He was already bored before the Start-Of-Term feast even began.
Tom Riddle, the fifth year prefect in House of Slytherin, who just returned to his only home - Hogwarts after another unbearable summer in Wool’s orphanage. This magical castle of mysteries was where the orphan found his true self and built his kingdom. He might have stepped into this castle as a malnourished, unwanted child, but he had certainly grown during the past four years. With his flawless performance, he was top in every of his classes. Students worshiped him, teachers favored him. A shiny “prefect” badge fastened on his chest, the exact prove of his excellence.
But of course Tom’s ambition was far from that.
He hated weakness. He had sworn to himself that one day he would become the most powerful and greatest wizard in the world. For 4 years he had collected his wings and claws, with a little gang of his - Knights of Walpurgis - bowed to his power. Edward Avery, Ralph Lestrange, Reeves Rosier, Blake Mulciber and Perry Nott, all these Slytherin boys were either from an old, pure-blood family, or infamous for cruelty, but none of them easy to bend. Yet they acknowledged Tom Riddle, an orphan with an unrecognizable surname, as their lord.
The lord of power, the lord of desire, the lord of darkness.
Tom wasn’t attending the little chat his knights heatedly engaging right now, but he knew how the other boys observed his reaction during the conversation. With a gesture, he could switch this to whatever he liked, to hear whatever he wanted to. However, at this very moment, he needed a little time for his own.
Yes, it was miracle that him, a nameless nobody, could pull the strings on those pure-blood heirs. But this was not enough, way not enough for his ambition. What he had now was nothing more than a school boy group. What they had done was schoolyard games at most. But the world outside was cruel.
He needed more than that - he needed to be influential, he needed to be connected with upper class, he needed respect from the whole Wizarding world. But with an unrecognizable name, he was merely a floating duckweed trying to hold onto something solid to avoid flowing with crowd and vanishing in the stream of history.
If he wanted to accomplish something truly remarkable in this world, he needed a root of his own. He needed to know his parentage, needed a respectful surname, a connection to the most ancient, noble magical family, a prove of his superiority.
Of course he had never considered what else a family could mean for him. What was family love compared with limitless power? He had his ambitious dream, his endless thirst. Those were enough to fuel his life.
Tom frowned at the rambling speech about safety issues. Yes, with Gellert Grindelwald ravaging the whole European continent, one could only expect the intensified horror and strengthened ward for safeguard, even if Hogwarts was claimed to be the safest place in the world.
He was dying to go to Hogwarts library already, where he had spent most of his spare time trying to find a trace of his parentage. He had searched his father’s name - Tom Riddle senior - on the shields in the trophy room, on the lists of students’ names in the old school records, even in the books of Wizarding history, but nothing valuable had come to him. Reluctantly, he had to admit there was certainly no Riddle who ever set foot in Hogwarts. Just before the summer break, He started to investigate his middle name, Marvolo, which he knew from the orphanage had been his grandfather’s name. That single name was his only clue now. It would be a protracted struggle, he was sure.
Yet he was so desperate to know. It was clear that he, Tom Marvolo Riddle, the most outstanding student in Hogwarts for decades, could never be a nobody. He had the rare ability of Parseltongue, the very talent of Salazar Slytherin himself. He knew deeply that the greatest ancient blood was in him. What he needed was more clue, more evidence, so he could announce it to the rest of the world, to claim what was his.
He knew he was never meant to be ordinary. He was special, with great things waiting for him in the future.
Tom sighed in relief when the headmaster, Armando Dippet, finally stopped his speech, which meant this torment would end soon.
But well, he was being too optimistic about it.
“We have a special transfer student this term. I am mostly delighted to introduce young Harry Granger. He is going to start his education in Hogwarts as a second-year student. Now, would you please come front, Mr. Granger?” the headmaster started talking again, in a tone which was too gentle and disgusted Tom a little.
Tom didn’t even notice that too small figure near the gate until it started moving. It was a short, lean boy with a pair of glasses and messy raven-colored hair that resembled a bird nest. He seemed to be around 12, or 11, so small that Tom could barely see him through the crowd. The boy was dressed in over-sized robes, so large on him that Tom wondered how he managed to walk without being trapped. Even from distance, it was clear that the little boy was trembling all the way to the High Table, which was actually quite comical.
“Pathetic little thing there, isn’t it?”
Lestrange chuckled on his left, and Tom couldn’t agree more.
“Mr. Granger just lost his family in Grindelwald’s followers’ merciless attack. He is experiencing the greatest misfortune in a war, therefore I expect nothing but warmth and welcome from both staff and students.” Professor Dippet introduced in a solemn way, then he turned to the boy and said.
“As I explained about sorting, Mr. Granger, there are four houses in Hogwarts- Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin, whichever house you are in, I hope you find home there.”
Professor Dippet smiled benignly to the boy, who returned him a nervous nod.
Soon the sorting hat covered the entire head of the boy, so Tom could no longer see his face. Not that he’s interested, it was just a very unusual condition. He had never heard of transfer students in Hogwarts, even during his endless research in Hogwarts history and student name lists.
It became even more unusual as it seemed a life time for the hat to decide, as if the hat was considering that little boy as a comfortable hat stand and would never let go.
“Merlin, I’m starving. I bet that git is actually a Squib. That bloody hat is not sorting him anywhere.” Nott cursed under breath.
“If he’s a Squib he’ll never be here.” Tom replied in amusement. “Patience, Nott.”
But it was just peculiar, so peculiar. He could already hear murmurs everywhere around the hall. He became more and more curious like everyone else did.
After another life-time long waiting.
Tom could literately hear the whole hall sighed in relief as the hat shouted. He also noticed that the boy definitely became paler and trembled more furiously. He gazed as Granger climbed down the stool, shared an awkward handshake with headmaster, walked to Slytherin’s long table and sat at the very end. Clearly Granger wasn’t happy about the sorting.
Well, no matter what it is, it seemed at least he’d got another duty as a prefect then.
The feast finished uneventfully. Tom approached the new comer who seemed to be at a loss. He couldn’t really blame the boy for not socializing properly though. He knew too well about being an outsider.
He didn’t expect the boy jolted to his voice, nor did he expect meeting the boy in the eye would bring him a sensation that was -
- was like he could find something long lost behind those emerald eyes.
He lost words for a while. Something about the boy smoothed his unsettling soul. Something warm, something nostalgic, something home.
Like greeting with a long-lost friend, or welcoming a family, although he had neither.
He knew something there, unexpected and indescribable, he just couldn’t understand why.
Granger was staring him nervously. He cleared his throats, finding his voice again.
“My name is Tom Riddle, Slytherin’s prefect. Please follow me, I will lead you to our common room.”
And he must have imagined the shock in the boy’s eyes.