Author's notes: I'm really sorry for the delay in posting this chapter. I've changed a few things in the previous chapter in order to rectify major blunders. Please try to re-read Chapter Four if you haven't done that already.
I hope you enjoy this installment. I know it's much shorter than the previous one. To be entirely honest, I'm not comfortable with writing long chapters. I'm not sure when I can upload the next chapter, due to my busy schedule. Let me assure you that I have not abandoned the story.
An Evil Deed
A second later, Riddle and Schwartz had recovered from the usual side effects of Apparition. Magische Festung was a few miles behind them. They were standing in front of an ancient stone dwelling that had a pair of majestic yew trees on either side. The main door was black and strangely unmarked, save for a small hole in the door. As the hideout was protected by the Fidelius Charm, not all wizards could see this large edifice.
Riddle stepped forward and knocked on the door. For a minute, there was perfect silence, with the exception of the chirrup of a bird that heralded the rise of the sun. But an average wizard would never consider anything around this structure as cheerful, if he were to know the very existence or purpose of this place.
Even though he had not seen anyone peering through the hole, Riddle could hear a few locks being opened. He presumed that the view hole was enchanted as well. The door opened to reveal a mysterious tall, black-robed and hooded person whom Riddle recognised by sight alone.
They stepped into the long hall. Two black, unadorned sofas were facing each other on both sides of a table, along with a few plush armchairs. All the furniture in the room was black. Behind Riddle, Schwartz and the hooded figure were speaking in low, incomprehensible whispers. Riddle took a seat and glanced at them. A few minutes later, the hooded person straightened up.
Schwartz sat on one of the sofas facing Riddle. "The Dark Master is currently occupied. When His right-hand person calls you, you can enter."
The hooded figure was walking towards another black door. In fact, there were three more set at various positions, apart from the main entrance itself. Like the rest of the dwelling, even this room had sinister black drapes for window curtains. The chandelier candles affixed to the ceiling were the only source of light in this chamber. Riddle, however, was not keen on observing the room, as this was not the first time he had come to this place. He was slightly surprised at what Schwartz had just said.
"'Right-hand person'?" repeated Riddle. "I thought they were – an accomplice." Riddle amended so quickly that Schwartz did not seem to notice Riddle's correction in his choice of words.
"A frequent misconception. I'm afraid I cannot say more on the matter."
Riddle's curiosity had not diminished, even though he did not press Schwartz for more information about the enigmatic person hidden under the hood.
Twenty minutes later, Riddle's sidelong gaze was fixed upon the door through which Grindelwald's right-hand person had exited. Meanwhile, a witch who had arrived five minutes ago was engaged in a whispered conversation with Schwartz. Once or twice, she glanced at Riddle, perhaps wondering what such a young wizard was doing in so secretive a place. Riddle did not seem to heed her inquisitive glimpses.
The door that Riddle was staring at opened all of a sudden. The hooded figure was standing in the frame. They nodded in Riddle's direction. He rose from his seat and walked towards them. They turned and marched into a much smaller room, with Riddle close behind.
The unknown person stopped at yet another black door and knocked thrice.
"Enter," said an icy voice.
The cloaked individual pushed open the door rather unceremoniously. Grindelwald was seated upon his chair as if he were a king. He was rotating his wand with his long fingers in a rather casual manner. Even as Riddle bowed, Grindelwald's right-hand person walked towards the Dark Master's chair and conjured a lower one right beside it and seated himself.
"It is long since you have been here, Riddle. Few of My minions are worthier than yourself," spoke Grindelwald.
Minion? Riddle was bothered a little by Grindelwald's nouns, but he quickly pushed the thought into the back of his mind. He replied, "Master, You know the reason why I am here."
Grindelwald would have tortured him for his apparent insolence if he was someone else. When the Dark Master spoke, his tone was one of caution.
"Indeed. But I do not tutor My … apprentices early on. I ask them to prove their worth and do something in return for Me whenever possible. I do have My ways of ensuring that they remain loyal."
"I understand," said Riddle, determined to keep his face neutral.
Finally, Grindelwald seemed to be convinced of Riddle's loyalties. He moved close to Riddle and began to instruct him.
When he knew what to do, Riddle pointed his wand at the black diary that now lay open on the floor. According to the Dark Master, it would be painful; but Riddle did not care. He whispered, "Creatio Horcrux."
In an instant, a sharp, unbearable pain surged through Riddle's body. He almost fell to his knees, but managed to remain on his feet. A black orb escaped from the end of his wand and hit the book. Due to the force of the spell, the book closed; fortunately, the diary had not been damaged. As he had planned, the diary did not show any external signs of being charmed as a memory container.
No one spoke for quite some time. The only sounds in the room were coming from the crackling flames within the torches, which were positioned on either sides of the black wooden door. After many minutes, the Dark Master walked towards Riddle.
"Well done," murmured Grindelwald. "As you know, I need to be assured of your loyalty. While I shall not exercise painful means in your case, I cannot exempt you completely. Grendel?"
Grindelwald turned to face his hooded assistant, who had promptly stood up upon being addressed. As the black-robed, unknown person hurried to the Dark master's side, their cloak shook slightly. Grindelwald seemed to make eye contact with the stranger called Grendel, who whipped out his wand. Riddle had the feeling that some sort of Dark spell was about to be performed.
"Are you ready to make the Conditional Unbreakable Vow, Riddle?" asked Grindelwald.
Riddle's sudden suspicion had proven to be right. He had read about the Conditional Unbreakable Vow at the Hogwarts library's Restricted Section. This sparsely-used variant of the Unbreakable Vow could decide the manner of death of the person who gave the Vow, if he were to break it. Riddle knew that he had no choice. However, he did have a plan that could not only ensure his immortality, but also thwart the Vow.
"Of course." He nodded and proceeded to clasp Grindelwald's right hand. The hooded person held their wand very close to Riddle and the Dark Master's joined hands.
"Tom Riddle," began Grindelwald. Riddle winced inwardly; he hated that name. "Do you agree not to repeat what you have learned to another soul?"
"Yes," said Riddle, even as a thin, yet bright ribbon of fire shot out of Grendel's wand and surrounded the joined hands.
"Do you agree to return if your presence is required?"
"Yes," spoke Riddle again. The colour of the flame momentarily changed to a deep shade of purple and reverted back to yellow.
"If you break your Vow, Tom Riddle, you shall face death when you least expect it."
This time, Grindelwald did not ask for Riddle's assent. The chain of fire glowed blood red for a whole minute, and vanished in its entirety, leaving behind no trace of burning.
A day later, Tom Marvolo Riddle had returned to London. However, he was going to stay for one night at one of the cheaper rooms of The Leaky Cauldron before returning to the orphanage. He had thought of something else to do.
Standing in front of an ordinary brick wall in the early night, when most patrons had left the pub, Riddle tapped a few bricks on the wall in a seemingly random fashion. A Muggle's jaw would have dropped at what happened next, but Riddle was not surprised when the wall slowly parted to reveal the narrow street of Diagon Alley.
The warm summer wind swept Riddle's shabby cloak behind him as he walked casually down the nearly deserted street. The shop owners seemed not to notice him as they closed their establishments for the day.
As he approached a sharp turn near the wizarding bank Gringotts at the end of Diagon Alley, he glanced around furtively. No one was looking in his direction, so he walked quickly into the dark, gloomy Knockturn Alley.
When Riddle walked past a shop named Borgin and Burkes, which was well known for its impressive collection of Dark artefacts, someone bumped into him, accidentally dropping a few things. Riddle took a hasty step backwards.
The other wizard got on his feet and smoothed his robes. His eyes were fully hidden under a thatch of black hair. His deep blue robes were regal and grand, indicating that he was well off.
"Do watch where you're going, young man," admonished the short man, whose name was Caractacus Burke. "And what are you doing here all alone at this hour?" he asked, after taking a closer look at Riddle.
"I'm sorry, sir," said Riddle abruptly, picking up the letters and scrolls that the old man had dropped and handing them over to him.
"What is your name?" the older wizard enquired suspiciously while taking his belongings.
"I've heard that name before, one of my sons is in Slytherin; he might've mentioned it. You're attending Hogwarts, aren't you? My son speaks very highly of you, indeed …"
Riddle was surprised at the sudden change in the other man's behaviour. In the meantime, the other man had entered into Borgin and Burkes, only to lock the door behind him. Riddle did not know his name.
Riddle glanced around him more thoroughly this time and walked towards a not-so-well-known bookshop located at the very end of Knockturn Alley. He was going there for doing some rather interesting research that was closely related with the knowledge he had learned from Grindelwald.
To be continued …