It appeared Carrow had been making fun of him when he had suggested they meet in the Room of Requirement, because wherever Tom looked, whatever turn he took, there was no such room.
He searched for what was surely and hour with no luck. He looked inside every classroom in the hope that it would give him some indication that he was in the right direction. Maybe Hermione knew where it was, if it existed at all.
But he would never ask her. She would only want to know why he was looking for it. He guessed she wouldn't be too happy if she knew.
It wasn't until he had finally relented to the fact that he wasn't going to find it (he would get Carrow back later for misleading him) and was on his way back to the common room, when the young Slytherin approached him.
"I thought you wanted to practice, Riddle," he said. "Or were you too chicken to do it after all?"
Tom glared at the boy. Carrow was making fun of him. Did he not realise that he had spent his whole life being made fun of and that he knew how to defend himself?
"You lied to me," Tom hissed. "There is no Room of Requirement."
Carrow raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure you're not a Mudblood?" he questioned.
"I'm not a... Mudblood," Tom retorted, although for all he knew he could have been, whatever that was.
Carrow shrugged. "Whatever. Well, it's too late to practice now. We'll have to wait until tomorrow. This time wait for me..." he studied Tom, that irritating smirk plastered across his face. "You're strange," he added idly.
Fury burned inside of Tom and he clenched his fists. He could knock the stuck-up Slytherin off his feet with one hit. He would be sent to the hospital for a month.
But the last thing he wanted to do was make enemies with the one House he actually felt he belonged to. He didn't need them to be his friends – he had Hermione – he just needed them to appreciate him.
"Tomorrow after class," he said through gritted teeth.
Carrow nodded. "I'll see you then. I'll meet you in the Great Hall, as it appears you don't know where the Room of Requirement is."
Tom knew the boy was berating him, but he chose to ignore it. Now was not the time to get him back.
He made his way back to the common room in five minutes. It was only a few corridors from where he had been talking to Carrow. He had almost forgotten about Hermione and homework until both were in his face before he had finished climbing through the portrait hole.
"Where have you been?" she demanded. "It's almost time for dinner and we have so much to do." She flicked through the pieces of parchment in her hands. "I can't believe they expect us to write so much after one day. I can't begin to imagine what it will be like when we do our OWLs, or NEWTs." She followed Tom over to the armchair where he had dumped his school bag earlier that day. "You should get started, Tom," she continued. "Especially on the History of Magic one. Professor Binns wants it in by tomorrow."
Tom waved her away. "I'll do it after dinner," he replied absently. It shouldn't take him too long to do it. After all, what they learnt in class (when he had been listening), he had spent the summer reading about.
Hermione watched him, shook her head and the disappeared up the girl's staircase, probably to complain to her fellow girls about how useless he was. Really, that was the last thing on Tom's mind.
He had been so excited to learn some magic they refused to teach at Hogwarts – he had been looking forward to it all day – and now he would have to wait until the next day. He should have just asked where it was. Hermione would have.
But Hermione's not like me, he thought. She was placed in Gryffindor for a reason; he was only there because he asked. He knew he belonged in Slytherin; he had known since he had read about the Houses.
Gryffindor just wasn't for him.
Hermione came back a while later, a look of irritation on her face. "Are you coming to dinner?" she asked.
Tom nodded and got up from the armchair.
Hermione marched out of the common room without a second glance at him. Was she really angry with him because he hadn't done his homework? It was their first day. Surely the teachers weren't expecting them to be able to conjure a rabbit out of a hat.
They could barely wave a wand – well that was what they thought. Tom and Hermione had of course been practicing over the summer. The teachers didn't need to know that, though.
The next day went by as slowly as the first, Tom eager to learn something that didn't involve practicing the same spell over and over again. Why did they not have Defence Against the Dark Arts yet? Who's stupid idea was it to schedule that for later? It was all he wanted to learn.
As soon as the final class for the day ended, Tom jumped to his feet and dashed out of the classroom. He didn't give a second glance to Hermione, or respond to her 'where are you going?' call. He had to find Carrow.
As promised, the Slytherin was waiting for him in the Great Hall. Students were making their way back to their common rooms, more focused on the amount of homework they had already, than two first years heading in the opposite direction.
"Not many people know about the Room of Requirement," Carrow said as they reached the fourth floor of the castle. "It's on the seventh floor and only appears to those who need it. Many people think it's just a myth, but I know for a fact it's there. I was there yesterday, waiting for you."
Tom was too interested in the idea of a room appearing only to those who needed it to care about Carrow's dig at him. What did that mean? That, if he really needed a place to practice the Dark Arts then he could and no one would find him?
Magic truly was an interesting prospect.
Carrow lead the way to the seventh floor and stopped in front of a blank wall. Tom looked around. He really needed the Room, but there were no doors around. Was Carrow mocking him again?
"Stand back, Riddle," Carrow said and he began pacing back and forth. Out of nowhere a door materialised and grew until it was large enough to fit two eleven year old boys through.
Carrow grinned. "Some of the other Slytherins told me about it. It's pretty cool, eh?"
Tom opened the door and inside was a room large enough to fit at least ten students in. It was dark and cold, much like the Slytherin common room, Tom imagined.
"I've asked some fifth years to come and assist," Carrow continued. "They should be here soon. We obviously don't know that much yet. I've only ever watched my parents. The Unforgivables are probably the hardest to learn, but also the most fun."
"Unfor - ?" Tom stopped. He had already told Carrow he knew of that kind of thing. Asking what an Unforgivable was would be stupid. And he wasn't stupid. "Yeah, I've always wanted to learn them."
A short while later, the three fifth year Slytherins (two boys and a girl) arrived. They studied Tom with distaste.
"Well, I guess all Gryffindors can't be too bad," the girl said. "What made you want to learn the Dark Arts?"
"He's a bit odd," Carrow interrupted before Tom could answer. "He claims to know everything and not be a Mudblood, but he's a bit dumb if you ask me. Keeps asking stupid questions that purebloods, or half-bloods should know."
Tom contained the anger that had suddenly reignited itself inside of him. Carrow was talking about him as if he wasn't there. He was not dumb. Once again, the thought of throwing Carrow against the wall was very satisfying.
"They never were the most intelligent bunch, Gryffindors," one of the boys replied. He sneered.
"He hangs around with that Mudblood, too," Carrow continued. "A really annoying one who thinks she knows everything."
Tom knew he had to find out what that word meant. He'd go to the library afterwards.
The girl waved him away. "Well, that doesn't matter. He wants us to teach him some magic that is better and more rewarding than any of the rubbish they teach here. That's all that matters."
Tom straightened. The girl seemed to actually regard him higher than anyone else had since arriving at Hogwarts.
"What'd you say your name was?" she asked.
"Tom Riddle," he replied.
She didn't give him her name and frankly, Tom didn't care.
"Alright then, Riddle. Let me guess, you're under the impression that the Dark Arts is something you just wave your wand at and it causes harm to the victim?"
Yes, that was what he had been hoping to learn.
"Well, I can tell you, Riddle, that there is more to it than wand-waving. Yeah, we have the Unforgivable Curses, but there is also things like potions which can also cause pain."
Tom listened intently. Why had he not paid more attention in Potions? Maybe Slughorn had mentioned something like that.
"But, we'll go through the Unforgivable Curses first seeing as none of us have any potions with us. Face me, Riddle and take out your wand."
Tom obeyed. It would be the first time he would use is wand for something other than a Summoning Charm or Levitating Charm. What use were those on the children at the orphanage? He could maybe leave one on the roof for a few days, but that was boring.
"We're no experts at these, Riddle, as we're only fifth years. But these spells are something we have watched our parents use numerous times; sometimes on us if we're in trouble or they want us to do something. The first thing they tell us is 'you have to mean it'."
Tom meant it. Whatever it was, he would mean it. Those bullies at the orphanage were going to be afraid of him when he went back.
The girl pointed her wand at Tom. "The first one is the Cruciatus Curse – the torture Curse. Crucio."
Before he knew what was happening, unbearable pain filled every part of his body. It was nothing like he had ever felt. It seeped through him and he thought he was going to die. He didn't want to die. Not now, not ever.
As quickly as it had come, the pain ceased, leaving Tom panting on the floor. The Slytherins watched him with humour.
"And that, Riddle, is the Cruciatus Curse used by a fifth year. The full strength one is much worse."
Tom got to his feet, refusing to show any reaction to the spell. He wasn't going to give them the satisfaction of knowing they had hurt him.
"You alright?" the girl asked.
"Fine," Tom answered stiffly.
The girl smiled. "Great! Next one is the Imperius Curse – mind control. I'm going to let Perry, here, show you that one. He's better at it than most of others at Hogwarts."
One of the Slytherin boys stepped forward with a malicious grin. Tom suspected he wasn't going to be as nice about it as the girl.
"Don't worry, this one's painless," he said.
It was only then Tom realised he must have shown fear as the Slytherin faced him. He sobered instantly, keeping a straight expression.
The boy directed his wand right at Tom. "Imperio!"
Tom felt exactly the same. There was no pain. He was him. Except something was telling him to take off his robes. His hands began to unbutton his shirt as if they had a mind of their own.
They're trying to humiliate me, he thought and stopped.
Keep going, Riddle, a voice inside his head told him.
Tom made to continue, but stopped himself again.
No, I will not do it, he said to the voice.
His free will returned and he was back, the four Slytherins watching him with expressions of wonder.
The Slytherin who had tried to control him was staring at him with his mouth slightly open.
"Very impressive, Riddle," the girl said. "Not many people can fight the Imperius Curse. It's nigh impossible for a first year to do it."
A sense of overwhelming pride filled him. It had been hard to fight the first time, but once he had said no once, it was easier the other times.
"I'd like to see you against a fully trained wizard, though," the girl added.
"Onto the next one," Tom said eagerly.
"The Killing Curse."
For some reason, that one appealed to Tom the most. If he mastered the Killing Curse, no one would trouble him ever again.
"We need a rat or something," Carrow said.
And a rat appeared.
The Slytherin who had used the Imperius Curse on him, turned is wand on the rat. "Avarda Kedavra!" he said.
The rat dropped dead where it was.
Tom smiled gleefully. That spell could kill someone just like that!
"You really should be a Slytherin, Riddle," the girl observed. "No Gryffindor gets that excited about the Killing Curse."
Her words made Tom long to go back in time and change what had happened. He would have been put in Slytherin if he hadn't asked otherwise. Hermione... she was the only reason he was where he was and unhappy.
But she was Hermione. His only friend.
But she was still the reason for his unhappiness.
"Wanna try them, Riddle?" Carrow asked.
"Alright, I think Perry will be willing to take the hit from you."
Tom pointed his wand at Perry. He thought of all the times he had wanted to hurt the kids at the orphanage for one thing or another. All the times they had called him a freak, excluded him from their games. He thought of how much he hated them, how much he hated his parents for abandoning him, leaving him in that place. He glared at Perry, imagining that all of that was the Slytherin. "Crucio!"
Perry jumped, stifled a cry of pain and then laughed. "For someone who can fight the Imperius Curse, I was expecting something a little more painful," he said.
He laughed again, this time with the others.
"Just takes practice, Riddle. Try the Imperius."
"Imperio!" That one worked a lot better. He knew he had Perry. If he wanted him to crush his skull against the wall, then he knew Perry would do it.
Dance, he instructed.
Perry started a strange jig in front of him, much to the amusement of the others. Tom was surprised he was able to control every move of Perry's and how easy it was.
He brought the Slytherin back. Perry looked around, slightly dazed and then smiled. "Nice."
Tom didn't have time for pleasantries. The next one was what he was most looking forward to. He wished he had another rat and one appeared.
He didn't even hesitate. "Avarda Kedavra!"
The rat didn't die instantly like Perry's had. It writhed in pain for a few moments, before finally stilling.
Tom lowered his wand.
"You must be a pureblood," Carrow commented. He stepped forward and held out his hand. "Sorry I thought you were another dumb Gryffindor."
Tom didn't accept Carrow's offer of friendship, instead choosing to nod.
Carrow stepped away, looking slightly offended.
"I thought this would be a one off," the Slytherin girl said. "But you've impressed me, Riddle. Meet here again on Saturday at ten. I'd like to see what else you can do."
Tom nodded and picked up his school bag.
He left before the others, hurrying back to the common room as fast as he could. There were only two other students when he arrived and Hermione wasn't one of them.
He didn't see her for the rest of that evening, either. She wasn't down for dinner and when he arrived back, she was still missing.
He'd have to find her tomorrow to tell her what had happened. Surely she would be impressed once he told her that he had already mastered the Imperius Curse. For now, though, he just wanted to practice what he had learnt. The other boys in his dormitory would have to do as practice dummies until Saturday.
Thank you all for your lovely reviews. For something I have been feeling incredibly uncomfortable writing, I'm actually surprised by the number of reviews and favourites and alerts. It's keeping me going.
So, I know this is meant to be Hermione/Tom and I swear I will get there eventually. I just, for some reason, have so many ideas in my head for this fic now.
For now, I hope you enjoy this chapter and don't forget to leave a review :)