Title: "Countdown"

Author: Shaitanah

Rating: G

Timeline: Tom Riddle at Hogwarts

Summary: Tom likes thunderstorms and solitude.

Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to J. K. Rowling… We all know that. So does Tom Riddle.

A/N: thanx to Amylion because the idea for this fic came to me while we were discussing fics and stuff.

COUNTDOWN

Now and then it rained at Hogwarts. Clouds paraded in the overcast sky, pouring heavy rain on the thirsty earth. The students came running quickly under the roof to find shelter. The whole school lands turned into a vast realm of ringing noise as droplets of rain bombarded window-sills and tiled towers.

Tom leaned forward, alone in the Slytherin common room, surrounded by glistening green of its silk and velvet, and said quietly:

"One".

It was rather draughty here. House elves hadn't begun to heat the chimneys yet. Tom wrapped himself up in a blanket and stood motionless by the window. Not a sound. Utter stillness.

He smiled.

Life was no so damn boring after all.

He loved it when noone was around. No Gryffindors with their silly, overly sharp sense of justice. No Slytherins who worshipped and adored him not really knowing who, what he was.

"Two", Tom murmured.

Tom… Tom Marvolo Riddle. Tom… He loathed his name, all three bloody letters of it. It was so common, so ordinary whereas its owner was anything but ordinary.

"Three".

Tom's pale face reflected in the window seemed to be a face of a statue. Too handsome, immobile. Perfect.

Tom wanted to be perfect. He wanted a perfect life (the one that would never end), perfect followers (loyal but easily replaceable), a perfect name.

Voldemort. His indistinct alter ego, the one that would alter his destiny.

Tom smiled and said very quietly, leaving a cloud of vapour in the chilly air:

"Four".

A group of younger Slytherins burst in, shouting, chatting vividly. Tom pressed his forehead to cool glass again, harder, as if trying to ram through it with his head.

-Be gone!- he hissed in Parseltongue. Of course, they hadn't heard him. Quite soon their laughter melted away, and Tom was alone with rain and storm once again. And so he said:

"Five".

Scrolls lay piled on the table beside the window. Tom tried to go back to his essay 'What is Power?' (nobody asked him to write it, he just wanted to know if he could give a decent definition for himself) but his mind was set on other things. So he rolled the scrolls carefully and put them away.

"Six".

He looked out of the window without opening it. Someone was out for a walk under the rain. Tom could see their blurred shapes between the streams of water. Pragmatic as he was, Tom decided to stay put: what's the pleasure of being accidentally struck by lightning? He had a world to conquer yet.

Tom's lips moved:

"Seven".

His voice was melodic and would have resembled a silver bell chiming had Tom been a fairytale character. For a brief moment he wondered if his Muggle father had the same name. After all, he was a copy of Thomas Riddle-sr.

"Eight".

Tom hopped off the window-sill, extracted a small muffin out of his pocket and took a bite. It tasted sweet, cold cherry filling splashed into his mouth. Tom smiled. Too bad there was no mirror in the room: his teeth must have gotten horribly claret-colored now. It had to be funny and extremely silly.

"Nine!" Tom half-yelled. Nine, already! Time ran so quickly! Nine-nine-nine!

Riddle stood at the window in the greenish twilight of the common room, took a deep breath and exhaled. Again and again – and everything began to vanish. The glass became a border between the two separate worlds. He was cut off from the outside world by that fragile film of his breath.

Before it expired Tom pointed a finger. A few strokes – and he had the future mark of Death Eaters painted on the window.

"Ten!" Tom exclaimed.

As if by command, lightning cut through the sky, thunder rumbled in the distance, and the great castle trembled. Hogwarts was not invincible against the mere forces of nature.

Tom tore the window open and pushed his upper body through. Exposed to the bestial fury of the elements, he felt wild and happy.

In a minute he was soaked.

October 3, 2006