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Notes: Dumbledore and his regrets.
Be the Serpent
His voice may be cold when he is displeased, but his skin is still warm to the touch. Dark eyes dark hair dark smile on pale sheets, one thigh raised and opening. In. Albus knows better than to be tempted. He knows better than to be kind. For this boy is a snake, sinuous and pliant and hissing, so amenable to Albus' every wish. Too amenable. No Slytherin is that amenable unless they have something to gain, and Tom Riddle certainly does. Have something. To--
Albus knows better. But still he falls--in his office, after an hour of Transfiguration with the seventh-year Slytherins, when young Tom Riddle approaches him with a quiet 'Could you help me with this, sir?' --As though Tom needs help with anything. Albus falls, again and again and again, the skin of this boy a white abyss he scrabbles against--against and over, uncommonly clumsy, uncommonly ashamed, uncommonly hungry as he pushes open the door to his quarters, pushes the boy down on his bed. Tom's eyes such pleased slits above. Sated. He knows more than he is telling. Much more.
Albus knows what Tom has done. In so many words. The lies Tom has told. About Hagrid. The monster. Aragog. Albus knows the new power breaking like a bud under that too-clean skin--skin that seems innocent but isn't, skin that Albus has seen stained with sweat and tears and semen. Albus knows that he's being used, his eyes blinkered with lust. Albus knows, but he lets Tom go--having faith against faith, hope against hope. Come back to me.
When Albus hears of the deaths of the Riddle family, barely a few months later, he tastes true regret for the first time in his life. He remembers that first glimpse into a child's shifting mind, murkier and darker than most--that glimpse of dirt and vomit and welts against whipped thighs, out in the backyard of the orphanage where no one could see. He remembers Tom's eyes then, dark and hurt and pleading--please, please, please. He remembers his own urge to help. To comfort. To embrace.
He should have known better. He knows now, in any case. Tom never needed comfort. Tom never needed kindness. Tom has what he wants now, as more killings come to light: Tom has vengeance, Tom has hatred, and that is all Tom will ever need.