Title: Darkest Hour

Pairings: Tom Riddle/Harry Potter

Rating: R (for now)

Disclaimer: Isn't mine now. Wasn't mine then. Will never be mine in the future.

~**~**~ - page break/scene change

::meow:: - Parselmouth

meow - thoughts

"meow" - people talking behind your back

WARNING WARNING WARNING: This is an INTERLUDE. INTERMISSION. FILLER. RANDOM BLURBS THAT WOULDN'T LEAVE ME HEAD. In other words, it's writer's block trying to rear it's ugly head. So I decided to mix things up a bit. I feel the series isn't just about the story of Harry Potter, but also the story of Tom Marvolo Riddle. Because what is Voldemort without Tom? What is Darth Vader without Anakin Skywalker? _

Darkest Hour

Diagon Alley 1939

As hard as he tried, Tom Marvolo Riddle couldn't help but hear the snobbish comments and snide remarks whispered behind his back as he walked down the crowded road of Diagon Alley.

"Isn't that the Riddle boy? Look at his ratty robes!"

"I hear he has to stay at an orphange over the summer break. Can you believe that?"

"Salazar Slytherin must be raging to know such a dirty, poor, unkept half blood is in his house!

"For all his intelligence, he's a bit rough around the edges, isn't he?"

Twin hands curled into fists as their laughter and giggles followed him. Oh how he wanted to howl his outrage and anger, but he knew that such antics from a 12 year old child would be looked down upon and further laughed at. For all his magical abilities, he was still just a weak little boy who knew nothing and no one.

But all that will change one day, Tom vowed vehemently to himself. I'll show them. I'll show all of them that I'm the strongest wizard alive. Then I'll be the last one laughing.

His will set and determination renewed, Tom continued on until he reached Magical Menagerie, a shop that sold pets and familiars to the magical world. After seeing the different and wonderful creatures his fellow students had taken to Hogwarts last year, he knew he had to have one of his own. One just as special as he.

As he entered, Tom was immediately bombarded with the sight, smell, and sounds of the store. Animals and creatures from all around the world were lined up in neat rows in the middle of the store, with clear cases built into the walls to showcase a few of the more fancier ones. The young wizard went down row after row, seeing animals of the mundane, like toads and puffskeins, to the exotic, such as hippogriffs and kappas. Yet none of them sparked Tom's interest.

"I see you're a student of Hogwarts," a rough voice rumbled behind Tom. An older gentleman, with unkempt hair and baggy robes, stood with hands clasped behind his back. "Would you be more interested in snakes, little Slytherin?"

Although Tom bristled at the "little" remark, he nodded. A snake would be a smart choice, considering his ability to talk to the serpents. He followed the man to a corner of the store and passed a door that lead deeper into the shop. A light flicked on and he found himself in a smaller room with clear cages stacked upon cages filled with snakes. Soft hisses filled the air upon their entrance, and Tom fought back smile at a few of the sentences he was able to catch.

::It's that smelly two-legger! He best not come near me or else I'll bite him just like last time!::

::Oh, is it lunch time already? I hope I'm fed another rabbit, it's so much tastier then rats.::

::He's after my babies! My babies! I won't let him take my hatchlings! You there, you lazy sod, protect our nest! What kind of mate are you when all you do is eat and sleep? Are you even listening to me!::

Tom browsed the rows of cases, his eyes bright with curiosity. A few looked decent, such as a black cantil with elaborate tan banding or the pale grey mamushi, but something was holding him back from saying yes to any of the snakes he had observed.

"Ah, a scrupulous buyer. You won't stand for anything other then outstanding," the shopkeeper drawled as he watched Tom. "I just recently hatched a nest of king cobras. They may not have the deadliest venom in terms of toxicity, but they are the most intimidating if I do say so myself. Would you like to see? I know a few wizards and witches who prefer hatchlings, believing they are easier to handle and train."

"Show me," Tom ordered.

"Wait here, I'll bring them to you." The man disappeared out into a different door only to return minutes later, a large tank covered with a black cloth floating behind him. The wizard transfigured an empty cage into a table and set the case down. He whipped off the cloth with a flourish, drawing an angered and startled hiss from the occupants inside.

::Stupid human, the light is blinding!:: spat the mother cobra. She reared up as high as the clear cage allowed, her hood flaring as she opened her mouth as if it strike. Amidst her coils, wound tight in defensive balls, was a small nest of baby snakes. One or two tried to copy their mother, rearing up and swaying, adding their hisses along side their parent's.

"They're all ready to leave the mother, as their venom is just as potent compared to an adult. All a good healthy size, except for one."


The shopkeeper nodded and with a flick of his wand, a heavy coil lifted, revealing an impossibly tiny black king cobra hidden amid her mother's body. The little snake curled up even tighter, as if to hide, but Tom heard its hisses loud and clear.

::Don't come any closer, vile warm-blood! I'll bite your eyes out! I'll take your nose off! I'll melt your lips down to liquid!::

"She's the runt of the litter, so to speak," the wizard continued. "I'm surprised her nest mates haven't eaten her yet. Pathetic really, considering the mother and father are the strongest breeders of king cobras I've ever had."

Something in Tom snapped into place. It was almost as if he heard the "click" of something coming together for the first time. He knew he had to have this snake. To be laughed at and under-estimated was a well known feeling for Tom. This snake was his special one that he'd been seeking. One he could whole-heartily related with.

"How much?" asked the 12 year old, eyes still riveted on the black hatchling.

"Well, I usually don't sell to someone so young, not without a parent with them or signed expressed permission. I'll make an exception for you, however. The snake itself will be 7 sickles and 4 knuts. Of course you'll also need a case, and some food, as well as treats and foliage - "

Tom waved his hand in the air in a dismissive motion. "Yes yes, can I please pick out my pet?"

"Of course," the shopkeeper relied, rather indulgently to Tom's ears. The man flicked his wrist and a heavy bodied hatchling began to rise from its mother's coils.

"No," Tom sneered. "Not that one. I want her. The ... pathetic runt I believed you called her?"

The disheveled shopkeeper froze for a moment, eyes wide as he stared at the young wizard. "So be it," he spoke softly. "I don't do refunds and exchanges. If something happens to her, if she dies, don't say I didn't warn you."

"Nothing will happen and she won't die," Tom shot back. "I won't allow it. Would it be acceptable if you fetch a small case for her as well as two day's worth of food while I wait here?"

"That would be fine, yes. I'll be back in a moment, little Slytherin."

Tom's lip curled as he watched the man walk away. Now that he was finally alone, he turned his attention back to the agitated snakes.

::Calm yourself, please,:: he hissed in Parseltongue. ::I mean you no harm or disrespect.::

Shocked noises filled the air and the mother king cobra visibly perked up. ::A serpent-speaker, such an honor!:: she declared. ::In all my fifteen years, I never thought I'd see the day when a Parselmouth would grace these foul doors. Greetings, young one. I am called Nazula.::

::Greetings, Nazula. I must say, your hatchlings most certainly have inherited your beauty and strength.:: Tom flattered. He knew snakes were a prideful bunch, and stroking one's ego was an easy and swift way to win approval.

Soft laughter slipped passed the female king cobra's mouth as she preened under his gaze.

::Nazula,:: Tom began, ::I wish to select one of your hatchlings to be a companion of mine. She will be well taken care of and held in utmost regard, I promise you. Do I have your permission to take one of your own?::

::Why, I've never been asked before one of my hatchlings was stripped from me! Then again, no one has ever spoken to me before either. Regardless, I would be most honored if you took one of my hatchlings, young serpent-speaker! Might I suggest Ronguld? He's a fine, strapping snake and will surely grow to be as large as his father.::

Said snake reared up, hood flaring outwards to show off his growth. Tom smiled but shook his head.

::It would be an honor, but one reserved for a different wizard I'm afraid,:: said the young boy. ::I'm more interested in your smallest hatchling. What is your name, little one?::

::I am not little!:: the tiny snake hissed indignantly. ::I am mighty and strong and will take on even you.::

The end of the mother's tail rose and and swiftly struck the black baby cobra in the back of her head.

::Show some respect!:: the mother cried out. ::He is a serpent-speaker, one of a very rare few. He can understand and speak to us like no other wizard! He isn't like the other two-leggers who gape and gawk at us!::

The little black snake mumbled and grumbled under her breath as her head dipped down to hide amid her coils. Her brothers and sisters laughed softly at her admonishment, thankful it wasn't them on the receiving end of their mother's tail.

::It's fine. You are right, Nazula, it's not often a snake runs across and Parselmouth so such behavior is understandable,:: Tom said. ::You never did tell me your name, mighty one.::

::You never told me yours,:: was her biting response, followed by a low hiss from her mother, Nazula.

Tom grinned and bent down until he was eye level to the baby snake on the other side of the clear case. ::How forgetful of me. My name is Tom Marvolo Riddle. And you are?::

A tiny head peaked up, a slim forked tongue tasting the air as inquisitive yellow eyes stared into captivating hazel. ::I'm Nagini,:: the smallest king cobra replied. ::A pleasure to meet you, Tom.::

::Oh no,:: Tom smiled. ::The pleasure is all mine.::

~~~~~ Mother always taught me to bite first, digest later. ~~~~~~

Author's Notes:

I know, I know. It was another long break in between chapters. It's more of Writing interrupting Life, because Life will go on regardless of what you're doing. I hope you don't mind the mini-break from Harry's side. I'm trying to get a whole perspective, both Harry's and Tom's. Plus, I just love Nagini.

I also hope readers don't mind that my Nagini is portrayed as a King Cobra. I know in the movies, she's a green Reticulated or Burmese python, but they don't have venom to be milked and they don't rise up to strike, as Nagini is often shown doing. So, she's a black, intimidating King Cobra with attitude to spare.