for him to lay down. As the boy complied, he placed the dental bib on his chest, and clipped the chain around his neck.
Gorgeous, Tom thought. He wondered if he should remove the bib and hook the chain all the way around his slit throat once he was done, watch the blood splatter his shirt and soak it, clinging to the teen’s skin. Absolutely fetching.
He pondered this as he went to fetch his tools, the scalpel not looking at all out of place as the boy stared at the ceiling, his hands fidgeting.
“Relax,” Tom said. “Is this the first time you’ve been to the dentist?”
The teen nodded. “My relatives never took me, Doctor. I was relieved when I read that this was for free. I’m thankful, but… a little nervous,” he admitted.
Such an adorable boy, but he’d never set foot in an odontologist’s office. The contradiction made Tom’s chest contract in anticipation. He knew what he would see in his patient’s mouth.
This might just be his best work yet, but he couldn’t quite place why.
“There is no need to be nervous, Harry. Now, open wide.”
All his expectations were shattered in an instant. There was no pungent smell. No rot, not even a cavity. It was like the teen had never eaten sweets in his entire life. His teeth were pearly white, clearly brushed daily, and he could tell he flossed.
His shock must have shown on his face, because the boy’s questioning eyes bore into him, mouth unmoving. Tom continued his examination, thoroughly. Even the lingual side of his teeth was clean.
His urge was instantly snuffed out, replaced by unfiltered wonder. He couldn’t inflict his macabre work on this boy, not when he was already a masterpiece to be cherished, protected.
This, Tom realised, was the kind of perfection he’d been looking for. If his murders were art, he decided, Harry was his muse.
When he was done, Tom gave Harry a little plastic cup of mouth rinse, mostly to soothe this precious part of his anatomy after all the prodding he’d done.
“You take very good care of your teeth, Mr. Potter. Colour me impressed,” he said, offering him the first genuine smile he’d ever given a patient before. “No cavities, absolutely nothing to worry about. You are in the clear.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” he smiled, and it was tight-lipped. No, Harry. Show me your teeth, show them to the entire world. He was slightly flushed, as if unaccustomed to praise.
“I would still advise you keep coming for regular check-ups. One can never take too much care of their teeth, and preventative measures are the best course of action. Your teeth are meant to last forever, after all.”
Really, he just wanted to see his new muse again.
“I will, Doctor. You’re really nice for doing this for free,” Harry said, and this time the smile did reach his eyes, just a touch.
“Anything to give back to the community. See you soon, Harry,” he said, as he removed the bib, and the teen stood up from the recliner, a bit clumsily.
“See you, Doctor!”
And he was off.
Tom swore he would protect that smile at any cost.
It hadn’t been even six months when he got another appointment with Harry.
He’d been talking on the phone with one Mrs. Weasley, saying that yes, Narcissa, the orthodontist whom he worked with, only accepted appointments on Thursdays. It was the only time she set foot in the clinic, apparently having similar arrangements with other clinics, and it suited Tom just fine.
The phone rang again, and he had to stifle a sigh. The voice, however, banished all slivers of frustration that still lingered in Tom’s mind.
“Hello? Doctor Riddle?”
Tom’s lips curved into a grin. “Yes, it is me. Riddle Dental Care at your service, do you wish to make an appointment, Harry?”
“Uh… yeah, if it’s not a problem. I would like to come over again on the free check-ups day…? Any hour of the morning is fine.”
“It is absolutely fine,” Tom lied. He would have to cancel some appointments, but his muse was a priority. “How about… eleven?”
“Eleven it is, then. I’ll be there sharp. Thank you, Doctor!”
“I will see you then, Harry.”
The teen sounded almost relieved to have the appointment. Tom couldn’t imagine why that would be; with teeth like his, he could probably get away with a single yearly check-up, but he appreciated the thoroughness.
The genuine smile on his lips lingered way past his work shift.
Seeing Harry pop by, asking for an appointment in person instead of over the phone, had grown to be a common occurrence over the following two years. Appointment or no, every time Harry walked through his doors, he tended to loiter around.
Tom did not mind that. The opposite, actually.
The teen was growing up fast. Not much in height, but his features looked a bit sharper now, a bit worn. His eyes spoke of forced maturity.
And he was opening up, as well.
“You’re nice,” he said one day, looking down at the floor in shame. “I probably shouldn’t come here as often as I do. Everyone says I’m a delinquent, and it’ll look bad on you.”
Tom hummed, and for a moment, he could see himself in the teen. It hadn’t even been a decade since he’d left the hellhole that was foster care and gotten the scholarship of his dreams, but he knew what it felt like to have everyone think you were a monster.
His former reputation was deserved, however. Harry’s, he knew, was not. He had studied this teenager for quite a while, after all.
“Well, are you?”
“A delinquent,” Tom clarified. “Are you?”
“No, of course not,” Harry mumbled. “But who’s gonna believe that?”
Harry blessed him with his most genuine smile to that day. It was a beautiful thing, his pearly white teeth almost shyly peeking from his lips, his eyes crinkling at the corners.
“Thank you,” his muse said in earnest, and he seemed to glow in contentment after that, sitting in the empty waiting room.
Harry always stalled his departures, obviously not wanting to go back home. If there was something he was always tight-lipped about, it was his home life.
But his expressions spoke louder than words did.
Someone was hurting his muse. But he could do nothing. Not yet. For now, his clinic would have to suffice as a safe haven, and he could only hope that Harry’s abusers would eventually lie down in his office, and present him with horrid teeth.
For the first time, his urges would have a meaningful impact.
Harry wasn’t Tom’s muse in murder only. No, the odontologist had recently retaken an old hobby of his.
In the privacy of his own home, Tom painted. His old supplies were still collecting dust in a box, and some of the colours had gone rancid, but it did not matter.
As long as he still had red and the vivid green of Harry’s eyes, it was enough.
His first paintings were visceral. Splatters of red that anyone could take as abstract art, but each droplet was deliberate, painted from memory. These were treasured moments, immortalised on canvas.
But soon, he was adding green to his paintings. Red and green, red and green.
Tom’s mind had gone blank, thinking of Harry and his beautiful eyes, his perfect teeth, his shreds of innocence that must be preserved, but as soon as he remembered himself, he found he’d been painting a landscape that encapsulated those feelings perfectly.
A field filled with poppies, splashes of red on green. The grass curled as beautifully as Harry’s hair, and there was an air of serenity in the landscape, just like Harry always looked when he saw Tom.
Yes, it was definitely beautiful, untainted by his urges. Tom deemed it worth framing and placing in his clinic.
LV, he signed at the bottom right corner.
And next time Harry graced the clinic with his presence, he inquired about it.
“What’s this? I didn’t know you liked art,” his muse said, lips curling into a smile.
Oh, if he knew the extent of his artistic inclinations.
“You wound me, Harry. I will let you know I have an artistic side, too.” Tom said, faking hurt, lightly. He was too good an actor, and he did not want to upset the teen. Luckily, Harry picked up on his sarcasm. “I painted this.”
“You did?” Harry stared in wonder, almost touching the canvas, but remembering himself at the last second. Did he know body heat and the skin’s natural oil could damage paint, or was it just instinct? “It’s beautiful… you know, Doctor, I mean no offence, but your clinic is always white and sterile. This gives it colour, personality. It’s like you put your soul in this painting. I like it.”
Harry’s smile was soft and sincere. Perhaps he ought to fill his clinic with paintings, if it would make his muse happy.
Oh. He had noticed that. Of course, he expected nothing less from him, but Tom still experienced an unexpected rush of bashfulness.
“It is… nothing, really. An old monicker I used to go by in my university days, in a club I used to attend. It stands for Lord Voldemort.”
Harry laughed then, happy and carefree, and Tom had never heard a sound like this coming out of him before. It was like years of exhaustion melted away from him, and his face looked his age for once. He laughed like any eighteen year old should laugh.
“You were a frat boy, Doctor?”
Tom choked, and he could feel his control slipping. It should have frightened him, but it didn’t, not in front of Harry. Heat crept up his cheeks, as he tried, and failed, to regain his composure.
“N-no, of course not, silly boy! I was nothing of the sort,” Tom said, and he was well aware he looked frazzled. Oh, what was his muse doing to him? “It was a literature club. We were particularly fond of the horror genre, hence the… appropriately themed pen name.”
“So you wrote.” It wasn’t a question. He’d picked up on his usage of the term ‘pen name’, fast. His smart, smart muse. “You’re full of surprises, Doc. Could… could I ever read any of your work?”
Tom stilled. Art had been his escape for many years, the wild forest in which he allowed the ugly beast controlling his urges to run free. His macabre drawings had earned him praise, and some of his fellow students had even asked if they could get tattoos of it.
His writing was fantasies, thinly veiled by the anonymity of different protagonists, wildly contrasting settings.
But Harry would pick it up. He had the feeling he would.
“I’m sure they’re good,” Harry said, in a soothing voice. “I know writers look back on their work and think it’s terrible. But it only means you improved. My friend Hermione does that all the time, and she angsts about it. She’s an internet friend. She’s… the reason I started coming here, actually.”
Tom arched an eyebrow. Whoever this Hermione was, he would have to thank his lucky stars she had nudged Harry in the right direction. His direction. “Really? How so?”
“Well, her parents are dentists too, and they’re very nice people. Most people are scared of dentists, but I don’t think you know that, because people trust you. Anyway, my hygiene was pretty good, but I had to up the ante because she always fusses. She’s like a drill Sargent, you should see her. ‘Don’t forget to floss, Harry! If I catch wind that you don’t floss, I swear to God I’m taking the train to Surrey and smacking you with a toothbrush!’” Harry mimicked a bossy, high-pitched voice, his eyes filled with mirth. “And… I guess, I needed an escape. Somewhere safe to be in for a while. And since her parents are nice, and everyone trusts you, I figured you would be nice, too. And I was right.”
Tom was at a loss for words. Harry usually opened up to him very slowly, trickling down information like it pained him to do so, but now he was speaking freely, words pouring from his mouth.
“You know, Harry,” he finally said. “You don’t need an appointment to be here. If you need to lie low for a while, if you need an escape, my doors are always open for you.”
Fear and shame had started creeping into Harry’s eyes, and Tom lay a grounding hand on his shoulder.
“Relax,” he said. “I don’t know anything. I haven’t investigated. Your mannerisms speak very loudly, however… I won’t ask. But if you ever want to talk about it, I will listen.”
The grateful look Harry shot him was enough to keep him from prying. No one ever talked about the teen, anyway.
It was like Little Whinging, as a whole, liked to pretend that Harry didn’t exist.
It was a Thursday. Narcissa had taken a liking to Harry, even if she’d been surprised at first to see him around without an appointment in sight.
Tom couldn’t help the possessiveness surging in his chest, but he curbed it. He understood Harry was a precious jewel, one he could not keep to himself like a zealous dragon. The world deserved to see his kindness, his wit, his smile.
But his smiles were tight-lipped around Narcissa. He didn’t trust her like he did Tom, not yet. He shouldn’t have felt relieved, but he did.
“Hullo, Doctor Malfoy. Do you have an appointment today?” Harry asked politely, leaning against the wall near the water cooler.
“You are starting to sound like a secretary, Harry. Tom should hire you,” she joked. “Yes, I do, in fact. Quite the rambunctious lot, and they come from a few towns over.”
Tom could see Harry’s eyes glittering with curiosity, but he didn’t ask questions.
An hour later, though, the world tilted on its axis.
It was the first time Tom had heard Harry raising his voice. It wasn’t in anger, however.
It was joy. Incredulity.
The other teen looked equally surprised, but a bit apprehensive. Odd.
Harry didn’t seem to notice, because he launched himself into the taller boy’s arms, into a bone-crushing hug. The ginger, Ronald Weasley — he had been one of Narcissa’s patients before — seemed to snap out of his stupor and hugged Harry back with just as much enthusiasm.
Curb your jealousy, Tom. The world deserves to see your muse.
But this was a side of Harry he had never seen before.
“Ron, mate! I never thought I’d meet you here! I swear his clinic is like magic, makes wishes come true—“ Harry laughed, and it was music, music… “You never told me you lived so close, you dunce! We could have met in person years ago!”
Weasley’s face reddened, and Tom knew why. He knew where the boy’s family lived, and it was not a pleasant neighbourhood. His family was very low income, and it took them years to save up for each of their children’s proper dental care. Narcissa was the best of the best, but she was a private orthodontist. Tom could appreciate the effort Mr. and Mrs. Weasley put into such an important affair, and that was why he’d been considering discounts based on income.
The boy had been ashamed to tell Harry where he lived. Tom could understand the sentiment very well.
“Are you Harry?” Mrs. Weasley said, gently taking her son out of his silent predicament. “It’s so nice to finally meet you, dear! Ron always has nice things to say about you—“
“And I think Ginny had a little crush on you at some point—“
“Mum!” A different voice squeaked, distinctly female.
It was hard to see her amongst the whole Weasley clan, but there was Narcissa’s patient for the day. Ginevra Weasley, in dire need of braces. It was an unfortunate genetic trait, Narcissa had ventured once, a trait their bank account had suffered greatly from. From William down to Ginevra, all their children had been Narcissa’s patients at some point. He’d started seeing them in his clinic by the time it was the twins’ turn.
It was nothing short of terrible luck that Harry had missed every single appointment, seeing that he was well-acquainted with the family. Perhaps he should have asked him to come around on Thursdays sooner.
Mrs. Weasley giggled conspiratorially, earning her a groan from her daughter. “Off you go, dear. Don’t make Doctor Malfoy wait.”
The waiting room was full of redheads, and Harry tugged Ronald Weasley’s sleeve and started walking.
“Doctor!” He said, happily. Something in Tom’s chest settled pleasantly. Harry wanted to share his happiness with him. “This is Ron Weasley, he’s been my best mate since we were… what? Eleven? We met on the internet, it feels like forever ago.”
“Hey, Dr. Riddle,” the taller teen said sheepishly.
“I know him, Harry. He used to be Narcissa’s patient. I trust the retainers are not giving you too much grief, Mr. Weasley?”
Ronald grimaced. Of course they were. Retainers were always unpleasant, but necessary.
“Wait, you know each other? And never told me?”
Tom laughed. Harry’s expression was utterly endearing. “I didn’t know you two were acquainted, let alone so close.”
“So, you have an appointment too?”
It was Harry’s turn to look bashful. “Er… no, not really. The Doc and I are friends. He lets me stick around when, well…”
Ronald nodded, grimly. So he knew something.
It made sense, Tom rationalised. Harry could vent to a stranger, a friend online he thought he would never meet, but he could not confide in someone he saw on a daily basis.
He told himself, using all of his self-control, that he would not question the boy. He would only tell Harry later, and Tom prying would never bode well with him.
It was strange to see Harry acting so carefree. His smiles were genuine, not full-blown grins like the ones Tom had been blessed with, but not quite as tight-lipped as they were around Narcissa. He laughed, and Tom could never get enough of it.
“Did you know my dad and Mr. Malfoy hate each other’s guts? But we go here because the Doc’s the only one who’ll take our hellish teeth as a challenge and not a nightmare, and she’s always been so nice to us. So her husband can shove it up his arse.”
Harry snorted at the crude language, interested in the gossip. “Sounds like a right prat, that one.”
“Oh, you have no idea,” Mr. Weasley moaned in despair.
This, he realised. His possessive tendencies be damned, this is what he wanted. The world might not deserve his muse, but those that made him happy, those who could appreciate him… they should be able to bask in his light.
The appointment was over, and Ginevra Weasley stumbled out of Narcissa’s office, rubbing her sore cheeks.
“Getting your moulds taken is a bitch, innit?” One of the twins — Tom could never tell them apart — said.
“Can it, Fred,” she snapped sullenly, her voice hoarse from the strain. She’d been in the office, open-mouthed, for nearly an hour.
“Now you understand—“ Fred, the same twin, said.
“The shite we went through,” his brother George finished, with a smirk. His teeth were straight and aligned; Narcissa’s work was wonderful.
But nothing could top Mother Nature, and Harry was proof of that.
“Cut it out, children,” Mrs. Weasley warned, before leaving with Narcissa to deliver her hard-earned money. Children. Ginevra was seventeen, and she was the youngest. Tom stifled a snort. There was no doubt in his mind on who ruled the Weasley household.
“Listen up, Ron. I swear to God, and Jesus, and Barack Obama—“
“Not Barack Obama!” Ronald cried, as if that meant serious business.
“That if you don’t come hang out with me at least once this month,” Harry continued. “I’m blocking you on all social media.”
“I swore on Barack Obama, Ron.”
That seemed to settle it. “I’ll text you, you arse.”
Harry snickered as the Weasleys left, and Tom couldn’t hide his amusement anymore.
“Barack Obama? Really?”
Harry threw his head back and laughed, just for him, and Tom’s pulse beat at the tempo of his sweet, sweet symphony.
When Harry wasn’t around, Tom did his job. And he painted. And he killed. And then he cleaned up. He’d gotten faster at cleaning, but not less meticulous, just because he knew Harry could walk in unannounced, as was his right.
And when Harry did show up, Tom finally showed him what he’d asked to see.
“Is this it?” His muse asked, staring at the black leather-bound journal in his hands, cradling it gently like it was something precious.
“Yes,” Tom said, sitting next to him. This felt intimate. “You may look at the first couple pages, but I bookmarked the story I would like you to read.”
It was possibly the tamest one. Harry had said he wasn’t particularly interested in horror, he just wanted to read what Tom had written, because it was Tom’s work, so he did not want to scare him away.
Especially since these stories revealed the darkest, deepest parts of his psyche.
Harry opened the book and traced the paper almost reverently. The first pages were doodles, mostly. “What’s this?”
A skull with a snake for a tongue, twisting into an infinity symbol. Tom smiled. “The Rod of Asclepius, an ancient symbol of healing… with a little macabre twist. I thought it would be fitting for a club of would-be doctors with an interest in horror.”
He smiled fondly, remembering his student years, not too long ago. He’d built his clinic and reputation fast, thanks to the connections he’d made in university. He was ten years Harry’s senior, but for someone in his field, Tom was young for his accomplishments.
“Some people liked it so much they got it tattooed. I’m not sure I would be so committed to a sketch that definitely has room for improvement.”
“You’re too much of a perfectionist, Doc,” Harry said softly, carefully turning the pages. When he turned to the first one with written paragraphs in his neat cursive, he dutifully skipped to the bookmark.
Tom, for the first time in ages, felt the thrum of anxiety in his chest, clenching his throat. He felt vulnerable, like his soul was laid bare for Harry to pick apart, and he desperately wished for his muse to not be disgusted by what he would inevitably see. It was a tame story, containing a single, clean murder with the snap of a neck, no gore, no indulging in the beauty of entrails spilling onto the floor.
But the narrative was more than enough to catch a clear glimpse of the darkness within, Tom knew. The yearning, the urge, the building anticipation, the relief, the methodical disposing of the body… it was practically a written confession.
Tom’s palms were sweating, and he wiped them discreetly against his black trousers. Harry’s glasses had slipped slightly down his nose, and he looked completely entranced by his story.
When Harry reached the end, flipping the page only to find the first drafts of a different story, he gingerly closed the journal. Tom’s lungs burned, for how long had he been holding his breath?
“…what do you think?” He said, and his voice faltered a bit.
Harry looked thoughtful, contemplative. He couldn’t read his face. Finally, he looked at Tom.
“It was… dark. And sad,” he murmured. “Henry is a very troubled man, I could feel it almost dripping from every page. So lonely. Killing to feel alive…”
Tom had never considered that. His classmates had praised his vivid imagery, the way he described the murders so tastefully, like it was a lovingly honed craft and not brutality. No one had analysed his protagonists. The representations of himself.
“That’s…a first,” Tom said, shifting a bit under Harry’s scrutiny. “I’ve gotten ‘disturbing’, ‘wonderfully macabre’, ‘vividly creepy’…and yes, ‘dark’. But no one has ever thought my stories were sad before.”
“I do,” Harry said. “Have you ever thought about writing a protagonist like this, being stopped?”
Tom smiled. “By whom? A dashing hero?”
“No. By a kindred spirit.” Harry shook his head slightly. “Someone who understands the darkness and could pull them away from it.”
That… that held a lot of appeal, he had to admit. His muse never failed to surprise him. Tom chuckled.
“The idea has a lot of merit, Harry. I might do exactly that,” he said, with a fond smile.
Tom was so lost in his own thoughts, in the prospect of writing again, having another creative outlet, that he completely missed Harry’s sad, knowing look, and the way he tenderly pressed a kiss against the leather cover when Tom wasn’t watching.
Tom was in his flat, comfortably sprawled on the sofa. He was writing in a spiral notebook, drafting the story Harry had suggested, as he idly listened to the news on the telly. The police still had no leads on the mysterious disappearances happening in Little Whinging.
His lips curved into a smile. Of course they didn’t, he’d made sure of that.
Tom’s flat was the attic of the building his clinic was in, tall enough that he had a good view of the suburban surroundings. He did not care much for two-story houses and white picket fences, much preferring his more metropolitan-styled abode. He’d made it a minimalistic open space, decorated tastefully by his new art, and some trinkets he’d collected over the years that had piqued his interest.
He sighed, feeling at peace. Writing was soothing. Writing about Harry was even more so, because he held no delusion over whom this kindred spirit would be inspired by.
A tortured soul that had managed to stay kind, pulling him away from the darkness, with no judgement in his eyes. It would never happen, Tom thought with a sad smile. But a man could dream, couldn’t he? Or at least, he could write. And disguise his true thoughts in fantastic worlds, fake names, twisting narratives.
He had decided his story would have an underworld theme. If Harry would be the Virgil to his Dante or the Persephone to his Hades, he didn’t know yet. He tapped the pen against the spiral of the notebook, lost in thought.
His phone broke him out of his reverie. Grumbling under his breath, Tom stretched like a cat, and rolled over to pick up the buzzing device on his coffee table.
“…yes?” He murmured, running a hand through his hair.
For a second, there was silence on the other end of the line. Then rattled breathing, a gurgling sound. Frantic presses of a doorbell.
His clinic’s doorbell.
There was only one person who would be so desperate to come to the clinic at ten PM, someone whom he’d given his phone number to.
“Harry!” He cried out in desperation, ending the call and bolting out of his flat, barely managing to remember to grab the keys.
Tom’s heart sank. He stood there, at the door of his clinic, wearing nothing but his thin pyjamas, his house slippers, and a coat he’d grabbed along the way.
And a sight that he’d one day thought would be appealing, a masterpiece, stared right back.
Harry was a mess. He was still wearing his hand-me-downs, splattered in blood that wasn’t supposed to be there, his jaw bruised and swollen, his glasses cracked.
Blood, blood, blood. Red and thick, dribbling down his chin, coating his mouth, staining his hands. Harry was cradling a tooth.
His poor, poor muse gurgled, unable to speak. It broke Tom out of his anguished haze, and he quickly unlocked the door to his clinic, ushering Harry inside. The lights flickered on as he pressed the switch.
“Harry, Harry, Harry…” Tom whispered, a desperate mantra, as tear-filled eyes looked at him. He had to be in a world of pain. “Go to my office, quick…”
Harry nodded, wobbling over to the recliner. Tom flicked the lights on again.
Blood was everywhere. It wasn’t art, it was a disaster, a disaster…
Tom moved on autopilot, his mind numb from pain. Warm water, steriliser, his tools…
Harry gave him the tooth, and he had been so smart to keep it, his smart boy… Tom wanted to cry.
“Rinse your mouth with this, we don’t have much time,” Tom said, his voice strained, handing him the cup of warm water. Harry nodded and complied, spitting out blood, and blood, and blood… and another tooth. Tom retrieved it from the sink with his forceps, quickly.
Harry looked like he wanted to say something, or maybe it was a sob that was escaping his lips. Tom gingerly placed his fingers on his cheek, on a unbruised spot, and gave him a pleading look.
“Don’t speak, Harry. It’ll hurt more,” he said.
And he got to work.
He finished rinsing Harry’s mouth with water and a vacuum, replaced his teeth, set them in place with a metal splint, and prayed, prayed, prayed that they would take root again. Harry watched, obediently silent, as Tom cleaned up his face and neck with a warm, damp cloth, washed his hands in the sink, tenderly.
He sprayed lidocaine in Harry’s mouth, and could see the relief in his poor muse’s eyes.
“Harry, I need to take X-rays of you. Your mandible could be fractured.”
The teen wanted to protest, he saw it, but Tom held up his hand. “No, don’t speak, your teeth are still weak. More of them could fall out.”
Harry fumbled for his phone, then. It was an old and battered Android that had clearly seen better days. He tapped the notes app, and started typing.
‘I don’t have any money to pay you’
“Don’t you worry about the money, I just want you to be fine,” Tom said, shaking his head, and leading him to the X-ray room.
Harry complied, once again. Did he trust him so much, or did he have a concussion as well? Tom’s mind was a whirlwind of panic.
At least his mandible wasn’t fractured, he realised, staring at the screen in front of him in relief. His jaw was swollen. They were bruises. He had no experience in maxillofacial reconstructive surgery, if his jaw had been shattered he couldn’t have helped—
Shaking himself out of his thoughts, Tom stared ahead. Harry needed him.
“I won’t let you go back home tonight,” Tom said, opening the door to the X-ray room. Harry looked relieved. “You can stay in my flat, shower, change into some clean clothes. Would you like some soup? You need to stay on liquids for now, Harry.”
Harry nodded so earnestly Tom’s heart shattered into a million pieces.
“I will give you some ice for those bruises… you can sleep in my bed, I will take the sofa. No buts.” Harry wanted to protest again, he could tell, but just nodded. “And no discussions of payment either. I will just ask a small favour of you, just one.”
Tom stared intently into those troubled, green eyes. “Who did this to you?”
Harry looked conflicted, tears welling up in his eyes again. He brought up his phone, and showed the screen to Tom as he typed.
‘He slipped tonight. He’s usually careful to not hit me in the face where it will show’
Rage swirled in Tom’s stomach, but he had to save it for later, not now, not now. Harry needed him. “Is he the one who’s been hurting you?”
The one who’d stolen his smile away so many times?
‘It’s not always him. Sometimes it’s others. But mostly him.’
“Who is he, Harry? Please, please tell me. Give me a name.”
Harry took a deep, shuddering breath. If Tom didn’t know any better, he could swear the teen understood he was literally writing his death sentence.
‘Vernon Dursley. My uncle’
The Dursleys. Harry had been living with the Dursleys all this time. No wonder he hadn’t made the connection before. The blondes were the epitome of a white, mid-upper class suburban family. Their son Dudley came to his clinic sometimes, chaperoned by his mother, whining about cavities.
No wonder they could keep up their lavish lifestyle if they had a live-in slave. The hard labour evident in Harry’s body. The abuse. Tom wanted to maim, destroy, hurt before killing. There would be no clean death this time.
His muse had directly inspired a murder, and it would be one the world would never know about, but Tom would never forget.
The sight of Harry sleeping in Tom’s bed, wearing Tom’s clothes, warmed his cold, dead heart. He looked exhausted, but the painkillers he’d given him would hopefully do their job. The swelling hadn’t gone down, but at least the ice had numbed the bruises, Harry had informed him via phone.
Tom had had dinner, but just as he suspected, Harry hadn’t. He’d drank broth from a straw, and Tom had watched him.
Now that Harry was asleep, however, he had clean-up to do. Washing blood off clothes was easy if one knew how to do it, and Tom had plenty of experience. His go-to plan would usually be to burn them, but no crime had occurred this time. Not committed by him, anyway.
Two hours later, the clinic was as spotless as ever. Possibly even more so than usual. The sight of Harry’s blood had disturbed him deeply, and he’d felt the need to scrub harder, pour more bleach, disinfect everything.
It was nearly four in the morning when Tom, completely exhausted, stumbled into his flat. He took a shower, easing the tension in his muscles just a bit, and changed into clean pyjamas.
He hadn’t even had time to plot Dursley’s murder. He would, though. He would. Tom cancelled his appointments for the next day via text with a lengthy apology and an offer of rescheduling, and by the time his head hit the sofa, he was out like a light.
Tom woke up with a groan, hissing at the soreness of his back. He’d fallen asleep in an uncomfortable position.
A heavenly aroma filled his flat. His eyes fluttered open. Coffee… and bacon?
His phone buzzed in his pocket. A text.
‘I’m sorry, doc. I know I shouldn’t snoop, but I just wanted to make you breakfast. As thanks’
He looked up, to see Harry with his own device in his hand, peeking at him from his open, American-style kitchen, bashfully.
Something stirred very pleasantly in his chest, a different kind of urge, completely sated. Harry in his kitchen, wearing his clothing, cooking breakfast. It was beautifully, painfully domestic.
“Harry, you shouldn’t have…” He said, but he could not hide the fondness in his voice. Right after waking up, it would be impossible to even if he tried. “Thank you.”
His muse smiled then, lips sealed tight, but his eyes conveyed all the warmth his mouth could not. Tom suspected it hurt. It had to.
They ate in comfortable silence. Well, Tom ate. Harry slurped on some orange juice with a straw.
“I cannot in good conscience let you go back to your uncle,” Tom finally said. Harry looked up from his juice. “But I’m afraid I can’t let you stay here for much longer. I have important business coming up for the next few days.”
Harry nearly choked on his juice, looking panicked. It squeezed painfully at Tom’s heart.
“I’m awfully sorry,” he murmured. “Would… would you be opposed to me calling the Weasleys? Molly Weasley likes you, and you are her son’s best friend. I have no doubt in my mind she would be willing, dare I say enthusiastic, about letting you stay in her home, let alone for just a couple days.”
He would also mention the discount deal he had absolutely decided he would give them, just to compensate for their troubles. Tom truly believed she would take Harry under her wing, but their financial situation was dire enough that having another young adult in the household might strain their pay check.
But Harry didn’t need to know about that, of course.
His muse nodded, looking uncertain.
He pulled out his phone and got to typing.
‘It’s just… my relatives will go ballistic.’
“You’re eighteen. Where you choose to spend the night should no longer be their business.”
‘I know that, but I just… I haven’t left because I had nowhere else to go, right? My aunt kept my parents’ inheritance money, and my uncle is spending it all. No one will take my job applications because they think I’m bad news. I’m trapped there.’
“No, you are not,” Tom said, trying to keep his voice even. It was hard when he was quaking in fury. “Not anymore. You’re not alone, Harry. You have options.”
Tom seemed to have said it with enough certainty to convince Harry, if his relieved look was anything to go by. He hadn’t even told him what the options were.
There was trust in those green ryes, so much faith put on him.
And Tom would not let him down, ever. Even if Harry hated him. Even if he had to make arrangements from a prison cell.
Fate decided to favour him once more, it seemed, because his victim walked into his clinic the evening after Harry had departed with an overjoyed Weasley family.
It was almost closing time, but Vernon Dursley had the kind of aura that screamed ‘I go grocery shopping for the week two minutes before the store closes’. Tom recognised the type from his retail days.
“Hello, Mr. Dursley. Are you here to make an appointment?” He said, perfectly polite and sounding completely unbothered at all, and he didn’t have to fake it. His timing was perfect.
“M’afraid not, Doctor. I actually came here to ask if you happened to see my… nephew.” He said the word in distaste.
Tom cocked his head slightly, feigning confusion. “Your nephew, sir?”
“Yes. His name is Harry Potter. I’ve heard the menace has been bothering you, and I apologise for that.”
“Ah, yes. That boy…” Tom had to force himself to grimace. He imagined he was grimacing at Dursley instead. “I have not seen him, no. Does anyone know you are looking for him? It might make a dent on your impeccable reputation, Mr. Dursley. Only God knows what kind of trouble he has gotten himself into.”
“Oh heavens no! He might be sitting in a cell, and the neighbours and my wife might think I am condoning that kind of behaviour! No, I will wait for the police call,” Dursley said, and then leaned in with worry. “You won’t tell I was asking, will you, Doctor? You’re the trustworthy type, an upstanding man.”
Tom nodded, feigning understanding. “Oh, sir. Before you leave? I would like to have a word about him with you, if you would not mind. Somewhere else, perhaps the office. You see, he has been troublesome around my clinic…”
“Of course, Doctor. Someone has to put him in his place, I’m telling you,” the monster of a man agreed, following him.
Hook, line and sinker, Tom thought with a feral grin, his back turned on him.
“Ah, Doctor. Thank you for letting me lay down a bit. I’m getting a bit too old for that boy’s misdeeds.”
“Oh, it is no trouble at all,” Tom hummed, pacing around the office. He didn’t need to fake his troubled look, because this was so far from his usual modus operandi that it made him feel a bit uncomfortable.
The man was larger than he was, and he was paying close attention to him. It would have to be a precision hit, one to incapacitate him. But where? He did not want to kill him right away, the man would suffer. He had planned extensively for this, but now that he was here, Tom was at a loss for what to do.
Maybe it was because he was being emotional. This man had hurt his Harry. He wasn’t thinking straight…
No, Tom. Stop and think, you have done this before, countless times, he told himself.
“Well, you see… he has been loitering around my clinic, and I think it disturbs my patients,” he said, stalling for time as cogs turned in his head. What would shock the man long enough for Tom to tie him up like he’d planned…
Dursley was speaking, looking wholly unconcerned, but Tom couldn’t hear him.
He’d found the perfect answer to his conundrum, and it really was so obvious he should have been thinking more inside of the box instead of outside.
It was risky, but it would have to do.
“Doctor, I took him in out of the goodness of my heart, you know? His good for nothing parents went and got themselves killed, and this is how he repays me for my kindness—“
Tom saw red, and with lightning quick reflexes that just had to be fuelled by rage and adrenaline, he punched the man in the solar plexus, in a spot in which he could sense there might be less fat to protect his lungs.
He had the surprise factor in this, so Dursley doubled over, gasping for breath, and Tom struck him, hard, in the back of his head. Again, and again, with his bare fist.
Tom was panting by the time the large man slumped back against the recliner. Shaking in unreleased rage, he caught his breath and remembered himself. He had a job to do.
Dursley had a pulse, that was good. He bound him to the recliner with rope he had bought years previous near his university, just in case he ever needed it. He was so glad he had, otherwise he would need to think of a way to not link the recent purchase back to him.
The man’s eyes fluttered open groggily. Tom smiled pleasantly, which seemed to put him at ease.
“Wha…? What happened…?”
“I’m afraid you will have to be my patient now, Mr. Dursley. You might have a concussion.”
“Oh… okay…” He said, nodding dumbly.
Until he found that his limbs were tied up, that was. So he didn’t have a concussion, after all. Or not a severe one, at least. Tom’s smile widened into a grin.
“Wha’re you doin’?”
Slurred speech. Yes, a mild concussion, enough to make him easy to deal with, but not severe enough to make him blissfully unaware of his situation. That was perfect, it was excellent.
Fate always favoured Tom.
“I told you, did I not? You are my patient now, so I will… take care of you,” Tom said, using the docile, kind tone that worked on nervous children on their first visit.
It worked the exact opposite way on Dursley, which was the intended effect.
“You don’ need to do this…” He begged, and his eyes widened in panic as he saw the scalpel in Tom’s hands. “I ‘ave a wife, and a son…”
“Yes,” Tom agreed with a smile, pressing the scalpel against his throat, drawing a few beads of sweet, sweet blood. “And you also have a nephew.”
“Is this ‘bout the boy…? I’ll keep ‘im away, I swear…”
“Oh, no no, Mr. Dursley. I believe we might have a slight misunderstanding here.”
The man stared, uncomprehending.
“I would usually say that you’re bleeding because you don’t floss, Vernon Dursley. But I know you do. Your teeth are not so bad, actually. Not the worst I have seen,” Tom admitted easily, before his grin turned sharper than the scalpel in his hand, his eyes flashing with hatred. “No, this is for Harry, you pathetic, disgusting worm.”
The blade sliced through Dursley’s neck like butter, but it was not enough. Not by a long shot. Fury thrummed in Tom’s veins, hot and dizzying.
He loomed over the man, who was gurgling in an attempt to speak. Possibly to beg for his pitiful life. But all Tom could see was Harry making the same kind of noise, begging for his help, tears filling his eyes—
It was not hard to decide what to do next. He picked up his forceps, no anaesthetic.
“This,” Tom informed him, as he placed the forceps at the base of one of Dursley’s bloodied teeth, and pulled. A gurgling scream. “Is for every bruise you gave him, in non-visible places. Because you could not let anyone find out, did you?”
Tom pulled another tooth, the root bleeding profusely. “Guess what. I did. And I assure you, I am the worst possible person who could have, Vernon.”
The man was sobbing openly at this point and Tom tutted, as he pulled out one of his canines. “Your crocodile tears will not work on me, not after I saw Harry’s, after the number you did on him. He couldn’t speak, he could barely breathe.” Tom shook, ripping out a premolar, lost in his anger. “You wanted to play monster, didn’t you Vernon? Wouldn’t you like to find out what a real monster does?”
His expression must have been manic, feral, because Vernon Dursley looked at him with the most panicked expression he had ever seen on a victim before.
But then again, even as the urge claimed him, Tom had always maintained an amount of self-restraint. He stayed poised and in control, mocking his victims, just a hint of sadism. Now, the beast was free, unleashed for the first time and out in the open. The monster was an ugly thing, and this man had brought it out from its slumber.
Tom threw his head back and laughed, freely and unrestrained. It was not a joyful sound.
“I shall show you.”
It was a week later when Harry came back.
Tom had been deeply perturbed by his last crime. He did not regret it, could never regret ridding the world of that miserable bastard’s presence, but he had utterly and completely lost control.
Vernon Dursley had been a mangled, unrecognisable mess by the time he snapped back into his senses. He was cold to the touch. Tom did not know for how long he’d been mutilating his already dead body, but it must have been hours.
His office was a mess. He had to spend the entire night cleaning, the familiar action reigning the monster back in, soothing his mind.
The body would dissolve quickly in the acid he’d left it in, and his teeth were dumped somewhere else, far away, in the ashes of the small fire he’d used to burn his clothes and the rest of the evidence.
Tom didn’t sleep a wink that night, simply showering, slumping against the tiled wall as water sprayed all over him, and getting ready for a day of honest work.
But now Harry was here, and he wasn’t sure what to do.
He didn’t regret his murder. But could his dear muse tell that the monster had been unleashed so completely a mere week ago? That he’d even scared himself? Could he see the darkness lurking within?
“Doc,” Harry said, closing the door behind him, looking around. He took a deep breath. “I know what you did.”
Tom froze. He could deny it. But… no, not to Harry. He would catch him in his lie.
And then Harry was running, running towards him, and Tom feared the worst. A punch, kicking, screaming, pain, fear…
Harry wrapped his shaky arms around him in a crushing embrace, and kissed him.
It took a while for Tom’s brain to process it, a little more to respond. It was a desperate kiss, sloppy, needy, full of emotion. No tongues involved, Tom suspected his teeth still hurt. Harry was shaking all over. Belatedly, Tom realised that so was he.
Harry buried his face against his chest, his shoulders shaking with sobs. “Thank you, thank you, thank you…”
Tom held him with trembling arms, stroking his hair, letting him cry it out. Cry… what out, exactly? Tom didn’t know, and he couldn’t think when he was on the verge of tears himself.
He didn’t deserve him. He didn’t deserve this sweet, kind soul.
“You… don’t hate me?” Tom asked, his voice small. Harry shook his head fervently.
“No, never, never…”
Tom’s eyes watered as sheer relief washed through him. “P-perhaps we should discuss this in my flat…” He said with a tremulous voice, and Harry nodded against his chest.
He didn’t hesitate. Tom turned the lights off, flipped the little sign at his door to ‘closed’, and led Harry by the hand to his home.
Tom was crying by the time the elevator ride ended, and it took him a few tries to unlock the door with his keys. Harry never once let go of his hand.
His mind was a blur, and they were suddenly on his sofa, and Harry was kissing him over and over again, chaste, desperate kisses all over his face, tasting his tears, and it was too much, too much…
“Harry,” he said hoarsely. “How did you know?”
His sweet, sweet muse held him close. “I suspected for a long time. And then I read your story, and I knew it was you.”
“But… you still came back, every day.”
“Yes,” Harry whispered against his neck. “And I still will, if you’ll let me.”
“But you don’t need me anymore,” Tom said, uncomprehending, his chest heaving with dry sobs and Harry had known the whole time, why would he want Tom anywhere near his presence? “He’s gone, Harry. Gone…”
Harry shook his head, gripping him tighter. “I want you. I want to be with you, not because I need you, but because I want to. Doc, I…”
Harry looked up.
“You have kissed me twice. I have killed for you. I think we are on a first name basis, Harry,” he said, with a watery smile.
Tom shuddered violently, his chest heaving with emotion.
“P-please… say it again.”
“Tom, Tom, Tom…”
He cried into his dear muse’s hair, Harry whispering his name over and over, like a mantra.
“I love you, Harry…”
“I know, Tom. I know… I love you too.”
They stayed like that for hours. Tom wasn’t sure who fell asleep first.
Harry’s teeth took root, but they ended up discolouring over time. They were dead in odontologic terms, only holding on by the surviving tissue.
That was okay, though. Tom fixed it. And besides, there was more of Harry to love than just his mouth.
Apparently, he was a brilliant student. It only took his teachers by surprise, though, because Tom already knew. That old son of a bitch had forced him to do badly in school on purpose, so he could never get into a good university.
Tom paid for the studies to ease him into higher education, however, and he did not regret it one bit.
Harry had once asked teasingly if that made Tom his sugar daddy. Tom had choked on his tea so hard he had a coughing fit. And Harry’s laughter had been music to his ears.
Tom still painted, and he still wrote. He ended up writing both versions of the Underworld story, because Harry was his Virgil, his Persephone, and so much more.
They’d moved into a flat in London. It was easy to fake being shaken up by the disappearances and wanting to flee the little town. Little Whinging had understood. Poor, kind Doctor Riddle had had enough, and he did not want to be next. And if anyone noticed Harry left, too, they didn’t voice it.
When Harry first told him what he wanted to study and approach as a career, Tom wasn’t sure whether he should laugh or cry.
“Criminology? Love, if you want to see me in handcuffs, you only need to ask,” he’d said.
Harry had huffed, then. “No, I’m serious! I want to help people. I’ve been passionate about this for a long time, you know that. There are monsters out there, Tom. Like my uncle.”
In hindsight, perhaps he shouldn’t have let Harry read his entire journal. Too much psychoanalysing. Maybe he’d taken little notes, too, to see how Tom’s mind worked.
“Harry… you do realise you are dating a former serial killer, do you?”
Harry’s expression had softened then.
“You’re the exception.”
“So you plan to be a dirty cop? How devious.”
“No! …okay, maybe a little, but only for you. I wanna make sure those disappearances are forgotten, and if a file or two go missing…” He had said, sheepishly.
“That does sound like a dirty cop in the making.” Tom had pointed out. “In all seriousness, you do not need to worry. I left no traces.”
“Even the mightiest end up falling, Tom. I won’t let that happen to you.”
“Oh, but I have already fallen.”
Harry had laughed at him for being a sap and kissed him full on the lips. With tongue, because his teeth had healed by then. Tom had promised Harry that he’d help him, because “an insider’s point of view never hurts, and I have seen way too many criminals being caught over silly mistakes. Amateurs, the lot of them.”
And that had been the end of that. Harry studied criminology, and Tom pulled at strings and coughed up a substantial amount of his savings to start anew in the city.
A new clinic, untouched by murder in the two years he’d been working in it.
It was curious, though. Tom had painted before, and he had written before. He had focused on work so intensely he’d skipped meals, taking more appointments. And the urge kept rearing its ugly head, stubborn and furious at being ignored. That no longer happened, these days.
Perhaps Harry had tamed the beast. Perhaps he had scared himself so thoroughly that Vernon Dursley’s murder would truly be the last.
Whatever the case might be, aside from his meticulousness, there was one thing that was glaringly obvious about Dr. Tom Riddle to anyone that knew him.
And it was that he was hopelessly, deeply in love with Harry Potter. And nothing could pull them apart.