Cast No Shadow
by Ishafel

It begins with a death, a thimble's worth of blood that mars the porcelain white; or it begins with an awkward, virginal kiss on the landing of a great staircase. Or perhaps it begins in the snow, in the autumn when the world is dying. Sometimes it seems it began with summer, when all there was, was fire and the smell of thunder and the sound of rain coming. No, after all, it was a death that began it; though it was not that death, but his mother's. In the end it was seeing her dead that drove him -- it was her blood that, spilled thoughtless and unmourned on the filthy floor, made him what he was. He is her son, and not at all his father's.

Even in the beginning she was not a beautiful woman, though she was capable of beauty; she was warm and passionate and kind and cruel and a bit mad, and she did not deserve to finish like a toy fallen into a raging fire. She had not been meant to end her life crumbled into ashes and dust. He was the only one at her funeral to cry and though they said he was too young to miss her, that he would forget, he never did. It was ten years before he saw another woman dead but he remembered everything, from the graceless angle of her neck to the tangle of hair; from slender pale wrists blue in the fading light to the taste of tears.

He is not welcome in her world, not really, not now and not then and not ever. His blood is tainted, dirty; pure as mud, the others say. He hates them all, but most of all he hates the Muggles who let his mother die, and the other half-breds who know what he is and can smell the gutter on him. He hates them for their pity, a thousand times more than he hates the others for their scorn.

He grows older and more powerful, but he is not happy, not friendly, not popular or liked or admired. He is angry, always angry, and he is strong, and handsome, and feared. He is the best of a generation, of a century; he is worthless and useless and unloved as a handful of broken glass. He hurts everything that touches him, and he does so despite himself because he wants to be liked as much as he needs to be hated.

His teachers are the only ones who feel anything at all for him, and most of what they feel is fear. They move carefully around him like the chorus of a ballet around a principal, wary of his talent, his brilliance; and wary of his temper most of all. They are right to be afraid of him; he is bright and strong and heartless as the sun. They do not know what is about him but it is enough that they do not understand him, they who understand everything. No one ever looked -- ever looks -- him in the eye. He tries to be what they want. He tries to be perfect, and he very nearly is; and still it is not enough. Nothing he can do will make his blood pure, his heart true. But if he cannot be good enough for them he can still be bad enough. One way or another he can be sure no one will ever ignore him again.

Sometimes it is enough to be feared; sometimes danger can arouse as well as repel. When he was fifteen no one so much as looked at him; when he was sixteen he had his choice of partners. When he was sixteen Tom Riddle discovered both sex and darkness, and it would be hard to say which one had more effect on him. Sex shaped him, shaped his world, but it was the darkness that defined him in the end.

And then, all at once, of course, there was Myrtle: unexpected, unwanted, incomprehensible. That anyone could love, so easily and carelessly; that hearts truly were made to be broken. Myrtle was nothing, and less than nothing -- she was less than Tom, even. Yet she demanded that he recognize her, want her, love her, as if such things were her right. She saw something in him no one else had seen; she saw the heir of Slytherin. As it turned out, she was unimaginably correct. Of all the Slytherins ever born, she had chosen the one whose destiny was to destroy her.

You have Tom, who wants to be noticed, remembered, considered, who wants to be the best and if he cannot be the best, wants to be the worst. You have Myrtle, unworthy, foolish, careless Myrtle, and Myrtle wants to have the best. She recognizes Tom for what he is; she alone knows his potential. Myrtle is not smart but she is sharp. She can smell an advantage from a hundred yards away.

So, in the beginning there are Tom and Myrtle, two children who love one another, to the extent that they are capable of loving anything. There is a beast out of legend, a creature so dangerous its name has been spoken only in whispers, until finally it had not been spoken at all. Myrtle loves Tom, but it is power that excited her, and she is pleased when the basilisk answers his call. She is pleased, because she wants to see that power harnessed.

In the beginning that is all Tom wanted (not necessarily because it would please her, but because he, too, found power attractive.) But there is beauty in this creature, in its freedom, and he finds himself reluctant to bind it. He is -- envious -- of it, of its lawlessness, its age, its seeming immortality. What would it be like to be such a monster that everyone respects you? Tom decides to find out.

It is so easy; from start to finish it is as if it were meant to be. He opens the Chamber of Secrets and summons the basilisk -- this is his birthright, Mudblood or no. When he calls it it comes, and looks at him through ancient, jewel-faceted eyes, and bows its head to him. He commands it, "Kill," and sends it forth, and he does not think of his mother until he hears a woman's scream echo through the castle. In the beginning he did not mean for this to happen.


Silverlake: Authors / Mediums / Titles / Links / List / About / Updates / Silverlake Remix