"You think I was going to use my filthy Muggle father's name forever? I, in whose veins run the blood of Salazar Slytherin himself, through my mother's side? I, keep the name of a foul, common Muggle, who abandoned me before I was born, just because he found out his wife was a witch? No, Harry – I fashioned myself a new name, a name I knew wizards everywhere would one day fear to speak, when I had become the greatest sorcerer in the world!"
(Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 17, pg. 314)
"Harry, obedience is a virtue I need to teach you before you die… Perhaps another little dose of pain?"
(Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 34, pg 667)
Tom was walking swiftly through Muggle London, the heat making his shirt stick uncomfortably to his back. It was two weeks into his summer holidays and his homework was completely finished; he now was dedicating every possible moment of wakefulness to searching for the Chamber of Secrets. Time was running out, his sixteenth "celebration" (he grimaced at the thought) was looming threateningly over his head, and every second, every moment, was precious.
He turned right onto a side-street and after a few meters he came upon the Leaky Cauldron. Without so much as breaking his stride, he swung the doors open and swept through the dingy establishment into the back alley, where he tapped the required three bricks with his wand, and made his way through Diagon Alley.
He'd spent much of the past week in Gringotts and Flourish and Blotts pouring over genealogy charts in the hopes of catching sight of his wizarding father's line, the original Tom Riddle. At Hogwarts there had been no sign of him – no awards, no place on the Quidditch team, no records. However, that hardly meant anything – he could've gone to another wizarding school, been homeschooled, even. Although, a niggling, traitorous voice whispered in the back of his mind, had be been homeschooled, wouldn't that mean he had enough money to leave to you? To find you? Tirelessly, diligently, he poured over the many different annals and manuscripts, refusing to even consider the idea that his father might not have been a wizard, that it could be his mother, that weakling, the one couldn't possibly have allowed herself to die if she'd been magical. No, he'd find his father and his link to Salazar Slytherin, and then, then, he'd be able to find the Chamber. He would not fail.
It was in such a mindset that Tom Riddle worked in that day and all those previously. He sat in a room off the main hallway of Gringotts, ignored by (and ignoring) the goblins, whom he'd been able to "persuade" to allow him to be there. It was during the last hours of daylight, not having paused to eat or use the toilets, that he found it. Found it, and immediately became enraged beyond all reason in his quiet way. Because there, there in that damned book, underneath the 1926 entry for births, below Gaumeda, Friedrich, was Tom Marvolo Riddle, son of Thomas John Riddle, Muggle, son of John Nathaniel Riddle, and Merope Evelyn Gaunt, daughter of Marvolo Gaunt. Deceased. Witch.
His pupils contracted as he sat there, staring at the book, willing the two epithets of his parents to switch, for his father to be the wizard, his mother, the muggle. His magic leapt to his shaking fingertips, a gradually building wind whipped his dusty hair about. He ached to release it, to allow it to destroy the entire room and the building and its occupants with it, to hear the screams of the frightened and the dying, to create chaos. Instead he pulled back, pulled hard on the reins of his magic, stopped it from acting, much to its vexation.
Not now, he purred, attempting to soothe it. Soon.
He set his finger to the heavy vellum of the book and drew his finger across the evidence in a line, erasing all indications of his ever having existed. The other names and dates, insignificant things, really (or so he tried to convince himself), wriggled to fill the gap, effectively annihilating his disgrace from the world. Erasing him from the world.
Lord Voldemort had been born.
He stood. All anger was gone. All sense of a great injustice done to him was gone. All that was left to him was calm, an unnatural calm, and the urge to do something. The corner of his mouth quirked. He knew what could be done.
Tom walked sedately from the room, walked out of the hall, walked out of Gringotts. Once he reached the cobbled stone streets that were Diagon Alley, he turned on the spot, disappearing without making a single noise. It was as if he'd never been.
He reappeared outside the gates to a stately mansion. A white peacock startled at his appearance, squawking indignantly at him. Tom merely looked at the bird. "Yes? Can I help you?"
The bird shrunk back and then continued on its way, albeit a tad faster than usual. Tom shrugged and walked up the pathway to a pair of handsomely decorated doors. He rolled his eyes at the ostentatious display of wealth before knocking on the hard, rich surface. Almost immediately the door opened.
"How can Jessy be helping you, young Master?"
Tom looked down, surprised. Of course the Malfoy's, the wealthy prats, would have a House-Elf. "Yes. Is Abraxas Malfoy here? I need to have an… audience… with him."
The elf bobbed its head happily. "Of course, young Master, of course. Pleases would you come inside?" The tiny creature turned around and Tom followed her – it was a her, right? – into the Manor. His feet sank into the plush emerald green carpet as he was taken into a room that reeked of opulence. Tom's lip curled.
"Can Jessy gets yous anything to drink?"
"No," he said, curt. "Just get Abraxas."
The elf bowed profusely. "Okays, young Master. But whos should I says is here?"
Tom frowned. "Tom Riddle."
As soon as Jessy Apparated from the room he flinched. Tom Riddle, he sneered. That will be changing soon.
He stood tapping his foot impatiently. Soon after she left, the sound of someone running down the stairs and yelling could be heard. Not even thirty seconds later Malfoy came skidding into the drawing room, panting heavily.
"T-Tom, wha-t is go-ing on?" he heaved.
Tom frowned at his impertinence. "We're going on a little field-trip. Grab your cloak."
Abraxas followed Tom out of his home and back to the narrow lane where, upon grabbing Tom's arm, they Apparated to Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. Cygnus was waiting outside for them.
"Did you notify the others?" Tom asked.
Cygnus nodded. "Avery, Nott, Lestrange, and Goyle will meet us there."
"Meet us where?" Malfoy whined, annoyed that he was the only one who was out of the loop.
Tom ignored him, choosing instead to pull up the hood of his black cloak over his all-black Muggle ensemble. Cygnus followed suit, as did Malfoy after. Tom held out his arms. The two boys clasped them, and they winked out of existence only to reappear in Diagon Alley.
The sun was below the horizon.
"Time for some fun," Tom whispered.
Cygnus and Abraxas released his arms and followed behind him, cloaks flapping around their ankles. The men and women still in the streets instinctively moved out of their way, Tom heading the group, Cygnus and Abraxas a few meters behind and to the sides. As they continued their walk they were joined by the other boys, quietly, covertly, phantom shadows stalking their prey, Tom, the leader of the menace.
A synchronized turn, and they're in Knockturn Alley. Night had descended fully, the boys truly shadows now. Tom tugged his hood lower over his face and continued on to a darkened shop. He held a finger up and the boys stopped moving. Creeping forward, Tom put his ear to the wall and closed his eyes, listening.
Ahh, what a beautiful specimen, can't believe I actually swindled this out of her for only fifteen galleons, what a treat, what possibilities…
Tom opened his eyes and inclined his head towards his companions before slipping his wand out and casting a silent "Alohamora." He felt for wards, trick wards, and, finding none, turned the doorknob, opening the shop door.
A bell tinkled.
Put this here, and then we'll get you, my sweet, and…
He held two fingers up and curled them inwards, a signal. Tom moved forwards through the shop, the boys splitting up once inside, closing in on their objective. Now at the counter, Tom, seemingly alone, saw the greasy man before him tittering about with his subjects before clearing his throat. The man turned around, a perplexed furrowing of the eyebrows.
"How did you…"
Tom leered. "Silencio."
The man's eyes widened, he went to run away, but was tackled to the ground by ropes that appeared from nowhere.
"Expelliarmus," and the wand flew out of the shopkeeper's hand and into Tom's.
"Swan," he murmured, and Cygnus came forward at the sound of his code name. "Draco." Malfoy stepped up beside him. "Nero," and in came Avery, a cruel look in his eyes.
"Swan and Draco, grab Mr… Burke, is it? Mr. Burke. Nero, are you ready for your… initiation?"
Avery sneered. "Yes…Azrael."
"Then clasp my right hand in your own."
Avery hesitated. He looked around at the other boys in attendance, knowing that there was no turning back. He gazed into Tom's face once more. It had been a long time since that conversation over chess. How far they'd all come since that point.
He stuck out his right hand. Tom clasped it in his own; long, unnaturally long, fingers curled around them in a vice.
"Do you, Nero, swear your fidelity to me and me alone?"
A red flame encircled their joined hands.
"Do you, Nero, swear to uphold the creed of the Death Eaters, no matter what it is that I, your Master, command you to do?"
"Nero?" he inquired unpleasantly.
"Yes, yes, I do," he snarled.
A second flame coupled with the first.
"Do you, Nero, swear upon pain of death, that, should one of our comrades ever find a way around this oath, however unlikely it may be, and attempt to harm my person or our cause in any way whether it be through physical trauma or by word of mouth, that you will come to me and tell me of this new enemy?"
A third flame made a shield around the other two, flaring brightly before dissipating in a shower of sparks into the air.
A triumphant glimmer. "Then let us commence. Hold out your left arm."
Avery unclasped his hand from Tom's and held out his arm, Tom sauntering closer to him. He took Avery's arm gently, carefully rolling up the boy's sleeves to reveal smooth, flawless skin. Holding the arm tightly in his grip, Tom took his wand and pressed it into Avery's flesh. He began to chant in another language, a dark language, and the shadows in the store seemed to begin to move, to crawl, to writhe around the arm.
Then one final word.
And Avery howled at the blinding pain he was being subjected to.
When Tom pulled the wand away a dark, ugly mark marred the pale skin of Marcus Avery. Thick and black, a skull with an undulating snake protruding from its mouth. Tom smirked at his handiwork. Cygnus shuddered while Malfoy had gone chalk white, the man still suspended between them. The other four beheld the ritual with mixed looks of fear and revulsion.
"Time for your first lesson, Nero. Draco, Swan, hold him up a bit higher. Good. Now…" Tom twirled his wand idly. "A demonstration." Faster than the eye could detect, he spun around to face the prone figure of Mr. Burke and –
Burke thrashed about in pain, screaming a scream that no one could hear, Tom's Silencio still in effect. He held his wand on the man for ten seconds, feeling the power and glory that came with such sweet torture rushing through him, energizing him, appeasing his virulent magic.
There, he crooned, isn't that satisfying?
Tom lifted his wand, canceling the curse. Burke lay drooping between Malfoy and Black, a hover charm keeping him in place. With a wave of Tom's hand the man fell to the floor with a thump. He looked out of the corner of his eye at an apprehensive Avery.
"That is the proper way to cast the Cruciatus Curse. As a part of your indoctrination into the Death Eater's you must perform it. And hold it. For twenty seconds, you must hold it. The potency and force of the curse must not fluctuate in either direction. Each time you fail," here, his eyes glinted with pleasure, "I will cast the Unforgivable upon you for twenty seconds. And there's no telling which intensity I will… bestow upon you. Make sure you do not disappoint me. Your Master does not take kindly to incompetence."
A vaguely nauseous expression had made its way onto Avery's face. Tom backed off to the sidelines, leaving the new Death Eater facing his adversary on his own.
"T-Azrael," he corrected himself. "Azrael, what about the Trace?"
Tom stared hard at him. Stared until Avery started twitching with nerves.
"Do you not recall," he spoke slowly, as if the boy in front of him was mentally handicapped, "our last meeting and what our discourse entailed?" A very confused Avery jerked his head. No.
Tom raised an eyebrow.
"Fool," he whispered. "Why do you think you were able to Apparate here tonight without those buffoons posing as competent wizards running the Ministry being alerted?" A look of fearful comprehension dawned on Avery's previously distorted face. "It is a wonder you're still walking." Tom shook his head in exasperation. "Begin."
Avery smoothed the front of his robes, a renewed confidence shining through his demeanor. His wand hand shaking with the knowledge of what was to come, he cried, "Crucio!"
Later that night he sat at his desk, scribbling furiously in his journal, remaking himself from the ashes of his former life, creating perfection and a man to be feared. It wasn't until he could feel the earth changing, on the brink of light but still steeped in darkness, that he sat back, a blank look on his noble features.
"I Am Lord Voldemort," he whispered, testing it, getting a feel for his new self.
"I Am Lord Voldemort," he repeated with more force. He felt a surge in his magic. This was right. This was good.
"I Am Lord Voldemort."
His lips twitched.
There was still one week left until the end of the summer holidays and he still hadn't received his Hogwarts letter. Tom scowled into the slop every orphan had been given for supper. He already knew what books he had to buy, having spent every day at Diagon Alley and conversing with the employees at Flourish and Blotts, but there was something specific in this particular letter that he so desired, and couldn't figure out what was taking so long.
He lifted his spoon and watched as his "dinner" gooped up and then dropped with a splattered "plop" back into the bowl. If only magic were able to Transfigure food as well… but of course he knew better. You can't make food into something it's not – part of one of the rules to Gamp's Laws of Elementary Transfiguration. His frown deepened. Disgusted, he pushed himself back from the table and trudged up the stairs to his room.
It was only five-thirty; he'd have to wait until nine before sneaking out, as lights-out was eight-thirty for everyone else. Tom smiled wryly. Such petty rules didn't apply to him. He was above them all, for he made his own rules, rules that others were meant to follow. But not him. Never him.
Tom lay down on his cramped bed, sat up and punched his pillow into a more comfortable shape before reclining once more, hands behind his head. Staring at the ceiling, he wondered what Malfoy and the rest of his entourage would think of he, Tom Ri – Lord Voldemort, if they saw him stuck in a place with a bunch of sniveling Muggles.
Die of shock, most likely, he grouched to himself.
As much as he detested Muggles, Tom saw his time with them as a learning experience: in order to better combat them, to better get his wizarding comrades to follow his cause (and what, exactly, was that?), he had to fully know and understand them. It made for an interesting study. And he had learned something very important from this examination: they're all the same. Muggles and wizards – they're All. The. Same. They're all selfish, they're all driven by their own ambitions, Id, and they always have an ulterior motive to everything that they do. And because he knew this, he was two steps ahead of everyone else since they were all in denial. It was a great power that he now wielded.
Lifting a hand into the air, he fisted it so that he was pointing one finger and then began to trace a design into the ceiling. Reds and greens, blacks and whites, peach and a little bit of enmity. He was enthralled, stuck in a trance, not in control of that which he was weaving, forced to remain the observer as his hand created a symphony of color and desire. It ended abruptly and, jolted by surprise, his arm went slack and hit him in the face.
"Ouch," he protested impulsively, his eyes having closed before impact. The darkness behind his eyes was overwhelming and he yearned to see, to dissect, the colors that had been sent from his hand and to the sky. His eyes flashed open. The red on the ceiling was reflected eerily in his eyes.
His eyebrows drew together, confused.
"What in the…" he muttered, unable to understand what he was seeing. For, in the place of the powerful man he had expected to see, a man with the world at his feet, he saw himself. He was maybe a few years older, this he could tell, with a dark knowledge in his gaze and a slightly bloody tinge to his eyes. He was handsome, even more so than he was now, his wavy hair parted to the side and that ever rebellious lock falling into his face. He had power, oh yes, with a Head Boy badge pinned to his elegant Hogwarts robes and a spark at his fingertips. But what Tom couldn't understand was the other figure in the mural.
It was a girl and her beauty could only be matched by his. She had long, flowing black hair and the greenest eyes he had ever seen. In later years, after having cast the Avada Kedavra multiple times, he would describe them (only to himself, of course) as being that particular, most powerful and wondrous, shade of green. The young woman, the only term he could use to describe her, stood regally before him, the hardness of her stance tempered by the – was it indecision? – in her eyes. This was a person he could not control, that he could see, and it bothered him.
But what bothered him most was his own expression – he was imploring her.
As soon as he realized this the illusion burst, leaving him with one last thought before an incessant tapping at his window began: despite the doubt in her eyes, she could see into his very soul and knew him as he truly was.
He rose, uncertain, from his bed and opened the window. A barn owl dropped his Hogwarts letter onto his bed and then flew back into the descending night. He didn't have to look to know that the Prefect's badge was inside.
"He's here… the heir, he'ss here… he hass returned… Blood… I need BLOOD!"
Tom jerked awake, hissing and spitting profanities before he realized where he was – the Slytherin dormitories.
His sheets were twisted in a lump at the foot of his bed and his pajama bottoms were soaked with sweat, as were his pillow and unclothed upper body. Tom pushed a sticky piece of hair from his face. Taking a peak outside of his hangings, he was relieved to see that the dorm was quiet with the heavy breathing of his fellows.
A glance at his watch revealed it to be 5:49 in the morning. Tom flopped onto his back in his luxurious bed, his abdominal muscles rippling. Was this what his search had come down to? Hearing tauntings within the walls, never to find the source? He'd spent the last four years combing the castle for Salazar Slytherin's legendary chamber, all for naught. He was in his fifth year at Hogwarts school and still had yet to find it. And Salazar above, his sixteenth birthday was in eight days!
Tom groaned, dragging his hand down his face.
If only there was a clue, just a small one, something to point him in the right direction. "Puer Patrici… Boy of privilege… Boy of inheritance…" he murmured, half asleep. "Damn Hat…"
He was on the verge of fallen back to sleep when he threw the covers off of himself with renewed vigor, eyes flashing with purpose. He waved his hand and caught his wand, using the other to make his bed before summoning his uniform and stalking off to the bathroom. Tom showered quickly and threw on his clean robes, picking an invisible piece of lint off of the hem of his sleeve before combing his wavy hair to the side. He licked his thumb and took a small strand, calculatingly separating it to have it rest by his eye.
Sure of his appearance, he, with his glistening Prefect's badge pinned boldly to his front, made his way out of the dorms and into the corridor, intent on the Headmaster's office.
Tom reached out with his mind as he traversed the halls of Hogwarts, prepared to avoid anyone he might meet along the way. All he sensed was age-old dust and spiders and some deep, sinister, gluttonous mind, immersed in the very bowels of the castle. This, more than anything, assured him of the reality of the Chamber. He had no doubt that it was this creature that had been waking him over the last few years with its demand for blood…
Tom quickly found himself in front of the gargoyle that concealed the Headmaster's quarters.
"Password?" it wheezed.
"Dancing trolls," he said, making a face.
"Correct. Next time, wait until a more normal hour you dunce," it grumbled as it stepped to the side to reveal a revolving staircase.
Not waiting for the gargoyle to give another snarky reply, Tom took the steps two at a time until he reached a highly polished oak door with a brass knocker in the shape of a Griffin. Closing his eyes, he listened for movement in the office – there was none. He could faintly detect the tail-end of a dream that the current headmaster, Armando Dippet, was living, nothing more. Cautiously, he slipped into the room, leaving the door cracked open just in case he needed to get away quickly.
Tom had only been in here once before and was just as unimpressed with the office this time as the last – neat, orderly papers were stacked on the desk, the bookshelves only a quarter of the way full with boring titles such as Ministry Protocol: 273rd Edition and Muggles and You – Jargon, Customs, and Locales, as well as Tom's personal favorite: The Wizard's Consultation: How to Relate to that Special Someone.
None of this mattered, however, for Tom had just spotted the object he'd come to this place for: the Sorting Hat.
Without pausing, Tom rounded the desk and plucked the Hat from the top shelf, jamming it onto his head immediately.
Hat, he growled, I need to have a few words with you.
Silence reigned. Tom pulled out his wand and pointed it at the Hat perched upon his head.
Talk, or I set you on fire.
The Hat coughed.
Now now, Mr. Riddle. We both know that you wouldn't do that.
True, he conceded. But I would curse you until you decided to speak.
He heard a whistling in his mind. Ah, yes, indeed you would. And you possess both the education and the strength to harm me. But, alas, you couldn't make me talk unless I wished to. Now, it interrupted Tom, you wanted to know what it is that I meant when we spoke at your Sorting.
Yes, the Hat continued, I remember it well. I see that you've already figured out your lineage, puer patrici. Salazar Slytherin's last living descendent on your mother's side, Muggle on the father's. How disappointed you were when you found out…
Tom's temper flared. The Hat tsked at him.
Keep that febrile tendency for aggression to yourself, boy. I know exactly what it is that you've been up to – torturing Hufflepuffs, gaining recruits for your… movement.
If hats could frown, surely the Sorting Hat would be.
You come to me today because you have been told that the Chamber must be found before the end of your sixteenth year. You are fifteen and, therefore, this deadline is in eight days.
Tom was growing impatient. Hat, he said, I really don't care to listen to a repetition of things I already know. I'm not even going to pretend to be nice, as we both know it would be a lie. Now, I know that Salazar Slytherin and the other Founders placed their minds, intuition, magic, et cetera, within you. That's how you know which house to place students in. So tell me now and truly: where is the Chamber of Secrets? He all but snarled.
The Hat contemplated him.
You have much still to learn of this world, Tom Marvolo Riddle, it sighed, and I don't have the time nor the resources to teach you. No one does. You must make your own way in this life, and the path you are currently on leads only to anguish.
Salazar Slytherin did lock away part of himself in me. This, I yield to you. However, this was long before he created his Chamber, long before it was ever a thought in his mind. It paused. I don't know where it lies. Remember the stories you've been told. Follow the augury of your mind, your heart. It shan't lead you astray.
The Sorting Hat fell silent, and Tom knew that he would glean no more information from it. With a frustrated moan he tossed the Hat back onto its place at the top of the shelf and abandoned the office, having gathered nothing of use.
The black scales of his heavy body blended perfectly with the dark halls of Hogwarts. Tom was making his nightly rounds of the school, ones he made while on duty as a Prefect or not. Although, the nights that he was on duty were especially long since he had to make this special round as well. Oftentimes he wouldn't even go to sleep, just shower and get ready for breakfast. The circles under his eyes were becoming more and more prominent, his temper amongst the Death Eaters more barbarous than usual.
His teachers saw a wholly different boy than his followers. Tom's school-work was exceptional, the best it had ever been. His appearance remained entirely unruffled, a quick glamour in the mornings masking his sleepless nights, hair and robes in pristine condition, never once shirking his duties as Prefect. He pointed lost students in the right direction; helped the odd Ravenclaw find information in the library that was lost to them; broke up fights before they could even start… The perfect model student.
Thank evolution for magic.
Tom had finally narrowed down the possibilities as to where the Chamber resided to the dungeons and somewhere on the second floor. The dungeons seemed to be too obvious, and the strange man that Slughorn had described to him and his reaction on that floor had stuck with Tom ever since third year. It really was too bad it had taken him so long to figure out. It was now 9:59 PM.
He was turning sixteen in two hours.
He had two hours to find the Chamber.
He slithered along faster at the very thought.
Handy he checked every room, every passage, every nook and cranny on the second floor? he'd checked the extra teacher's lounge, Professor Callahan's office, the boy's bathroom, the girls –
No he hadn't.
Tom's already large, slitted eyes dilated.
He'd forgotten to check stupid Myrtle's bathroom, the one that the other members of the feminine population refused to go into because she was always running off for some reason or another to cry her pathetic eyes out.
Would Salazar Slytherin, one of Hogwarts' four founders, really hide the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets, labyrinth of mythical terror, in a girl's toilet?
If he'd had hands at that moment, Tom Riddle would have slapped himself.
Tom whipped his body around and made his way as fast as possible towards the girl's bathroom. How thick could he be? Just because it would've violated his sense of propriety was no reason not to have a look!
He nearly stopped at the thought. Since when did he, Lord Voldemort, have a sense of propriety? Of right and wrong? When did he ever allow something as silly as those two concepts get in the way of what he wanted?
Desperation has made me careless.
He'd come to the bathroom at last. 10:59. Exactly one hour left.
As soon as he knew that no one was inside, he was there, quite suddenly, in all of his imposing and majestic glory. He walked alongside every wall with his eyes closed, feeling for the ancient magic, walked into every cubicle, touched every toilet, every floor-tile, but as he got closer and closer to the sinks, a pulsing power became more and more apparent.
His eyes finally snapped open to see himself staring back through the mirror. He looked down at where his hands rested. Tom turned the taps; nothing. Crouched down and felt along the pipes, looked at the underside of the sinks. Still, nothing. Tom stood up and frowned, checked his watch again.
His eyes turned back to the sink. A slight frown made its way across his refined features. He touched the taps once more, knelt down to them at eye-level.
On the left copper tap.
An engraving of a rearing snake.
Hardly daring to hope, terrified that it was just a trick, he hissed quietly in his ancestor's infamous tongue, "Open."
The tap began to spin, faster and faster until it was just a bright, blinding white, and, with an unholy shriek, the sink moved down and to the side, revealing a man-sized pipe to the startled heir.
Without so much as a thought he became the very large Vampyrum Spectrum and flew into the pipe, the sink slamming closed behind him. He carefully navigated his way through the intricate highway of pipes, descending further and further into the black unknown until, finally, he came to the floor of a huge cavern littered with the bones of long-dead animals.
A man once more, Tom stood and listened patiently for movement. Ahead of him the tunnel wore on, twisting and turning like the many coils of a snake. Tom smirked lightly at his ancestor's architectural achievement, admiring the perverse allusion, and continued onwards. His stride was smooth and sinuous, taking the bends in the tunnel as though he, too, were a snake, his heart careening wildly in his chest. He would clean up this tunnel, polish it to shine as it would have in its more formative days, banish all of the skeletons, patch up the leaky holes, add torches to light the way…
He rounded one more bend and came face-to-face with a solid wall where twin snakes were wrapped lovingly around each other, fierce emeralds glittering back at him strangely from their eye sockets.
Tom tilted his head.
The snakes unwound from one another and the two halves of the wall slid apart, laying bare the Chamber of Secrets to Tom Riddle.
Without any hesitation, Tom strode forth into the Chamber.
Tall columns on both sides line the Chamber, reaching up and up, disappearing into the vast black beyond. Serpents were carved into every single one, standing out from the stone, looking just as alive as he. Directly ahead of him was the man responsible for it all – his life, this Chamber, the enmity between the Houses: a stone statue of Salazar Slytherin. His simian face was old, his beard falling to his feet, a callous edge to this vengeful archetype.
The five seconds where he was distracted by his ancestor were enough as he was abruptly thrown into the air, slamming down, hard, on his back. Tom turned to face his attacker but it was far too late.
A body, thick as an oak tree, a startlingly bright, poisonous green, was winding around him, around and around, stopping far above his head. There was just enough room for him to take five small steps in either direction.
He was trapped.
And he took it in stride.
Tom ran his hands along the serpent of serpent's body: the Basilisk. He stroked it reverently, eliciting a delicate shiver from the King before it let out a hiss.
He didn't. He put his face to the beast's skin and drew in a deep breath, continuing his ministrations, nuzzling its body, even giving it a lick. The Basilisk's body rippled.
"Fool! I ssaid SSTOP!" it spat so loudly that dust was shaken from the ceiling. Tom complied. Nevertheless, he kept one hand to its body.
"Forgive me, King of the Serpents. I could not help myself; being in your presence, your noble and ancient prowess… it has humbled me and I sought only to please you."
It was silent, and then a deep, rumbling hiss poured forth from the snake. It took a very puzzled Tom several seconds before he realized that he was being laughed at. The Basilisk was laughing at him! He stood indifferently, his finger absently tracing circles on the serpent's tough, yet deliciously soft, hide, waiting for the laughter to subside and for the beast to speak to him.
"If I were to go by perssonality alone in determining if you were truly the heir, that, ssertainly, would have been the dessiding factor. Ssuch groveling wit, sspoken sso calmly, iss sso very Sslytherin." The beast heaved a sigh. "But there have been a few otherss who have made their way into thiss hallowed plasse, caliming to be Ssalazsar'ss heir when, in truth, they were not."
"What happened to them?" Tom whispered, continuing to stroke the beast.
"They died," he stated simply. "And then I ate them."
Tom smiled and kissed its side. "As they deserved."
"Ass they desserved," he echoed. "It iss time, little masster, to determine if you are truly the heir. Are you ready?"
"In a moment," Tom replied. "But first… your name, dear snake? Might I know it?"
"Only the heir may learn of it," came the thunderous reply. "And if you are truly he, then be not afraid to look into my eyess. Only the heir can ssurvive my sstare," he lilted in his hissing tone.
Tom ran his hands over the fearsome serpent once more before standing straight and looking up at the figure. "I'm ready."
"Keep looking up, young one." The endearment echoed in his head. It had been a long time since he'd last heard it. Tom smiled happily, genuinely, unmarred by the savage bestiality that usually sought his angelic face.
"Now closse your eyess," Tom acquiesced, "and do not open them until you are told."
What little light that had been filtering through was now utterly blocked. Tom noted, from behind closed lids, that this sort of darkness was peaceful. Affectionate, almost.
He felt a presence hovering just above his head.
"Open," came the sibilant voice, warm breath caressing his entire being.
He did, and it was the most beautiful yellow he'd ever seen.
The Basilisk's eyes widened in shock when he did not die. The two stared at one another for a long while, reveling in the new companion each had made. Very carefully, the Basilisk uncoiled itself, the great, bulbous eyes never leaving Tom's.
"Your name, my king?" Tom inquired softly.
The king dipped his head mournfully. "Thanatoss."
"Is that what you wish to be called? Thanatos?" Tom asked tenderly.
The great snake shook his head.
"What would you prefer?" he queried.
"Prometheuss." The snake's eyes, beacons blazing into Tom's personal darkness, shone with uncertainty.
Tom nodded, thoughtful. "Very fitting, I should think."
Prometheus' eyes burned happily.
"And you, young masster? What am I to call you?"
Tom walked up to the giant beast and, gently, ever so gently, cradling the large head in his arms, laying his cheek upon Thanatos' head, he replied in an amorous tone:
"Voldemort. You may call me Voldemort."
The two remained silent, taking comfort in the other's presence. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to last.
"It's about time you found us here, Tom."
Tom looked into Thanatos' eyes, sad eyes.
"I couldn't warn you, young one. It wass forbidden."
Tom nodded and smiled a half-smile at Thanatos to make it known that he wasn't to blame. He stood from his spot with straightened shoulders and turned to see a rather monkeyish face before him.
"Salazar Slytherin." He said coldly.
"You beckoned, young master?" he mocked, bowing with a melodramatic sweep of his robes and arms. "Though I do hope you don't expect me to address you as such each time we meet. Or as 'Lord Voldemort. How utterly tedious that would be. I much prefer 'Tom,' nice and simple, don't you agree?"
Tom's eyes danced maliciously, refusing to respond to the taunts of his ancestor.
"Tut tut, how very rude of you not to respond to a direct question from a superior. Didn't those Muggles at the orphanage teach you anything?" At Tom's continued lack of response he shrugged, sighing exaggeratedly. "To business, then," Slytherin said, dropping the act. With a flick of his wand he conjured two arm chairs. Tom's stoicism seemed to know no bounds as he remained in an upright position. Slytherin ignored him and sat down, folding his hands across his lap.
With a wave of his hand, Tom banished the extra chair and conjured his own straight-backed, dark, threatening, one. He finally deigned to sit down and he, too, folded his hands in his lap, eyebrows raised. Salazar bared his teeth in a grin, tipping his head in Tom's direction. Prometheus watched warily.
"We only have tonight together to speak of what must be done before the magic fails and I'm swept back to the netherworld for good. That being said, the room we are now in is the Chamber's main atrium. Behind me, within my statue, there are several different antechambers as well as a giant office full of my own studies and other… useful… curricula." Slytherin's eyes glittered. "However, I'll leave the Chamber's secrets be – I'm sure you can figure them out on your own. Just don't take too long.
"Now for this school," he spat in disgust. "Allowing Mudbloods and half-breeds to sully these sacred halls… it must end!" He slammed his fist on the chair. Tom watched, expression blank. "You will set THANATOS on the students. The snake was too dense to speak to you through the walls so I had to. You'll find the contraption to do so in one of the other rooms. You will take back what is ours. You will do this because it is the only reason you exist. You exist to carry on my own work, nothing more. Are we clear?" Slytherin's mien crackled with magical static.
Tom merely looked at him with amusement.
"I only exist," he enunciated clearly, as though sorting through a difficult puzzle, "in order to execute your will. Hmm…" he hummed ponderously, going so far as to stroke his chin, a jeering cliché. "Yes, well, you see, there's a slight problem with that, dear progenitor."
"Oh?" Slytherin said, not really paying attention.
"Indeed. You see, I will not be controlled, cannot be controlled, even by the likes of you, Salazar Slytherin, greatest," he sneered, "of the Hogwarts Four. I have my own plans, my own vision, and you and yours are not a part of it."
Here he stood, dusting off his robes, adjusting his brilliant Prefect's badge. "It was nice meeting you, sir, but I must be off. I have my own path to follow." He winked. "Enjoy death."
With a grin he spun around to leave, only to come face-to-face with a pearly Slytherin and his incensed amusement.
"You will do as I say, seed of my race," he whispered threateningly.
Tom took a step forward, peering down marginally at the twisted face, a smile hiding in the corner of his mouth. He bent his head further, lips to the ancient ear.
"Or what?" he hissed, tongue flickering.
"Or I will end you, silly boy," he returned in the same tongue.
"Then let us duel," Tom spoke levelly, wand snaking out of his sleeve. "Let us duel, now. To the death." His eyes sparkled with life, his entire manner beautifully animated.
Slytherin's eyes fired at the challenge. "Send my regards to the Specter when you see him, filth."
Tom laughed and crooked a finger. "Come and get me, old man."
An explosion of color clashed from Slytherin's wand, Tom side-stepping it. Spell after spell left the ancient wand, colors blending into one another with such speed and dexterity that could only be wrought by experience. Tom jumped, dodged, rolled, and spun, gracefully, always gracefully, as though he were performing an intricate dance, an untouchable target, having yet to raise his wand in defense.
The venerable man's expression grew darker, an unrestrained venom pouring forth from his entire manner, frustrated that the boy wasn't fighting back. He conjured boulders and dropped them over the boy – missed. Siphoned all of the water dripping from the walls, created a huge tidal wave that he sent crashing over the heir – missed, laughter ringing in his ears. Six jets of glorious green, rushing towards him at different heights and angles – all avoided.
Tom stood, elation rolling off of him in torrents, that rebellious lock of wavy hair falling charmingly into his eyes.
A wave of his wand turned Slytherin's hair into wriggling vines that creeped over and around his arms and neck. The second casual flick brought a hang-man's noose that rotated slowly above Slytherin's head. And the third, final gesture brought the very same noose around the antiquated neck and jerked him high up into the air. The vines had already bound him irreversibly, and Tom watched in satisfaction as the body did desperate pirouettes.
"Beautiful," he sighed.
The body ceased its struggle, oscillated languidly with death. A sudden screech rent the air anew, a flash of radiant light lit up the Chamber, and when Tom could finally open his eyes again without seeing spots, it was to find no vestigial trace of the once mighty founder.
He might as well have been a stone gargoyle sitting atop the Astronomy tower for all the movement he made, staring out into the evaporating night sky. Everything was beginning to come together; he could feel change on the horizon. His fight down in the Chamber, his first real kill, Thanatos… It was the first time in a long while that he truly felt alive. He would do any and everything to reclaim that feeling once more.
There was no going back now. He'd made his decision, and, once that conscious decision, the decision to live, is made, there is no chance to recant: An endless future lay before him.
He stood to face the oncoming dawn. Spreading his arms wide, he fell forward, trusting the fading stars to carry him to safety.
The Daily Prophet Reports
Five Petrified and One Dead!
Will Hogwarts Go On?
It recently came to light that some creature hidden within the bowels of Hogwarts castle has surfaced to terrorize the school. It is unclear what sort of creature is capable of such an incredible feat as it leaves no traces, no clues, as to how it did so and where it's been. The victims stand thus:
Aaron, Matthew of Hufflepuff - Petrified
Lovegood, Liana of Ravenclaw - Petrified
Bartleby, Louisa of Hufflepuff - Petrified
Greengrass, Celia of Slytherin - Petrified
Abott, Jonathan of Gryffindor - Petrified
Mayberry, Myrtle of Ravenclaw – Deceased
With the exception of the Slytherin witch, all of the victims are Muggleborn. Has the legendary Chamber of Secrets been reopened?
The Daily Prophet Reports
The perpetrator of the crimes at Hogwarts has been captured and expelled. While we are unable to get a name to the criminal, inside sources have revealed that he was a Gryffindor. Slytherin's very own Prefect, Tom Marvolo Riddle, was the one to catch the boy in the act.
"I was only doing my civic duty," he answered sheepishly. "Performing my regular Prefects round when I caught him. Really, it's no big deal."
Mr. Riddle was awarded a shield for Special Services to the School.
A/N: And just in time for the release of Half Blood Prince tonight! I'm SO excited - can't wait to see it at midnight! Anyways, I hope you liked this chappie. Sorry it wasn't out sooner, but between going to Canada, getting stitches, volunteering, taking my mom to the ER, and some other exciting things, well, it was just a bit difficult to work on, wouldn't you say? I hope the duel with Slytherin wasn't too cheesy. Ask questions, and I'll answer!
A/N 2: Cygnus - latin for Swan
Draco - latin for snake/dragon (Abraxas is also a snake-related name. recently I found out that Phineas is most likely derived from a Hebrew name meaning snake-tongue, or oracle.)
Nero - an emperor of Rome who nearly burned the entire city down. Traditionally regarded as insane.
Azrael - Archangel of Death, Hebrew