They were pathetic.
Tom sat away from the other children and the hawk like gaze of , watching them disgustedly, or rather as pityingly as he could at such willfully weak creatures. It was better now that they feared him, rightfully of course, as he could still remember a time before they had gotten it into their thick little skulls that he wouldn't be bullied and though they had been a danger to him then, now they were little more than an annoyance. Tom was just about to go back to reading, a book on anatomy he had nicked from the bookstore down the block, when suddenly he heard a hissing sound coming from a nearby sparsely furnished bush. Usually Tom wasn't of the most curious sort but he could clearly here words interlaced with the frustrated hissing.
'I'm colddd!' Slowly parting the branches of the poor excuse for a plant, Tom came face to face with a snake. She was a beautiful specimen which he could identify as a species of python, with evergreen and brown moulted colouring. More importantly he could understand her. In just one day his theory about the strange things he could make happen had all been proven true. He was special, superior even, after all no one else could talk to snakes!
'Hello' Tom whispered, subtly checking over his shoulder for the looming shadow of the orphanage matron
'Ssspeaker!' The snake reared up in surprise, causing Tom to raise an eyebrow when she fell awkwardly to the ground
'Explain to me what isss a ssspeaker' the young orphan commanded, already blossoming in this small position of authority
'Yesss of courssse, a speaker isss one who ssspeaks and understandsss the language of sssnakes. It isss quite a rare ability' Tom could feel his ego inflate with every deferentially worshipful and eager to please word the snake spoke. But there was one more thing that the snake might be able to tell him.
'Do you know my family?' Heasked, cautiously hopeful and yet disgusted by the vulnerability he could hear in his own voice. The snake seemed hesitant to answer
'I'm afraid not young ssspeaker' Tom slouched in disappointment but perked back up as the snake continued
'But I know one who smellsss very alike to yourself, not of your human flesh but of the snake which swims in your blood.'
'Bring him to me.' The orphaned Riddle commanded, not willing to show any weakness but at the same time fearful that the snake may take this as rudeness and leave him. The snake seemed unsure at first but eventually responded
"Take care not to offend this one, young speaker. He is not obligated to obey you as am I and he is very powerful. The ancient ones are just as revered as the speakers among our kind, perhaps more even.' Tom suddenly felt a sense of forbidding, perhaps this hadn't been such a good idea after all? But the snake had already slithered off through the grass. He could maim a person with raw emotion, even steal the life from them with a well placed thought, surely Tom could take care of a single serpent with his power. He couldn't help but feel doubtful nonetheless.
Tom walked out to the field at the back of the orphanage along with the other children, watching them shivering in their thin jackets. Unlike they however, he remained warm. He had just had to want it to be so and suddenly it was as if the bitter cold was non existent and he was sitting in the middle of a sunbeam. Just another way to prove his superiority over these pathetic beings, he thought, looking contemptuously around at the huddling children. Scoffing, he separated himself from the small crowd, moving to take his usual place, safe from prying eyes at the corner of the building near the small grouping of trees. As soon as he sat down a familiar snake darted out of the bushes, moving to shiver in front of him. Realizing the strain the weather was putting on the cold blooded reptile, being that she would normally be curled up in some sort of shelter by now, he picked her up, dropping her under the his coat to rest on his warm collarbone.
'Thank you young speaker' the snake said gratefully, rubbing against the heat of his skin. Tom was becoming impatient
'Where is he? Did he not come?' Tom asked, referring to the powerful snake that had been mentioned the day before
'He is further into the brush, young speaker, behind that group of trees. The humans would be fearful should he be seen' now Tom was more than a little fearful himself, not that he would ever admit it, and so he stepped forward into the small grove. He was just about to snap again at the snake when he saw him. Standing casually by the side of an oak was a boy. Looking about his age, nearly 7, with pale skin even ghostlier than his own and blood tinged lips, the most striking of his features were his brilliant emerald eyes. Standing out starkly against the luminescent emeralds were thinly slit pupils which dominated the iris. Eyes scanning over the boys waist length raven black hair, bound into a thick braid, Tom idly noticed the minuscule, pearly scales that wove across his skin in elaborate patterns, indeterminable until they caught the light just so. He smiled, the creature mimicking the expression and Tom saw that he had fangs.
"Hello" Tom said hesitantly, cursing at himself for not speaking in the snake language. Who was to say that the creature even spoke english and Tom did not want to offend this being of obvious power. To his shock, the boy replied.
"Hello Tom Riddle, I have heard much about you" he spoke in a lilting, strangely accented voice, a smoky hiss to Tom's own svelte purr and Tom shivered before regaining control over himself.
"Is that so," he said without inflection "and you are?" the stranger chuckled
"Snakes have no name until one is thrust upon them and I am just enough a snake to be no exception to the rule." Tom smirked humorously
"Would you allow me to name you then?" he asked before he could help himself, much too eager to finally have something of his own, that he could name and possess completely without the other children at the orphanage wiping their grimy hands all over it. He was afraid that the creature, for he obviously wasn't human, would be offended, but he merely nodded.
"That would be acceptable, however I believe our young friend here would like a name as well?" Tom flinched in surprise as the snake poked her head out of his jacket. He had forgotten about her until this point.
'It would be a great honour to be named by the young speaker!' she burst out and Tom was sure that were she a bird she would have erupted into song.
"Then you shall be Nagini" tom said to the small snake as she curled contently back into the jacket
"and you..." he pondered, contemplating exactly what name would fit such a marvellous being,
"shall be Pythius, named after the great serpent slayed by Apollo himself" the snake like creature gave a small smile
"It is a noble name" and Tom took this as acceptance. Seeing that the newly dubbed Pythius was not as easily offended as he had perceived him to be, Tom rushed to ask the pertinent questions.
"Of what sort of species are you exactly?" he said putting it delicately
" I am a lamia, a shapeshifter between man and snake" Pythius responded, his lower body shifting into that of a powerful serpent as if to prove his point. Tom gaped, staring at where once were a pair of pale legs, now resided the brilliantly scaled body of a serpent. As
thick as a tree trunk with vibrant scales that looked as if were crafted into perfect uniform crescents from large chips of emerald mixed with the occasional small chip of jet, this gave the lamia new height, and where he had once been about tom's age he was now pushing 5 feet. Recovering admirably, as Pythius's body shifted back to their former state, he readied another question.
"What am I?" the young orphan asked, both excited at finding others of his kind and disgruntled at the idea of being less then unique.
"You are a wizard" at this Tom's eyes lit up and he began to fire off question after question until the sun lowered in the sky and the children were called back in. Reluctant to leave, already feeling a startling possessiveness over the Lamia, Tom was just about to order him to come back tomorrow when he halted himself, remembering Nagini's warning. Pythius, however, seemed to feel his distress.
"I will be back tomorrow." and with that they went their separate ways, each with a smile on their face.
Pythius was back the next day, and the day after, and many days after that. He and Tom would meet in the small grove of trees, away from the suspicions of , who seemed convinced that he was practicing devilish rituals in there, and talk. Tom would tell Pythius about the muggle world, the orphanage and muggle technology and in return Pythius would tell him about the wizarding world, its traditions and spells, the different magical beings in it, about lamias and his heritage as a wizard. Pythius supplied most of the conversation, but he didn't mind and Tom was fascinated. It was thanks to Pythius that Tom learned his most important lesson of all. About muggles. Finally he had proof that he was different from them, that he was superior where they were lacking, and it felt wonderful. No longer did he let the terrified taunting of the children or the scathing glares of the caretakers bother him, for they were less than he was. It would be rather inconvenient when he went to Hogwarts true, Pythius had told him about this also, but he knew that with the right amount of cunning and ambition, half bloods had the opportunity to rise even above their pureblooded counterparts, where the muggleborns would wallow in the dirt despite their efforts. It was lucky on Tom's part that Pythius had even been able to scent his halfblood heritage and it gave him some peace of mind regarding the future. Less fascinating but still enjoyable, where his lessons on the different magical beings and creatures. The near immortality of the vampires especially grabbed his attention and he vowed he would have to do something about his unacceptably fragile mortality once he was more proficient in the magical arts, but for now he was content learning. He also gained what he now knew was rather obscure knowledge on the powers, practices and laws of lamia. He had learned that Pythius could scent magics by flicking his tongue, much like the way a normal snake would, to discover both its type and source. He learned that lamias as a whole were also rather dangerous with a spear, abnormally strong, and that as well as being able to shift into a half snake form, they also had a full snake form along with their own brand of lamia magic (that was apparently impossible for Tom to learn), they also had regenerative properties. Their single most interesting quality, Tom discovered however, was that much like a snake, lamia were born with all the knowledge of their parents, and their parent's parents and so on, so that not a single bit of knowledge was lost between generations. This was all during one particularly memorable lesson that he learned the true extent of the power of his..., now this was where he always paused, Pythius was more than a friend and too powerful and willful to be a follower, but at the same time Tom held a strange sense of possessiveness over him. It grated on him that he had yet to find a title that fit Pythius's place in his life and could only be mollified that the lamia seemed just as possessive over Tom as he was over the serpent shifter. This day however was different.
Pythias had greeted him in his usual manner by wrapping the lower tip of his half snake body around toms waist as he had learned was a greeting among close friends in lamian tradition. Tom had been told that given that the lamia was greeting another of its kind, the greeting looked much like a doctors caduceus and was actually where the design had originated from, it being that lamia based ingredients made for very strong healing potions. Rather than starting on the next lesson in the pattern to which Tom had become accustomed, Pythius shifted into the semi human body of which Tom hadn't seen since the first day and strode out of the grove. Stunned for a moment, he startled before rushing after him.
"What are you doing?!" Tom gasped trying to drag him back into the shelter of the trees, a fruitless endeavour as they began to attract the attention of the other orphans
"I've decided to join you here." Pythius stated, ignoring Tom's furious mutterings. Finally noticed Tom tugging on the other boy and ran over in a speed borne from her unusually sober state.
" TOM! don't touch this child..." trailed off, catching sight of his slit eyes and cringing away fearfully. Pythius scowled, drawing Tom closer to his self in retaliation.
"Madam, I wish to join your orphanage" The matron looked over him dubiously. He certainly didn't look like someone with parents, what with his rough linen trousers and ragged excuse for a shirt, but nor did he look like any street rat she had ever seen. It was a conundrum. On one side judging by the death grip he had on the boy... thing, she reminded herself staring into his slitted eyes, Tom was rather attached to him, surely marking the boy as a demon and as a bonus it looked as though her refusal might punish the little devil worshiper as he rightfully deserved, but on the other hand, based on the tension rising off of the demon and the violent gleam in his menacingly green eyes, refusal might just spell her gruesome end. Finally she came to a decision.
"Fine." she grumbled, wrenching her newest charge away from Tom, not noticing the pure rage suddenly seeping into his eyes, and led him inside, determinately ignoring his fearsome hisses. They soon sat in a bare office, furnished only with a desk, a few writing utensils and a filing cabinet filled with information on Wool's various orphans. Taking out a pen, a brand new file and some forms, they settled on either side of the desk and began to go through the usual ritual mechanically.
"Pythius" scowled irritably at the strange name that was unarguably far from Christian or even British
"Last name?" Pythius mulled over the issue for a moment
"Potter" the nativeness of the name seemed to mollify her at least a bit and she relaxed slightly
"Age?" Pythius thought again before remembering Tom's age
"How did your parents die?"
"My mother was hunted down and sold for potions ingredients. I don't know my father." here paused and looked at the creature in front of her in disbelief before deciding to just write unknown.
They spent an hour like this with Pythius answering the rather tame questions with odd and frightening answers, or at least they were to the matron. By the time the paperwork was finished, over half of it simply read unknown, being that had been unable to bring herself to write the majority of the answers down. She handed 'Pythius Potter' the drab grey uniform that marked the charges of wools orphanage, hiding her smugness at the subsequent grimace from his penetrating green eyes. As the boy-creature-thing, left the room, holding the ragged grey bundle at arms length, the fervorously devout christian matron finally wondered the consequences of what she had done. At best she had brought in an escaped freak show attraction, and did the boy ever look the part!, that undeniably suffered from violent delusions into her care. At the very worst she had invited a foul demon, an apostate of satan himself, into an orphanage full of children. As was dragged deeper into her ever spiralling thoughts of worst case scenarios, she recalled the scales that had seemed to twist in serpentine patterns across his pale unmarked flesh. Perhaps he might even be the snake from the garden of Eden itself come to tempt them all into sin, she thought. Suddenly paranoid given the utter silence of the room she reached under her desk and pulled out a bottle of gin. There was a quarter left. She would get some sleep yet.