It was right around the end of the summer of 1935 in London. Technically, that was where and when it all started. The city was still busy and booming with all that new technology and style. It all seemed to be the center of the world, a warm and vibrant place to live. However, not all could feel the warmth and glow in this bright-lighted city of wonder. Their story just had to begin in the absolute most depressing place in all of London, Wool’s Orphanage. The orphanage was a tumbledown, old, brick building that was somehow miraculously still standing after thirty or so years. It had several thick vines crawling up the sides and was being consumed by mossy bricks. Sometimes it looked more like a giant bush than a place where children were supposed to be living. It was just as rundown and battered on the inside, yet still somehow miraculously operating, with at least some substantial comfort. Although, to be fair to the establishment, an orphanage is not meant to be a happy place or a thriving business. As it is well known, an orphanage is a temporary home where children are usually sent to after their parents have died. Naturally, just by existing, little happiness could ever be found in such an awful place.
However, finding happiness wasn’t completely impossible.
Let’s rewind to a little over eight years ago, before their story even started at Wool’s Orphanage. It was once actually a significantly happier place, not as shabby, but more shiny and new, like most things are when in their youth. The orphanage was run and founded by a Mr. Archibald Cole, a vibrant, happy man, with a great passion to help the less fortunate. Along with his loving wife, Maggie Cole, they made sure no child was left alone on the streets of London. He loved all the children, unconditionally, when the world appeared not too, and although it was rather dull and dingy place to be, the children there were always cared for. Well, decently cared for. At least they weren't starving on the streets. Thankfully, there were many couples that came by and many kids came and went. Unfortunately, Archibald Cole suddenly died of illness in the winter of 1925. Even though this man had dozens of children and people to mourn his passing, no one suffered this tragedy more than Maggie Cole. Although, she no longer had her husband, the woman had foolishly promised him she would keep the orphanage running on her own after he passed. It was the one of the only ones in the city now and she wasn’t cruel enough to send all those kids out on the streets. However, she soon came to realize that without her dear husband there beside her, she really hated children. There were many days she cared about nothing, a day or two when she was far too strict, and days that she just broke down. Also, to add even further to her troubles, her husband’s death was only the first of the many tragedies to occur at Wool’s Orphanage.
Exactly a year after the death of her husband, a boy was born.
Not hers, certainly. It was a young woman who had just showed up at the steps of the orphanage, on New Year’s Eve, in labor. Why was a miracle, such as the birth of child, thought of as such a tragedy? Unfortunately, the poor woman didn’t have the will to live any longer and died mere minutes after the birth of the beautiful baby boy, leaving him pretty much the only child to ever be literally born an orphan. His mere existence was a tragedy. However, Mrs. Cole didn’t really seem to mind him much, though. Despite her deep hatred of children and the dreary coincidence he was born exactly a year after her husband’s death, she kind of liked him. The darling child was beautiful, unlike his mother, and he was a very well behaved baby. He wouldn’t start causing her so much grief till much later in his life. She naturally didn’t once think that later in his life that boy would be the cause of so many more tragedies across the nation, to try and make up for his own tragic beginnings. Of course, what woman would expect she was carrying a monster in her arms? She would only see when he got older and met her, which is what this story is really about. It’s not about the sad life of a bitter, uptight, old woman. It’s about the simple meeting of a boy and a girl and all the good and bad it caused for the world. The boy met her in tragedy, but their meeting was anything but tragic.
They met in that miserable place in London, in the summer of 1935...
"He's such a strange boy."
Currently, there were a total of five workers employed at Wool's Orphanage. Mrs. Cole had to hire them all soon after the death of her husband. She obviously couldn’t handle running an orphanage on her own. To be fair, who could handle over thirty kids 24/7 and not be driven absolutely crazy? It’s not one of those things that gets easier over time. With five others to help her, they maintained a slightly more orderly establishment. On that particular late August afternoon, two of them were sitting at the old wood table by the kitchen, folding dish rags and clean clothes that had just been taken off the line. They sat gossiping about the same old thing, like most middle-aged woman do in their spare time, not getting any work done. Mrs. Cole was still in her office sorting through some paper work about a new arrival, so they were allowed to move at such a glacial pace and whisper.
“He always has been, ever since he was a born. Never cried or made a fuss. It’s abnormal for a baby not to cry."
"Sometimes he genuinely frightens me. I think he belongs in an asylum." the other woman admitted, folding another freshly cleaned dish rag and placing it on the small pile of the already folded. The women were trying not to peer over into the room across the way filled with playing children. If they were to catch the subject’s eye, they would most certainly be his next victims and suffer many consequences. However, it was really pointless to try and fight the tempting urge. He sucked people in, yet they were still terrified to look at him. They both sat at the table, blatantly staring at the subject of their conversation. It was a young boy, no more than eight years of age, sitting in the corner with his head buried in the same old book.
His name was Tom Riddle.
The boy who was born an orphan. He was an infamously tragic creature, yet surprisingly a very beautiful one as well. Even at this young age, he was already incredibly good looking, especially considering his circumstances too. The workers tended to say nasty things about his mother’s complexion when they thought he wasn’t listening. He, however, was the image of childhood perfection. His dark black hair was always neat, with every hair in place, and his pale white skin was just like unscratched, flawless porcelain. You'd think those hags talking about him would adore him and he would be quite popular with all the other kids, the one they'd all want to play with and befriend. However, in truth, Tom Riddle was a monster that they feared above all else. He had a deathly glare that could be miles away and still give you shivers, not to mention all the strange things that just seemed to happen around him.
Ever since the incident where Billy Stubbs's beloved pet rabbit was hung from the rafters by its ears, the rumor came around that said you would be ‘cursed’ if you even so much as look at Tom. The other orphans had come to think of him as pure evil, the son of Satan, the devil in disguise. Meanwhile, the adults and staff whispered about him being on track to becoming a sociopath, who would probably try to kill someone in the very near future. Even though no one could prove it was him, the rabbit didn't hang itself from the rafters, now did it?
It was all true. Well, mostly true…
You see, Tom Riddle had discovered around age six that he had these strange powers that could make things happen, not exactly 'cursing', but abnormal abilities. Even he had no idea why or how he got them, but it's not like he was going to object to being out of the ordinary in a place where everyone was so painfully boring. From what he figures, he was born with them. He was born an irregular freak. Mrs. Cole had told him his mother had been in the circus. It made sense he was a freakish being, having being spawned from freaks. He hadn't really had much awareness or control over his powers, until a few years ago. However, ever since then, he's been using them to torment and torture the other orphans of the orphanage. Eventually, everyone started to leave him alone, out of the fear of what he could possibly do to them if they got too close. Their imaginations ran wild, but were not considered to be so outlandish since Tom had grown the creativity and mindset of a serial killer. In his mind, everyone around him was garbage and filth. There wasn't anyone worth talking to or befriending in such a dull, miserable place. The others just didn't get what it was like to have all this power and be so viciously different. Even at such a young age, they were all engineered to shun the abnormalities that made people different, which left Tom exiled from the others. He was perfectly fine with it, though. He would have rather been left alone anyway.
Tom looked up from his reading to give the two women blatantly staring at him from the hall a glare of pure detest. They shot up from their seats immediately and started fast-walking down the hall, clunking over their chairs in a desperate attempt to get away. He smirked to himself a little and went back to his reading, like he hadn't done a thing. Unfortunately, Tom only got in a few sentences, when Mrs. Cole came marching into the room. At first he thought it was to scold him for the obvious act of terror he had inflicted on those hags, however, then he noticed there was a girl awkwardly shuffling behind her. Mrs. Cole clapped her hands, getting the attention of all the kids in the room and they all gathered in front of her and the newest arrival.
"Everyone I'd like to announce we have a new member joining us today. Please make her feel welcome." Mrs. Cole smiled. The kids tried looking behind her, to catch glimpses of this addition, but the girl was hiding silently behind Mrs. Cole, clutching onto her trunk for dear life. Tom was the only one to get a real good view of her because he had refused to get out of the corner for something as trivial as a new girl. However, he did look at her. Tom had glanced at her, out of curiosity and maybe the slightest hope for someone interesting. She was staring at him too, just staring at him. Her eyes were transfixed on the corner, like she was unsure if he was real or ghost. Tom pretended to go back to his book, in the hopes she would quit her incessant stare. Finally, after what seemed like several moments, she stopped and walked out in front of Mrs. Cole so everyone could see what Tom saw. The girl appeared to be around eight as well, her hair was down in wavy hazel locks that seemed to perfectly match her eyes, and she was wearing a peter pan collar floral dress that looked like it was made for a doll. She was a rather plain looking girl, yet had some sort of simple radiance about her that made her sparkle and stand out amongst the crowd. It was most likely just the illusion of being the shiny new arrival, it would soon go away as she became assimilated into one of them. Although, Tom strangely felt that there was something about her that was familiar to him, like he’d seen that incessant stare and hazel eyes before. However, there was no possible way he could've known her unless she had been here before, which was even more unlikely, considering your parent’s normally only died once.
"Why don't you introduce yourself, dear?" Mrs. Cole stated, gesturing with her hands to for her to step closer to the kids. The girl remained her distance, but still spoke.
"I—m—Frankie and it's a pleasure to meet you all." she muttered, at the floor more than anyone. A wave of whispers went through the crowd of kids, most likely judging her after only introducing herself.
"I'll take this." Mrs. Cole insisted, grabbing the trunk from her. Frankie looked as if she wanted to protest, but didn't say anything about it. The second Mrs. Cole stepped out of the room the other girls immediately swarmed around her. Tom stopped his unintentional staring as the annoying group of other orphanage girls began introducing themselves to this new girl. She was most likely going to become one of them within the hour. However, something about her made him look up again, unable to focus on the words of his book. It was odd, but the more he looked at her, the more she looked like she did not belong with them, the more out-of-place she seemed. She had a different aura then the rest of them. Unexpectedly, she slipped out of the irritating group of girls and started walking towards him.
"Hello, my name is Frankie. What's yours?" she smiled, holding out her hand. Tom didn't answer her. Perhaps the other girls hadn't told her about him yet, which was strange because it seemed like their favorite thing was to tell stories of their run-ins with him in the past. Surely, they must've told her how strange he was, how he would curse her if she didn't stay away. Well, it didn't matter if she didn't know right now, she would soon enough. No matter how different she seemed from the rest, once she found out about him she would be the same as everyone else. He was just about to tell her to go away, when Amy Benson swooped in, grabbed Frankie's other hand, and pulled her back toward the group of girls. Tom sighed in relief at the problem that had solved itself and simply went back to reading. Meanwhile, Amy was still pulling along the confused new girl who didn’t understand what was happening.
"You shouldn't go near him." Amy gulped, once she believed they were at a safe enough distance.
"Why? He seemed really nice." Frankie stated, gazing back at him in the corner of room. Even though she never really got the chance to talk to him, he didn't seem all that bad. He actually looked kind of lonely, sitting there separated from everyone else.
"He's incredibly dangerous! You'll get cursed if you so much as look at him." Amy trembled. The other girls joined in on the paranoia, immediately knowing she was talking about Tom, and started telling their own stories about him. However, Frankie wasn't listening whatsoever, her gaze was still fixed on the boy himself. They were so afraid they wouldn't even use his name, as if saying it would curse you instantly. Why was everyone so frightened of him? He just seemed like a normal boy.
"Supper is ready!" Mrs. Cole called. Everyone hurried towards the door with tremendous speed, except Frankie and Tom. He sat unaffected by this sudden announcement, while she was wondering whether he had heard her or not. Amy came back and grabbed her once more, leaving Tom alone again. He soon finished the paragraph he was reading and shut the book, only to find that he had once again been left behind. Tom silently sneaked back up to his room, while the other kids were washing up, not wanting to be at such a social occasion with that strange new girl.
Once supper was over, the kids were forced to return upstairs to their rooms until the lights were supposed to go out. Frankie had not been showed her room when she arrived, so she wandered the darkening upstairs corridor, very lost. She didn't want to bother Mrs. Cole or the workers with something so trivial and be a burden on them, so she decided to figure it out herself. Not knowing what else to try, Frankie decided to open one of the many doors without knocking. What she found in room 27 was Tom, sitting on the bed, reading in the dim light, looking no different than he had downstairs in the corner. He looked up, saw her awkwardly standing in his doorway, and scowled.
"What do you want?" Tom demanded, clearly angered by this sudden unwanted intrusion.
"I'm sorry. Mrs. Cole never showed me my room, so I—"
"So, you just decided burst into people's rooms and disturb them. Brilliant idea." Tom remarked, having already mastered perfect sarcasm at only eight years of age. Surprisingly, Frankie didn't take his anger and sarcasm to any offense.
She just smiled.
"Not a very well thought out plan, I suppose." Frankie laughed. The laugh seemed to fill him. It was the kind of laugh that made you want to laugh as well, even if the situation wasn’t even remotely funny. However, for someone like him, laughing at something other than the pure pain of others was pretty much impossible.
"If it's your room you're looking for it should be one right next to this one, number 26." he answered, pointing at the wall to his left.
"Thanks!" she remarked, giving him a small wave goodbye before shuffling out to head to what was her right. The word filled Tom with some kind of other feeling. He had heard it somewhere before. Not just anybody's "thanks", her thanks. How was that possible? Why couldn't he remember? He dropped the notion in seconds, figuring it was pointless to try and solve it. Even if he did, it certainly had no meaning. I mean, for all he knew, he saw her on the streets one day and picked up her dropped handkerchief, or something else positively trivial. It didn’t matter. Tom had just gone back to reading and read about a paragraph, when the door suddenly burst open again.
"I never got your name." Frankie added. She had rushed back just for that, to learn his name. She had acted as if it was the most important thing in the world. His common name.
"It's Tom. Tom Riddle" Tom answered.
"Okay, then. Bye Tom. I’ll see you tomorrow!" she exclaimed, waving goodbye again as she closed the door once more. Meanwhile, Tom stared blankly at the door for a second, confused about what just happened. She knew. The stories, all the whispers and rumors, he knew that she had heard them after Amy had pulled her away. Yet she laughed normally in his presence, even smiled when she spoke to him. This girl was an utterly strange anomaly and he already wanted nothing more to do with her. However, there was another small part of him that kind of wished she’d once again come flying through the door to ask him more trivial, meaningless questions.