Prologue: The Beginning of the End

I had been reclining on my bed, reading one of the books in the orphanage that had a semblance of a plot, completely and utterly bored. I was contemplating on terrorizing some of the smaller children, a feat that would entertain me for at least a few hours or until dinner came about, when Mrs. Cole brought someone into my room that changed my life forever.

Before those of you who are sentimentally foolish enough, not to mention annoyingly loud enough, to sigh and cheer and generally carry on about how wonderful it was for me to have a life changing experience, I will cut in and spare us all from your drivel by stating that the visitor only confirmed my own knowledge and set the change in motion, not instate it himself.

The first thing I noticed about the man was the outfit he was wearing; a pinstriped plum colored suit that looked absolutely ridiculous with his overly long beard and hair, golden in color, which were in need of both a trim and a shave, respectively. He looked like he should be wearing a tie-dyed shirt with cutoff shorts sprouting nonsense about 'make peace, not war' and 'love shall overcome all odds' like the horde of nut cases that protested in the orphanage's front lawn.

It wasn't until later that, even though he didn't necessarily have the outfit, this man was an avid supporter of the 'love will conquer all' malarkey and was constant sprouting it to whoever was nearby, whether they would listen or not. Right at that point in my life, however, he simply was one of the few that ever came to visit me in what the officials laughingly referred to as my 'home'.

My first inclination at the time was that this man had to be one of those head shrinks that Mrs. Cole was constantly shoving at me and I informed him if that if that was why he was there, he could leave, ridiculous outfit and all. He insisted that this was not the case and that he had something important to tell me.

His next words left me completely speechless for one of the few times in my life, but I managed to refrain from allowing my jaw to drop like some addled brain nitwit. His admission also set me on the path to becoming the mastermind I am today.

His name was Albus Dumbledore and he was there to tell me that I was a wizard, a real, honest-to-Merlin wizard, setting an envelope complete with seal on my lap. I was an actual magician; not one of those scarves up their shirts and bunnies in the bottom of their hats kind of ponce-y fakes, but a real, live wizard that could cast spells and do extraordinary things.

My first thoughts were of where my glorious ability had came from and what to do with them now that I had them. Could I make it so that I never had to be poor again? Could I control the elements?

Could I defeat Death...?

That line of thought brought me to the memory of my birth and my mother. It was then that I decided my power certainly had not come from my mother, she couldn't possibly be the one who passed this gift to me, for what would be the use of being an all powerful wizard if one could not cheat Death and live forever? No, it had to have been my father who passed this greatness onto me, a more than adequate exchange for an elusive shade who I only knew by the name I then carried, much to my disgust.

I barely was aware that I had been muttering my thoughts aloud until I caught the look that Professor Dumbledore was giving me. Snapping my mouth shut, I motioned for him to continue, which he did. As he explained the rules and regulations that surrounded Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, as well as the classes and what materials I would need, I could not hide the feeling of ecstasy that came from the knowledge that I was finally getting out of this prison of weak minded fools and fear ridden cowards...

Suddenly struck again by the thought that this man might be another one of those fake head shrinks, despite his previous denial, I demanded that he prove that he was what he oh-so-proudly claimed. I will admit that I also wanted to see what real magic looked like; all of it was almost too good to be true...

Looking around, probably for that dimwit Mrs. Cole, he made sure no one was near and pulled out a wand. I couldn't help the hungry look that came over my features, nor the desperate question that came after.

"When will I get one of those?" I was eager to start my schooling, proud of the fact that I was the owner of a rare gift that none of the fools inhabiting this ghastly orphanage had the slightest claim to.

"Before you start your schooling, you will be fitted with a wand when you receive the rest of your school supplies," Dumbledore replied, tapping the wand on his leg... before setting my dresser on fire! The coot had just set everything I owned in flames! With a cry, I started to gather what I now knew was my magic to make him wish he never did anything so simple-minded or even set foot in this orphanage when it suddenly went out.

As the flames died, I was relieved that there was no visible damage; as a matter of fact, there wasn't even the slightest mark that showed the dresser had even been inflamed at all! A foreign feeling began to bubble in my chest as I simply sat there in utter astonishment. This magic was real and I was going to learn how to control and master this great, wondrous gift...

Suddenly, the dresser began shake and emit a low buzzing sound, causing me to realize that the old man had not yet finished with his little sermon on what was right and wrong. For he must've realized what I kept in that dresser, why I had cried out when nothing in this dismal place was even worth fretting over, and felt he needed to give me a little demonstration ..

Sure enough, he gave me his I'm-disappointed-that-you-didn't-meet-up-to-my-expectations expression, a slightly more annoying kind than the one Mrs. Cole gave me every day, so it didn't have nearly the effect he intended. "I believe there is something in there that doesn't belong to you."

Sighing, I went to the dresser, opened the door and pulled out the box with my collection in it; I then made my way back the bed, and set it down in front of the 'Professor', waiting for what he would do next.

He simply looked at me, causing an exasperated roll of my eyes as I got what this little show was about. Dumping my treasure horde out, I sat back and waited for him to speak, as I knew he would.

He didn't disappoint, giving me a frown as he stated, "Thievery is frowned upon at Hogwarts and the punishments for doing so will be severe," He nodded toward the pile on the bed, "I also suggest you return these back to their owners... and possibly apologize as well."

As he didn't make it an order, I decided to make the 'possibly' a 'never' and just return the toys to the imbeciles that I had taken them from. I was going to learn magic, what need I of material things?

This thought, however, brought to my attention the classes Dumbledore had commented upon and my dismally poor estate. Along with leaving me in this insufferable hellhole, my so-called 'father' left me with no expenses of my own and since this man was, at the time, my savior in a purple suit, I decided to show him the respect no one else even deserved as I asked, "I haven't any money, sir, how will I buy the things I need?"

Albus when on to explain that 'Hogwarts'-wasn't that the name of a plant of some kind?-had a special fund for students who came from 'less fortunate' backgrounds like mine and then proceeded to hand me a satchel full of what wizards called their money.

The mere weight of the bag made me nearly drop it, that feeling once more flowing through me, this time through the entirety of my body. I had more money in my hands than I ever possessed in my lifetime and all of it was going toward my goal of becoming the greatest and most feared master of magic in anyone's remembrance.

"I can get around by myself, I do it all the time," I interjected against Albus' running commentary; there was no chance at all, now that I had the means to escape my prison of eleven years, would I mar it with the need of being carted around like some kind of foolish child.

Albus looked as if he would argue for a moment; but, after a minute or two of deep thought, he nodded his head, gave me the directions I needed to get to Diagon Alley and the way I was to travel there before moving to leave when a final hesitation hit me and I called out without thinking. I found myself wondering if it was another gift that was mine alone to claim...

"I can talk to snakes, any kind, as a matter of fact." Albus had stopped, back still facing me, but I could see the stiffening in his shoulders as I continued, "They find me when I'm outside, they whisper things in my ear, tell me stories, tell me secrets..." Like how Mrs. Cole snuck a pint whenever she was doing laundry, that the oldest of the residents here, a lanky seventeen-year-old, was getting much more than English lessons from his 'tutor'... "Is that normal?"

The silence seemed to stretch for hours before Albus turned, giving me a look that had the uncomfortable result of me feeling measured up and somehow, in some way, I felt I had fallen short. Brushing off the abnormality as nothing but a passing chill, I straightened up and waited for my answer.

"It is... uncommon, but not unheard of," Albus informed me, once more giving me that weighing gaze and once more that feeling froze me where I stood. As he again turned to leave, Albus turned to offer me one last piece of information, and a warning "Term begins on the first of September, but you are not to use magic again until you are of the age of seventeen. The reasons you have been able to thus far are because you were unaware of your powers; but, now that you have been told, the consequences of breaking this rule are expulsion from Hogwarts and the breaking or removal of your wand. I trust you will have no problems following this stipulation."

Before I could respond, or even blink, Albus had disappeared, leaving me staring at an empty doorway as the other children returned from playing outside. A few of them cast a frightened look in my direction, but I was too wrapped up in my own thoughts to sneer at their weakness.

I was a wizard, I was going to leaving this place and living in a castle, I was going to be learning how to do spells that would let me set things aflame, read others minds and possibly fulfill what had been a childish desire for some time; would it be possible to even fly in this glorious new world?

For now, I had to hide the money that Professor Dumbledore had given me, for Mrs. Cole would certainly add it to the 'collections' if she ever saw it. Sure enough, as soon as I had set the last floorboard in place and returned to my earlier reading, did Mrs. Cole appear in my doorway.

"So, I hears you are headed off to some high and fancy school," she prodded, shifting her weight, but not coming any farther into my room than necessary. We had established very early on in our forced relationship that my room was the one place she was not to enter.

"Yes," I responded, one hand gripping my concealed envelop as I looked back at the gossip monger with ill disguised revulsion, "I will be leaving for a short while tomorrow for school supplies."

Mrs. Cole straighted at the prospect of gin money, licking her lips in a way that made me grimace and wonder if there was any way around that 'no-spells-until-you're-seventeen' clause. "Oh? How are you going to pay for all that?"

I sent her my coldest glare, one that made her take an involuntary step back and made me grin at the power I already had in a single glance. "I don't believe that is any of your business."

She stood there, an internal battle of her love of hard gin and liquor fighting valiantly against her disgust and outright fear of me. Fear, being the strongest and most powerful of all the emotions, won out as she hissed before leaving, "I'll be glad when we're rid of you."

"No, Madam Cole, it is me who'll be glad to be rid of you," I whispered to her retreating back, hand gripping even tighter on my acceptance into a world of freedom and greatness.

A world that no one was going to get in my way of obtaining.

A/N: Standard disclaimer: Not mine, just borrowing, don't sue. A plot bunny that was chewing at my brain: What made Tom Riddle choose the path of Darkness, and just how much of a push did he already have?

As always, reviews are appreciated and answered, constructive criticisms will be looked over and taken into account, flames will be ignored and laughed at.

I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!!!