Miri (mieronna) wrote in riddle_gifts,
Miri
mieronna
riddle_gifts

Exchange FIC for Alchemia: Outstanding

Recipient: alchemia
Author: orpheus_samhain
Title: Outstanding
Characters: Young Tom
Rating: PG
Warnings: none
Summary: Tom always knew he wasn't an ordinary boy. No ordinary wizard, either.
Disclaimer: JKR's
Author's notes: Thank you, s_h, for beta'ing this!


Outstanding


When the door had closed after the ridiculously clad old man, Tom stood in silence for a while.

Him - a wizard.

It was true, he was sure of it. Some part of him, restless till this moment, was deeply satisfied with the answer. He was never the one to confuse dreams with reality but the news was so sudden and unexampled that he couldn't help questioning it.

Tom finally snapped from his stupor and cast a wary look at his wardrobe. He walked over to it and carefully extended his hand to touch the surface. When nothing happened he pressed his palm flat against the door. He thought he felt the remnants of the heat lingering there but maybe it was just his imagination or the magic itself.

There was no mark, not even a smudge of soot on the furniture. This was, strangely, what convinced Tom. This must have been magic. The fire he saw was real, hot and roaring, but it didn't damage his wooden wardrobe.

He drew in a slow breath.

To have such a power! To be able to scare people so much that they would do anything he demanded. In most cases he was able to force children to do what he wanted but still it wasn't enough. Tom wanted absolute control. What he saw a moment ago opened brand new possibilities. Mrs Cole, for example. She was afraid of him but wouldn't budge so far. It would be very nice to see her backing away. Or those scruffy, shabby, untidy help-girls, who thought they could order him around. All those little incidents that had happened to them were nothing in comparison to what he had on his mind. He would show them their place.

He smiled cruelly. Oh, yes, he would take care of setting the debts.

With his family as well. His wizard father. He must be magical because if his mother had been, she wouldn't have died. How could you die if you had such powers at your disposal?

Tom wasn't surprised that his father abandoned his mother. It was perfectly understandable for him. He wasn't surprised but the thought was waking something inside of him. He didn't let it surface because it looked suspiciously like an emotion. Useless, nasty thing. Damaging those who were weak enough to let it rule their lives.

His mother was weak. Tom felt distaste at the mere thought of her but his disdain was laced with something more. Something that he pushed away every time before it shattered his carefully constructed façade.

Tom prided himself on being completely devoid of emotions. He didn't let them cloud his judgement and affect his choices. He chose to be strong, to be in charge, to not let anybody rule his life. It was hard to achieve when you were a child and an orphan at that. Now fates presented him with a chance that he was not about to let it pass. He couldn't change his past but he could shape his future.

His father left his non-magical wife not caring if his son was a wizard or not. Probably thinking that he was a 'Muggle', as that Dumbledore called them. Or knowing all along that his son was a wizard but not caring to inform him about this detail. Robbing him, in fact, of possibilities, of his right. Leaving him here to rot among those useless, bothersome Muggles who tried to limit him not knowing that he was better, that they should succumb to his will. That they had no other choice, actually.

Tom sat in quiescence on his bed for the long time, with his arms wrapped around his bent knees, considering all his possibilities. He knew he had to act cautiously. What he could get away with here, in orphanage, wouldn't be so easy there, in Hogwarts, judging by that old man. Dumbledore knew at once what Tom did and assessed his motives correctly. He would have to play the poor but kind, smart but modest orphan, like he did so many times before when it was worth it to charm the benefactors of the orphanage. Now it was certainly worth it.

Tom wasn't deluded that he would be able to win over the old wizard. He only counted on drowsing Dumbledore's attention as much as possible. The man had the rare quality to see through his façade and the look in his eyes told Tom that he would be under much more severe surveillance. He knew that the things he planned wouldn't agree with Dumbledore's principles.

Late in the evening Tom tucked his folded Hogwarts letter under his pillow; he knew it by heart by now. He lay awake in the darkness for the long time, unable to sleep, staring at the wardrobe, his head swimming.

***

The very next day Tom jumped out of his bed early, surprised that he slept at all, eager to take a look at this 'Diagon Alley'.

He simply informed Mrs Cole in his impudent tone that he was going to London to prepare for his new school, daring her to protest. She looked relieved at the prospect of getting rid of him, even if for a while.

Tom sneered inwardly but as long as everything was going according to his wishes he didn't bother to cause her hidden bottle of gin to explode.

When he purposefully walked out of the grim building onto the brightly sunlit street he forgot about his orphanage, Mrs Cole and bossy help-girls. He patted his pocket, revelling in the exquisite feeling of the fat golden coins under his palm.

Tom took his usual route to the centre of the city, passing by the fruit and vegetable market. While the meals at orphanage never left anybody hungry, there was no denying that the look and smell of ripe fruits and fresh vegetables of any kind was attracting the orphan's attention.

Tom never hesitated to take what he wanted. He felt the whole world owed him. Walking among the stands he concentrated on the enormous pile of oranges on his left. Without any reason the fruits rolled in every direction causing loud roar of anger from the vendor and frightened shrieks from the passing women. All eyes turned to this event.

Tom extended his right hand and lazily took a handful of soft plums. He put them into his pocket and walked away calmly, not paying attention to the ruckus he left behind.

Someone else tried to take advantage of the commotion as well, it seemed. Out of the corner of his eye Tom observed a boy about his age who tried to sneak near him without having been noticed. The boy tried so hard that it was almost screaming 'look at me', at least to Tom who had seen this kind of child before. He knew that his stuffed pocket attracted the other boy's attention.

Tom hid his smirk and walked on, imperceptibly sliding a fountain pen cap with purposefully sharpened clip from his sleeve into his palm. Let the fool get his lesson.

The boy pretended to walk past Tom while his hand brushed the pocket. At the same moment he jumped away with surprised and pained shriek. He clutched his hand to his chest and from among his fingers blood seeped into his shirt. The urchin's eyes snapped from shocked into furious that he let himself be hoodwinked and injured.

One look at Tom seemed to cool his aggression. Apparently the kid who lived on the street had enough self-preservation instincts to recognise the real threat. Tom's eyes dared the boy to attack him. With one foul word the kid turned on his heel and disappeared into one of the dark and stinky gateways.

Only a few heads turned to the event and Tom, undisturbed, continued on his way.

Spitting out the plum's stone he spotted a slanting, crooked sign that read 'Leaky Cauldron'. He stopped a few steps short of the pub Dumbledore was talking about and looked around. People were passing by; no one seemed to notice the shabby looking place.

To tell the truth, Tom was heavily disappointed. He expected something more spectacular even if hidden from Muggles' eyes. If this was what magic and this 'Hogwarts' had to offer he could very well make do without it. Tom scowled at the entrance.

Yet there was something he had to gain and surely he could pick up useful things. The rest… Well, he would think about it later. He must learn how to increase his abilities, his control of magic. Sure, he could do some things to Muggles they didn't and even couldn't suspect him of doing but he wanted more.

Tom emptied his pocket of uneaten plums in case any other wizard would think of performing that checking spell that had caused his trophies to shake as if they owned a life on their own and stepped inside.

Tom narrowed his eyes in a dim, smoky interior. The walls were covered with grim, there were some tables scattered around and a few dirty people were dozing off over their tables. The only animated object here was a short, round figure behind the bar, clad in not-so-white shirt with rolled sleeves. He hummed some unrecognisable tune while rubbing a glass with a rag.

Tom briskly walked to the barman.

"I'm here to buy my school supplies. Professor Dumbledore told me that you would show me how to reach the wizarding shops from here."

"Good morning to you, too. Shouldn't you wait for your folks?" Tom the barman looked around as if checking if boy's parents weren't hiding in the corners of the pub.

Tom gathered all his patience but didn't feel like explaining.

"No, I came alone. Professor Dumbledore told me that you would help me with getting into the Diagon Alley."

"Some parents that are letting their child do his first Hogwarts shopping alone."

Tom's eyes glinted with anger for a brief moment. Then he asked politely. "I'd like to get going. I've got a lot to do."

The barman chuckled. "I can imagine. Come on, then."

Tom left the Leaking Cauldron with the barman and watched him opening a passage to Diagon Alley. It was as narrow as streets in older parts of London. Tom felt for the pouch with golden coins and with short "I'll manage" directed at his namesake he stepped into the Alley.

There were some people bustling about but no crowds. Apparently it was too early for shopping for the school supplies.

Tom knew his list by heart and intended to look around before he bought anything. His head was turning left and right. Potions ingredients, cauldrons made of different metals, flying brooms, owls that could carry mail, mysterious magical instruments, assorted quills, parchments and inks, robes, Goblin's bank and… and alluring archway that seemed to lead into a different world.

There was one Tom was more attracted to and comfortable with. People who walked into the archway or walked out of it hunched as if trying to become invisible. Tom observed it for a while then walked into it.

There were hags so old that their spines were bent almost double, wizards so tall that it seemed suspicious even considering the background the hags created, creatures that reeked of putrid smell who dragged the clubs after them and from time to time the figures stealing by close to the walls, decently if not affluently clad, keeping their collars up, shadowing their faces with the brims of their hats. No matter how hard Tom squinted and tried to make out their features they always seemed to be liquid or unremarkable. Tom knew that he wouldn't be able to recognise any of them.

After concluding that the mysterious witches and wizards were using some charm to conceal themselves Tom gave up his efforts to memorise their faces. He made a mental note to check what it was and how it was done at the first occasion and shifted his attention to the shops' windows he was passing by.

Now, that was something that excited him truly for the first time that day.

There were many things that were worth a closer look. Dangerous animals, deformed human body parts, assorted poisons and lethal artefacts. Tom stopped before the high and dusty window. There was gold and silver jewellery, tempting with multi-coloured gems, weapons of different kind, some crafted and decorative, some simple and unrefined, bringing to mind old times. A lot of things Tom wouldn't have given a look if they were not in a magical store: fragments of rope, a heap of old rags, one very small boot, innocently looking domestic objects, some of them covered in blackish grime.

Tom pushed the shop's door open and walked inside. He looked around taking in the skulls, bones, books, furniture…

"Can I help you?" an unpleasant voice interrupted his inspection.

Tom turned around and saw a middle-aged wizard who didn't look as someone who wanted to help anybody, last of all a poorly dressed child, looking around with a glitter in his eyes.

"What are these rags?" Tom pointed to the greyish heap by way of greeting.

The seller straightened his back and answered in a cold voice.

"Some things here might look unworthy in the inexperienced eyes but rest reassured, boy, that they often come from the times that are now only legends to us. In the adequate hands they could amaze the world even today."

Tom didn't answer to that, he fixed his eyes on the owner as if assessing the statement. Finally he nodded towards the glass cabinets.

"Very interesting collection."

"Be sure it is, boy. Most of the items are very helpful, some of them wake strong emotions." The seller eyed Tom with professional efficiency. There was no doubt that the boy wouldn't buy the hair from Egyptian high priest's wig but maybe it was still worth trying to scrounge some pocket money from the naïve Muggleborn first year. "Want something for the school? A quill that would copy your partner's assignment? All you have to do is to sit next to this person, whether in the common room or during your exams. Or maybe the stone of pain? When you don't like someone you put it under their bed. From night to night this person will be in more and more pain. Then you have to remove the stone, we wouldn't want troubles, right? Looks perfectly normal," he added when his offer wasn't met with enthusiasm on Tom's part.

Tom was almost convinced that this stone was perfectly normal, judging by the look on the man's face. He's seen it too often on the faces of street vendors who wanted to sell rotten potatoes before the day has ended.

Tom would have bought the stone to try it himself was it not for the mental image of his rattling box. He couldn't afford another mishap.

"Nothing this time, but I'll be back."

"Of course, I'll be happy to see you again, young man," the wizard replied while under his breath he was muttering something to the contrary.

Tom cast a last glance around the shop and left.

He returned to the Diagon Alley and walked past the Gringott's towards the other end than the one from which he came.

Almost at the very end of the Alley was a tiny and insignificantly looking shop. There was only proprietor's name on it as if it explained everything and only when Tom walked closer he could make out smaller letters: "Makers of Fine Wands since 382 BC".

A shiver went down Tom's spine and he quickened his pace. He entered the shop with a soft clinking of the bell somewhere inside. There was nothing more than thousands of boxes set upon hundreds of shelves and the dust floating in the air.

A man came out of the back room and greeted Tom in a gentle voice.

"Ah, the school year is approaching. The new students are getting their wands. You're the first, though. Eager student, no doubt," he smiled. "Good morning."

"Good morning. How much is the best wand you have?"

"All wands costs the same: seven Galleons, and the best for you..."

"No, not the best for me but the best you have," Tom snapped impatiently, angry that the wandmaker wanted to sell him something worse, something suitable for the poor orphan raised in the Muggle world.

Mr Ollivander continued calmly as if he hadn't been so rudely interrupted.

"The best wand for you will be the one that will choose you."

"Choose me? What do you mean?" Tom didn't like the idea of leaving the choice to someone or something else, especially not in so vital a matter. Besides, wasn't that odd man kidding him, counting on his ignorance?

"We will measure you first since the wand has to match your physics as well as your magic and we don't want to check every one here, do we?" Mr Ollivander procured a tape and began to take the measurement swiftly.

Tom barely controlled his reflex to push the tiny wizard away. He waited stiff and silent until Mr Ollivander spoke.

"Yes, thirteen, fourteen inches, I think. Yes, well, that's a good point to start."

Tom dropped his arms and stepped away. Mr Ollivander flicked his wand and a few boxes floated from the shelves onto the counter.

"Here you are," he handed the first wand to Tom. "Swish it into the air."

Tom closed his fingers tightly around the thick piece of wood that felt heavy and uncomfortable. When he moved his hand the wand produced large, heavy, tar-like drops that vanished the moment they hit the floor.

Mr Ollivander snatched the wand from Tom's hand. "No, no, no, wrong direction." He waved his wand and the boxes obediently floated from the counter to the shelves and were immediately replaced by another stack. "Here," he handed Tom another one.

Tom moved his hand and there was a sound of piteous cry in the air. He handed the wand over without being told with hatred written upon his face.

"Not to worry, not to worry," the wizard was chanting in a soothing voice.

Another flick of the wand and another stock of boxes changed their place. Another wand was handed and again the result didn't satisfy the moon-eyed wizard as the whole pile of boxes landed against the opposite wall, knocked by the invisible force.

"I can hardly believe… but the fact's the fact…" he was murmuring to himself now, not paying much attention to Tom who stood angry that the whole ordeal was prolonging.

"Believe what?" snapped Tom.

"Well, it seems that… We have to try…"

He waved his wand decidedly and from the topmost shelf the box hurled towards them, knocking some other boxes blocking its way.

When the sole box landed on the counter Tom scowled openly. It was covered with a thick layer of dust.

"Are you trying to sell me the old trash that nobody wanted?!" Tom yelled loosing all his pretence at politeness.

For the first time Mr Ollivander looked at him as if he actually saw him. His moon-like eyes were no longer clouded or distant. He focused his gaze on Tom.

"I told you that it's the wand that chooses the wizard. I know the properties of every single one in this shop. The fact that it was laid aside says only that there was nobody to whom I could even think of offering it for trial. This is a very powerful tool and needs a wizard with matching abilities," his eyes dimmed again.

Tom's expression changed in a moment. There was hunger in his eyes. "I want to try it."

"My last hope," Mr Ollivander smiled serenely but it was obvious that he was very agitated. "Thirteen and a half inches. Yew. Very powerful. It has a core made of a phoenix feather. Very special one. Only two wands... Ah, but it doesn't matter."

He lifted the dusty lid and took the wand from the cushion with both hands and gave it to Tom with reverence and expectation.

Tom closed his palm around the wand greedily. It lay perfectly. It was his arm's extension. He felt very clearly that this is his perfect tool, tuned with his body and magic. The blood in his veins hummed in contentment.

Tom swished his wand with surety. The rush of wind broke out in the tiny shop and swiped around with a hiss. The boxes rattled on their shelves and Mr Ollivander's robes billowed.

The wandmaker wasn't paying attention to the disturbance; he was beaming. When everything quietened he clapped Tom on the shoulder and said in amazement, "Well… I didn't sell such a powerful wand in a… why, yes… ever. In the wrong hands…There is a reason why this wand has chosen you. You must be destined for great things… The power is blind. Use it wisely."

Tom hastily paid, said his good-byes, and left the shop. There was nothing for him there now. He just bought the most important thing, the means to all his plans, the key to his life. He gained the fitting tool. Whatever that blabbering idiot in the shop had said about the wand choosing the wizard, his wand chose correctly. The corners of Tom's mouth turned upwards.

Another piece clicked into its place. Now was the time to see to the remaining business.

***

Tom spotted the bookshop and went inside. He walked to the first bookstand and glanced over the titles. His eyes kept darting from one spine to another, sliding over the titles. Every next one was more interesting than the previous. He kept moving along the shelves, hungrily trying to take in as many titles as he could. This was his first opportunity to learn about the range of wizarding knowledge without asking questions and revealing the vastness of his ignorance, thereby exposing his vulnerability. Tom stopped at the far end of the bookshop, his shoulders hunched. Although his thoughts were whirling in a great maelstrom, he tried to conceive the best way of getting as much knowledge about wizarding world as possible before he will have even embarked the Hogwarts Express.

First things first. Textbooks, robes, school equipment. As reasonably as possible. Tom didn't know any place here where he could get really cheap goods, the ones that changed the proprietor without them even noticing. His thought jumped to the damp, smelling back street but first years textbooks didn't seem to be the most likely commodity there.

Having made his mind Tom stepped hastily from the bookshop and made a detour into the other shops. Without much fussing he bought a pewter cauldron, potions ingredients, phials, set of scales, telescope and required books. Then, with a few coins still in his pocket, he started to peruse the other books. He needed something about the wizarding world and something to make his pursuance more effective. Finally he picked "Hogwarts: A History", "Dealing With Your Enemies: Curses Without Counter-Actions and Poisons Without Antidotes", "Mind Games or How Everybody Believed My Brother Spilled The Milk" and "Powers You Never Knew You Had and What To Do With Them Now You've Wised Up".

***

The rest of the day Tom spent locked in his room. Mrs Cole was very glad that she had agreed to Tom's attending the new school. Today not even a single child cried, she didn't find any dead animal and even the help-girls were somehow more composed. Come September the first and the bane of the orphanage would be gone.

She decided to celebrate the peaceful day with a few glasses of gin.

***

Tom laid his new wand next to him and the rest of his shopping at the foot of the bed where he could see them. He started leafing through the books. After deciding which one to read first he collected the things from his bed and went to put them away in his wardrobe. The already forgotten cardboard box greeted his eyes. The things inside lost their appeal to Tom. He had other things on his mind now.

He put away his new treasures, took out the box and went outside. There was no reason to postpone it any longer and Tom finally decided to give back all of his trophies.

The thimble, mouth-organ, yo-yo and some other trivial objects went back to their owners with required apologies. The only brighter moment of the whole ordeal was when a girl to whom he returned the silver thimble started to cry once she had it back. Whatever the reason, Tom didn't want to know. He simply turned away and went back to his room.

***

Mrs Cole closed her eyes and cursed silently at the sound of crying. She put away her glass carefully. Somehow her movements weren't as precise as an hour before. She went to the source of crying and with resignation listened to the girl's wailing 'my mother's thimble' over and over again. Another strange tale. Tom was the cause, as usual, but this time it was because he gave something back. Surely the girl didn't tell the whole truth.

The first of September couldn't come too soon.

***

The excitement of finding out that he was a wizard soon gave way to anticipation of Hogwarts and other wizards. Another thought struck Tom. The other children in that school were wizards, too. They would know more about magic than him. He knew nothing, really. He only felt that people, animals and things were willing to bend to his volition. Sometimes, when his desire was strong enough, they would, but most often they wouldn't. Although the possibility was still there.

The news about his being a wizard wasn't as surprising as it could have been expected. He knew he was not ordinary, better than all of them, other kids and Mrs Cole although she held the power. For now. Tom slowly but unfalteringly worked to wrench that power away from her. From everybody. With the tools now available he could do much more than he had imagined and at a completely different pace.

Tom felt excitement like never before. If what he managed to do here was merely a foreshadowing, what was awaiting him there? What else he could do? Were fairy-tales any indication? Tom felt his skin cover with goose-bumps.

By the time September the first arrived Tom had read all his textbooks and memorised them by heart.

***

Tom refused Mrs Cole's offer to walk him to the King's Cross Station and she didn't insist, either.

He was well ahead of time on purpose, knowing that the platform 9¾ must be something like the Leaky Cauldron, visible only to wizards. Tom wanted to learn what it meant and not to make fool of himself on his first day. He walked up and down the platforms 9 and 10 but didn't notice anything useful. Perfectly normal Muggles and their perfectly normal trains.

He chose the spot from where he could see both platforms and the barrier dividing them. He dropped on the floor his stuffed bag and cauldron that wouldn't fit anywhere maybe apart from the substantial trunk. Leaning against the wall Tom was on the look-out for odd clothes and pointed hats. When the first group of wizards appeared he watched them intently. They were heading straight into the barrier separating platforms 9 and 10, and in a blink of an eye they were gone. Tom leaned forward in astonishment. The next family did exactly the same. Tom observed the process for a while when more funny looking people vanished into the barrier before he decided that he's ready to do it himself.

He grabbed his belongings and set towards the barrier. Not feeling completely sure he hastened his step to not fail. The barrier parted around him softly and he was on the platform full of eccentrically clad people, owls hooting over their heads, cats meowing, toads croaking and children crying. The massive locomotive stood among the clouds of white, thick steam. Some mother pointed at Tom and said to her son "Look at him, he's alone and not crying. Be brave, Chris. Your parents were Gryffindors, remember."

Tom looked at the boy haughtily. Gryffindors, of course, he had read about them.

***

Tom found an empty compartment and watched the children filing in. When the train moved and the parents vanished from sight children began to make introductions, asking about Houses, whose family was where and who knew better spells. A thin boy boasted about the spells his father had taught him during holidays. He grated on Tom's nerves but also made him curious and Tom asked him to demonstrate the spells.

The boy faltered.

"We are not allowed to do magic apart from classes," he fidgeted in his seat.

Tom smiled. "But it is for scientific purposes only. It would be very useful to practice before teachers would mark our progress. Nobody would mind that we pass our time learning."

There was a murmur of agreement among the children, all eager to see a spell working.

"Okay," the boy conceded grudgingly. "Watch it. It's called Four-Point Spell and it shows the north. Father said it comes in handy at Hogwarts what with disappearing corridors and moving staircases. You would be able to tell which direction you should go when you're lost." He laid his wand on his opened palm, whispered 'Point Me' and the narrow end of his wand pointed the head of the train. Some people gasped impressed. The boy grinned contentedly.

Tom drew his wand and repeated the motion and the incantation. His wand also pointed the locomotive. All children tried it but they failed, their wands stayed where they were.

By the time the journey has ended Tom had learned a few spells and heard some interesting information about Hogwarts, its Houses and hidden chambers and monsters.

When the first years travelled in the boats towards the looming castle - a dark silhouette against the starry sky - Tom's thoughts blanked for a while. Serpents, curses and plans gave way to the strong sense of fulfilment. This was his place.

***

Tom observed the Sorting Ceremony. Almost all children were scared. After the Hat pronounced the House they were in, most of them rejoiced, some were indifferent and obediently walked to the assigned table, only a few were disappointed or openly angry at the Hat's choice. Tom remembered their names and faces. He would think later what to make of that.

When his round arrived Tom tried to stay calm although inside he was trembling with anticipation. He walked to the stool, sat on it and put the old rag over his head.

He heard the soft voice.

"I haven't had such a clear case in a long time... I thought I never would... There is a choice though. Brilliant mind, great ambition, endless possibilities. You could change the wizarding world."

"I intend to," thought Tom.

"So sure? You could serve-"

"Serve?" Tom snarled, interrupting for the second time. "They will serve me!"

The Hat didn't waste any more time: "SLYTHERIN!"

Tom couldn't dream of a better choice for himself.

***

Tom stuck to his plan. He blended seemingly well with the other children. Shabby robes weren't exceptional at Hogwarts but his charm, politeness, and diligence stood out sharply against the other students'. Tom didn't quarrel nor fight. He didn't want to draw attention to himself. He knew from the orphanage that once spotted he would be suspected of doing something even if there was no evidence. Tom didn't have precise plans yet, but he was sure he didn't need an audience. Not now. So he observed, listened, and learned.

***

The first lesson in Transfiguration was to change a match into a needle. All students were given a match and Dumbledore explained how to focus on the wanted item, picture it in one's head and then how to wave the wand.

Tom looked at his match, a piece of wood with a green head. He needed it to change into a shiny silver piece of metal with an eye on one end and a sharp point on the other.

Tom narrowed his eyes. He wanted his needle to be so sharp that it could pierce the skin without a problem. He wanted his needle thick to cause the pain while it drove into the flesh. When he imagined the shriek it would cause he smiled an ugly smile and waved his wand just so. The match disappeared and in its place lay a perfect needle. No sign of wood and no sulphur head, only pointed metal. He lifted his head with a triumphant smile and looked around. All other children were struggling with their task, waving their wands in exaggerated way, sticking their tongues out or bulging their eyes as if trying to Transfigure their matches with the sheer will of stare.

Tom's smile widened and he looked at Professor Dumbledore. The older man was scanning the class with benign expression on his face. Tom's gaze seemed to attract his attention. Dumbledore walked to Tom's table and looked at the result of his work.

"Very well, Tom. Your concentration is amazing."

Tom shrugged with false modesty. "Thank you, sir. It's easy when you know what you want."

"It certainly seems that you know, my boy," Dumbledore glided his hand over his long beard. "When I tried to Transfigure a match for the first time it turned into a toothpick. Probably I had beef for dinner."

Tom tried not to twist his lips with disgust. The old man thought he was funny or even worse - it was the truth.

Only one thought fully penetrated his brain. He was the best. The best of his class certainly, seeing how useless the rest of his peers was and maybe even better than his teacher, when he was his age. It warmed his insides.

***

The Slytherin common room was an absorbing place. The stories that were being told there, both those from everyday wizarding life and those which were only legends, fascinated Tom. The tale of a hidden chamber made by Salazar Slytherin and the monster locked in it was Tom's favourite.

Tom snickered. He liked the founder of his House more and more. To leave such a nasty surprise. What else had those Mudbloods deserved? They were asking for it, what with their obnoxious ignorance, gawping at the most simple spells, shrieking with fright when a suit of armour moved or corridor disappeared. It wasn't their world, they didn't belong here and they should have stayed in their filthy Muggle one. If they were so arrogant as to come here where they weren't welcome it was their own fault. They needed someone to show them their place, once and for all.

Listening to his dorm-mates' prattle reminded Tom every day what he wanted to know for so long: the story of his parents. He knew that his father abandoned his mother and she died the very same day she gave birth to him, leaving him alone. His father was probably alive. He didn't know that his son was magical; otherwise he wouldn't have left him among Muggle orphans. There was always a possibility that he knew and didn't care. Tom's fists clenched.

He must be a great wizard, considering his son's talent. There must be some trace of his attendance at Hogwarts. Tom wandered through the castle in search of his last name on the memorial plaques and on the cups in the Trophy Room but didn't find any mention.

None of the teachers spoke to Tom about his name, none made remark that he reminded some other Riddle, in appearance or abilities. Tom didn't want to ask, he decided to act carefully. There was no need to let anyone contact his father. Better if their first meeting would be a surprise for Mr Riddle Senior. Tom would take any advantage. He would gather all the knowledge he could and then act accordingly.

When the other methods had failed, the library seemed to be the only available source of information.

Tom took to spending a lot of his time there. Soon the librarian recognised him and became fond of him. After making sure that Tom could find his way around the shelves he was left alone. It was what he needed. Nobody would see what books piqued his interest thus nobody would be able to follow his search. It was wise to conceal his tracks.

Every evening Tom placed the stack of the books on the table and opened the first of them. Meticulously he waded through the names, places and events. One book after the other. From the first page to the very last. Nothing. Then the next one.

It seemed to be a pointless task.

When it became clear that any Riddle wasn't ever mentioned in magical history, recent or otherwise, Tom had to reconsider his beliefs. Maybe his mother wasn't as powerless as he had thought. He didn't like the idea of her side being his link with magical world because he didn't want weak, insignificant wizards as his ancestors.

Tom stroked the book's cover absentmindedly. Marvolo. This was the last trail he could follow. Again the stacks of books landed on his table and he was struggling arduously through their content, every day until the curfew.

***

In the early summer all students, who didn't sit their O.W.Ls or N.E.W.Ts, spent their time outside, on Hogwarts grounds. All except the tall, dark-haired boy in the furthest corner of the library. Had anybody observed him that day they wouldn't notice anything unusual. Tom sat at his regular table, his emotionless face lowered over an open book. Only if someone would be able to look into his downcast eyes they would see triumph and raging joy. There was nobody around to notice the eerie red colour that flashed in his eyes.

At that moment Tom decided to make Slytherin's idea come true, to find the Chamber of Secrets and free the monster, as only a true Slytherin's descendant could do. No Mudblood should be allowed at Hogwarts and he would fix this mistake.

Tom breathed with difficulty. He would finish the task Salazar Slytherin began one thousand years ago and wasn't able to finish. No-one was able to finish.

Another decision was made that afternoon. Tom Marvolo Riddle decided to change his name. His great goal shouldn't be accomplished by someone with a common first name and the last name of the filthy Muggle who thought it was his place to spurn the wizarding world.

Slytherin's descendant would have to choose his new name carefully, wizards should fear it. Tom knew that for some time he would have to stay in his old skin before it would be wise to shed it; he would have to lurk and strike when ready.

The serpents were excellent at this.
Tags: 2007_exchange_fic
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