Original Author: edenfalling
Original Story: Mice and Men
When he was born he was perfect, and when he died he was ugly and no one loved him, and in between, Tom Riddle was a thousand people that he never meant to be.
He wanted to be a priest when he was six, like Father O'Hara at the orphanage, serene and saintly in his long black robes and collar. He wanted to be the kind of person that prayed to God, and that God answered.
He was a good student, Tom Riddle; he was a prophet without honor in his own country, a master magician and a mass murderer. He was feared and respected and hated and adored, and sometimes it went to his head. He was a madman and a liar and sometimes when it mattered he was the only one who told the truth.
When he was eleven, and the wizarding world was vast and unnavigable and terrifying, he wanted to be a professional quidditch player, and he practiced for hours on ancient brooms borrowed without leave from Hogwarts. He was as good at it as it was possible for an untutored eleven year old to be, which was to say not very. It wasn't a game to him: it was his face on posters, his name written over and over in round clear schoolboy's handwriting, signing autographs.
At twelve he gave up quidditch for good. It was too slow, too uncertain, too much a team sport. Tom Riddle wanted glory, and he wanted it for himself alone. What he wanted was to be an Auror, the second coming of Sherlock Holmes, not just famous but also a hero. He wanted to be just, and kind, and well-written up in the papers; he wanted to be a good wizard.
It was a bad time to be in Salazar Slytherin's House, when Grindelwald's name was on everyone's lips. The Aurors' College was not the only institution in Europe to turn away applicants from Slytherin. It gave Tom Riddle a side to be on, even at twelve. It made sure he was on the wrong side.
The first time he spoke to a snake and it listened, was the first time Tom Riddle ever wanted to be normal. There was something about the feel of the words on his lips, the shape of Parseltongue in his mouth. There was something about the idea of predestination, the thought that this was not entirely of his own free will, that he did not like. Normal meant not knowing that basilisks existed, not being afraid of things no one else could see.
Normal meant not being a monster, and Tom Riddle had always known that he was. Because that was the one thing he could not change, he had to be bigger than the things in the dark, stronger and harder and crueler. Because he was one of them, by his very nature, it worked.
He was fifteen when he learned what it was like to be a killer, and twice that before he was sure he liked it. It had nothing to do with the details: he was not bothered by the smell of blood or the feel of bones beneath his hands, because he did not do his own killing. It was the easiness of it that disturbed him-- the lack of weight, the lack of gravity. It seemed that a thing as momentous as murder ought to be more of a challenge.
There were a lot of things Tom Riddle felt that way about. It went with being smarter and more powerful and better than everyone else, with seeing the things they couldn't: it made it difficult to understand the small things they put such store in, that caused them such anguish. Tom Riddle, raised without rules, had to make his own rules in order to understand.
For a very long time, it seemed like everything he wanted was his for the taking. Power, fame, fortune beyond what the children at the orphanage had ever dreamed existed. The world, to hold in his hand, to remake in his own image. And when he saved them-- when he saved them all, they would come to him on their knees, they would crawl before him and kiss his feet.
They would be sorry for the things they'd said and done to him, sorry they'd laughed at his charity shop robes and his books with the cracked spines and his mixed blood, sorry they'd left his mother to die in the street.
He was thirty-five when he knew it wasn't possible to save the world. Here, finally, was something that was not so easy: they did not believe him, that the end was coming, no matter how he tried to tell them. He knew, as they did not; he had lived among Muggles as they had not. He would have to destroy the old order, the old government and society, and resurrect it from the ashes. He began well, but it took longer than he expected. They were stubborn, wizards, and they did not know what was good for them.
When he was forty, he decided to become immortal. Bend the laws of science, the laws of arithmancy, to his own end. Stop time. He was a powerful man, Tom Riddle, more gifted than any wizard in generations. He made things happen, that were not meant to. And he was cleverer, and more ambitious, than any man had a right to be.
He could not work miracles. He had not been able to make himself holy, or beloved, or sane, no matter how much he wanted it. Likewise, he did not manage immortality. Say this, though, for Tom Riddle: he was not the man he meant to be, and he was many men he had not meant to be, but he never gave up and he never gave in. He died trying, and that in itself was a kind of immortality.