He had finally gotten it. He just hoped they would accept it.

He chuckled to himself at this naïve thought. Of course they were going to accept it. He was their leader. No matter what they thought of it now, they would come to respect this symbol. To revere it. To fear it, even.

He had already ensured that they would stay over the holiday break. Now he would just need to get the word out about the meeting. Seeing as it was break, he would be able to hold this one in the Common Room. No one would interfere; it was only his friends who were still around.

As Tom ran his fingers over the design he had sketched on the parchment, he wondered how to get the word of the meeting out, and when to hold it. Tomorrow would most likely be perfect, tomorrow night. A Christmas present, he thought, smiling faintly.

Tom Riddle went down to breakfast. There was only one table set, since so very few were staying for the holidays. Tom made sure to sit at the opposite end of where Dumbledore was, but this did not stop the professor from every so often scanning him over for a second with his eyes. Tom ignored him, as was the usual routine of this Slytherin student and Transfiguration teacher, and focused solely on eating his eggs and toast.

As they left the hall, Tom fell into stride with Abraxas Malfoy.

"Meeting tomorrow night," he said very quietly. "Common Room. At midnight. Tell the others."

Abraxas Malfoy was one of the most popular Slytherins, second to Tom. He smoothed back his blonde hair and smiled suavely at his classmate.

"I shall."

Tom stood in front of the fireplace as the others in his select group slipped down the stairs.

"Welcome," Tom said quietly when they had assembled themselves on the floor and in the various high-backed chairs. "I called this meeting for you to see my newly designed – ah – device – that should come in handy in the near future."

Tom spoke softly, but he held the room's attention completely.

"This shall be my way of contacting you from now on," Tom continued in a low voice. "And as we gather more followers, it will be a way for you to recognize one another."

He let these mysterious words hang in the air for a moment.

"Now," said Tom. With his back to the flames, there was an eerie shadow cast upon his face. "Who would like to be the first to try out my contrivance?"

No one moved initially, but he had predicted this. He had left his new 'contrivance', as he had put it, so vague purposely so that nobody wanted to be the first – or maybe even the last – to have a go with this.

After several very still moments, Christopher Nott stepped forward. The corners of Tom's mouth moved upward slightly.

"Excellent," he said, very softly. He motioned Christopher forward, and moved over so both young men could be visible to all. Tom turned to face him, casting one side of his in the light, illuminating his dark eyes glinting with anticipation. Christopher took the other boy's cue and turned to face him as well.

"Hold out your left arm, Christopher," Tom pronounced in a slow, patronizing voice.

Christopher's eyes flashed with wariness for a moment, but he did as was requested. Tom took the arm in his hands delicately, as though it were fragile. He slowly rolled up the sleeve of Christopher's robes, until his forearm was visible. The whole Common Room seemed to hold its breath. Tom ran his cold fingers over a spot on Christopher's wrist, with careful deliberation. Then he rubbed them over a section inside of the boy's arm. Tom did this several times in different areas of his arm, debating where the best spot would be. Christopher followed every pattern Tom traced on his arm with his eyes. All of the gathered Slytherins waited, barely daring to breath.

At last Tom made up his mind. He drew out his wand with his right hand, keeping his other on his fellow classmate's arm. His eyes met Christopher's for a moment, then they flicked to his wand. Tom put the tip of his wand on the inside of the boy's left forearm, and silently annunciated the string of incantations he had created in his head. The Slytherins leaned closer.

A fuzzy black shape began to emerge on the arm bathed in light. Slowly it started to take shape and the lines became clearer. Christopher looked slightly in pain, but he kept his mouth clamped shut and did not give any indicator of discomfort. Tom continued to think the chain of spells, concentrating intensely on giving them in the right order, his eyes not leaving the growing design.

Tom had never done the charm on a human before, so the process took longer than he had expected. But finally it was done. Tom removed his wand, and showed Christopher's arm to the others: a intricate black tattoo of a skull, with a snake coming out of its mouth.

"The Dark Mark," he declared in a whisper.

And in that moment, Tom felt this feeling arise in him: this feeling that suddenly he had found his destiny and it had just been sealed. Silly antics, and he usually dismissed such foolish thoughts, whether they were his own or someone else's. But he could not help feeling so, as he looked at his followers gathered around him and Christopher. He could not stop the rising excitement, the rising feeling that this was his fate.

A holiday miracle, he thought dryly, and a wry smile curved his lips.

One by one the rest of them, now eager for the moment, received the Dark Mark.

"You will feel the Mark burn when I am summoning you," Tom said, once they all bore said Mark. "Avoid rolling up your uniform sleeves around others, however; we do not want to attract the attentions of other students or professors." He paused, still enjoying this feeling of having his destiny signed. "Meeting adjourned."

The Slytherins pushed themselves off the chairs and the floor to head to bed; although he had a feeling none of them would be sleeping much tonight.

"Wait," said Tom.

They all stopped; his word was law.

"Yes, Tom?" Abraxas said, after several long moments of silence.

"It is not Tom anymore," Tom Riddle spat, suddenly angered. "How many times have I told you, only use that name when around the teachers and other students?"

"My apologies," said Abraxas quickly, bowing his silky blonde head. "What is it, my lord?"

Tom gave them a twisted smile. "Merry Christmas."