Tom strolled through the dungeons, hands clasped loosely behind his back and considered, not for the first time, what a deluded moron Slughorn was.
“I confidently expect you to rise to Minister for Magic within twenty years…”
The fool. Did Slughorn not realise that he, Tom—
But he would have to change that, of course. Tom was such a dirty, commonplace name… he would need something altogether nobler, more elevated, to match his grand ambitions.
No. He was destined for far greater things than merely becoming Minister for Magic. His ambitions stretched far beyond the Ministry - dabbling in petty politics would not be in his future. Fate’s spinning threads promised so much more for Tom Riddle, Heir of Slytherin.
Heir of Slytherin.
The gold ring on his finger felt heavy with the weight of destiny. Tom’s lips twitched into a smirk.
He sauntered right past the entrance to his common room, and out of the dungeons entirely. Slughorn had warned him about being caught out of bed out of hours, but that was just another way in which the professor had proved his idiocy: why should he, Tom, concern himself with school rules? Rules were for lesser students - the mudbloods, the unambitious, the ones content to wallow among the dregs of society and blindly follow orders like the good little sheep they were. Not he. Never he.
The grand marble staircase seemed to glow beneath the pale light of the full moon that filtered through the tall windows of the floor above. Tom took his time walking up the stairs, his footsteps echoing around the empty hall, his fingertips gliding along the bannister.
He felt uncommonly pleased with himself. Slughorn had all but confirmed his theories, his months, years of meticulous research.
“And in any case… bad enough to divide the soul… but to rip it into seven pieces…”
He might have known that Slughorn would be too yellow-bellied to admit it openly, but Tom couldn’t risk approaching anyone else with his questions. The other professors were deep in Dumbledore’s pockets. Dumbledore already grew too suspicious; Dippet was just as idiotic as Slughorn, too idiotic to realise that another held the power in this school.
But not for long.
Still, Tom would have to tread carefully around Dumbledore.
He reached the girls’ bathroom and pushed the door open, not caring to look around and check that nobody was watching. He trusted that the castle would be deserted this late at night, trusted that no one would dare to interrupt or question him if they did see him.
And this was another area in which Tom’s superior intellect had excelled. No other had discovered the resting place of Slytherin’s monster but he. No other had had the fortitude, the resilience, the perseverance, the resourcefulness, to discover the Chamber of Secrets.
He approached the cluster of sinks in the centre of the room. The thought flashed through his mind that it had been quite an odd decision, that his ancestor had made, to choose this insignificant girls’ bathroom to house the entrance to perhaps his greatest achievement. Was there a special purpose there? A specific meaning that he, Tom, had yet to uncover?
Tom sniffed. Of course not - of course he had not missed anything. It would be some sentimental reason, no doubt. Perhaps Slytherin had fucked some witch in this bathroom and built his Chamber as a monument to her.
He, Tom, would never stoop to do such a nauseating thing. Yet another reason why he would succeed where his ancestor had not; why he would succeed to purge this school - no, the entire world - of those unworthy of the magic they had stolen.
He stood in front of the mirror and studied his reflection. People found him handsome. Fools. His appearance was the least interesting thing about him; the only thing, apart from his name, that he took from his muggle father. Everything else - his power, his intellect, his ambition - came from Slytherin and all his descendants, culminating, perfectly, in Tom.
He raised a hand to brush back his hair. The heavy Gaunt ring on his hand gleamed in the mirror. Tom looked down at it, twisted it, ran his thumb over the oddly-shaped black stone in its centre.
“Who are you? How did you get in here?”
Tom smirked as he recalled that most fruitful of days when he had reclaimed his ring and murdered his father.
“What do you want? What is that thing—”
“You ask too many questions, Father.”
The look of mingled surprise and horror on the muggle’s face as he lay sprawled on the gleaming floorboards of his own father’s home, grown pale in death, was one of Tom’s fondest memories. He wondered if he would ever experience that same joy in killing again. He hoped he would; it truly was the most delicious feeling.
He licked his lips, imagining he could taste the sweet tang of death even now, and hissed.
The taps glowed, the sink twisted and turned and sank out of sight. Tom glanced up at his reflection once more before lowering himself down into the dark pipe left exposed by the disappearing sink.
He landed on damp stone and sprung to his feet. His robes were cleaned and dried with a flick of his wand, and he sent light to the snake-headed torches above. The tunnel stretched on ahead of him, its damp walls glistening in the dim light. Tom walked on.
The long, winding tunnel ended in a solid stone wall, adorned with two beautifully-carved serpents. Their eyes glittered with emeralds; Slytherin’s jewels.
“Open,” Tom repeated.
As the wall began to grind open, Tom closed his eyes. When all had fallen quiet again he stepped forwards, into the Chamber, his eyes still closed.
“Speak to me, Slytherin, greatest of the Hogwarts Four!” he called out, in parseltongue.
He listened carefully as the sound of the basilisk’s slithering grew louder and louder until his nostrils were filled with its dank, musky scent. Until the slithering stopped and Tom could imagine the great snake lifting its neck and gazing down at him.
“Is it time, Master?”
“Not yet, Snake,” Tom hissed, amused.
“I grow weary of scraps.”
“Soon, my faithful servant. Soon you will have your fill, and more. Soon the corridors of this school will run red with the blood of your kills.”
“Now, Master. Let me now—”
Tom held out his hand and silenced the basilisk. It flickered its tongue over his outstretched palm and bowed its head. Tom ran his hand over the basilisk’s warm, smooth scales.
“You must learn patience, Snake,” he hissed. “I, your Master, have had my patience rewarded this night.”
“The idiot professor has confirmed my theories. Truly, an inspiration; how he will regret his little talks with me… or perhaps I will allow him to join me, as one of my followers. For I have the knowledge now, Snake. Now I hold the power of immortality in my hands - can you feel it, Snake? Can you feel the power?”
The basilisk flickered its tongue again.
“Master is powerful.”
“I am the last, Snake, the greatest, the most powerful descendant of Salazar Slytherin. I am your Master, Snake. And you will help me create another horcrux, a second vessel in which to store a piece of my soul, a second vessel with which to ensure my immortality.”
“Together, Snake, we will purge this school of mudbloods, the unworthy. Together will fulfil the destiny of your creator, of my forefather. Salazar Slytherin’s greatest desire will be achieved through you and me, Snake.”
“Yes, Master. Now, Master?”
“Soon, Snake. Soon.”
Tom stroked the basilisk one last time before banishing it back to its nest inside the statue of Salazar Slytherin. He felt the warmth of satisfaction spread through his chest, felt his fingertips tingle with anticipation of the blood and sacrifices to come.
He wondered if Slughorn would have enough brain cells to piece it together, to figure out what he, Tom, was planning - doubtful. He couldn’t wait for Slughorn’s next little get-together, couldn’t wait for the next deluge of praise Slughorn would heap upon him, couldn’t wait to watch Slughorn’s disgusting moustache tremble in excitement as he praised Tom’s latest accomplishments in Potions or Transfiguration or whichever great feat he happened to have achieved that week.
Perhaps, Tom considered, he would expose his greatest achievement to Slughorn, just to see the look on his professor’s face when he realised exactly how brilliant his favourite student was.
Soon, Tom. Soon.