NOTE: This is a translation of a Chinese HP Fanfiction by 墨玉绿
BETA: the brilliant and awesome AzulticSerpens
September 1, 1938
"Do you have everything with you?"
Hurriedly, Harry walked ahead of the tall, prepubescent boy. The man was pushing a cart, stacked with many large and small trunks— and even an owl.
The boy nodded slowly, thin lips pursed tight. He didn't look too happy.
"Hey, cheer up! I remember how excited I was to go to Hogwarts," Harry joked, puzzled by Tom's somber mood.
Young Tom Riddle halted suddenly.
Harry stopped too. He turned around to look at the boy inquisitively.
"... Can't you come with me?" Tom peered at him, hesitant.
The boy's pure black eyes reminded Harry of the tranquil night sky, where, against the backdrop of a profound ever-expanding darkness, countless stars still glittered brightly like rays of hope.
Harry stood by the reluctant boy, green eyes inspecting his roundish handsome face. Finally, Harry grinned.
Yes, he couldn't stop Tom from entering the Wizarding world, and he couldn't deny him the chance to attend Hogwarts. He also couldn't predict Tom's growth and inevitable changes. So he worried about how the boy would mature under the guidance and snares of the magical school. He worried about the future. But, at least right now, Tom would still wait for him inside the train station and ask him this childish question — can't you come with me?
Harry's grin grew wide. It coloured his green eyes with warm affection.
"Silly Tom, who brings their fathers to school with them?"
Tom frowned and turned away without another word. Disappointment slumped his thin shoulders, his eyes darkening with unreadable emotions.
Harry doesn't look like a father at all. Tom considered carefully as he looked around at the chattering faces. If Harry put on a Hogwarts uniform, he could easily pass as a sixth or seventh-year student. This aroused Tom's suspicions, because Harry's appearance hadn't changed one bit in the six years they had lived together.
It is probably because of magic, Tom pondered, but he didn't pursue the question any further.
Before them, the red steam engine train was blowing white smoke toward the sky, hot steam hissing as the engine rumbled. Harry glanced at his watch; it was three minutes to ten.
"Hurry! Go on. Remember to change into your uniform in the compartment before arrival—" Harry gave Tom's shoulder a reassuring squeeze and pushed the boy forward. He hesitated, before adding a rumbling list of advice. "Be nice... to your classmates. Make some friends. Don't be rude. Tom, study hard and enjoy your time at Hogwarts."
Tom didn't respond, instead, he remained in place, his eyes transfixed on Harry's face, watching him intently as the young man fussed about.
"Come on! Come on! It's time, Tom, you have to get on the train."
Still, Tom didn't move. The boy looked lost in thoughts. After a moment of silence, he looked up, determined black eyes meeting Harry's green ones.
"Harry...What will you do while I'm at Hogwarts?"
"Me?... I'll be at home, waiting for you to return, of course."
Beautiful ebony eyes continued to scrutinize Harry with a piercing acumen. Suddenly, the boy smiled brightly, a wondrous and handsome smile, just like how Harry had often smiled at him, with warmth and sincerity that burned like the sun. But only the child knew his smile was not like Harry's at all. Beneath that friendly smile, he was all sharp teeth and dark desires, a predator ready to kill to protect his home territory.
He promised. He had said, I'll be waiting for you to return home.
Soon enough, the Hogwarts Express was speeding down the countryside of Scotland. The train cars no longer jolted once the train reached its optimum speed. The train glided along smoothly, puffing white smoke underneath blue sky. Outside the windows were endless green rolling hills, a breathtaking and refreshing wild expanse that had yet to be tainted by civilization.
Tom sat by a window, watching the landscape rolling by. His fingers lingered on his wrist, rubbing the cool exposed skin. Too bad he had to leave behind the little snake to guard the inferi. He was already missing her and the reassuring presence of her cold body crawling up his arm.
"You there, first-year—" One of the other occupants in the train compartment snapped his fingers.
Tom turned to look at the older boy. Instantly, his eyes narrowed at the boy's pompous resplendence— sparkling blonde hair, sparkling gold-gilded wand, sparkling silver buttons, sparkling leather loafers.
"Is that any way to greet your fellow senior schoolmates?" The older boy leaned toward Tom, an annoyingly jaunty expression on his face as he ran a hand across the boy's cheek.
Honestly, Abraxas Malfoy's attire wasn't as ridiculous as Tom had described it. To most people, Malfoy the younger was sophisticated and noble. The young pure-blood had impeccable taste and a devilishly handsome face (if he do say so himself), with his smooth shoulder-length blonde hair, tailored white silk shirt, and military-grade black boots.
Tom stared at the unwelcome invader blankly. He did not even flinch as the annoying finger prodded at his cheek.
"How boring," Malfoy shrugged at the child's disappointing stillness. He retreated back into his seat.
Tom smirked cruelly. Since Harry wasn't here, he had no need to pretend any more— one more second, and dear Abraxas might have found himself missing a finger... or two.
Not even bothering to look up from her book, a girl sitting next to the boy commented offhandedly, "Malfoy, you are such a prick."
Malfoy slumped against the leather seats, and replied in a causal drawl. "Yeah, yeah, just bored."
Out of the corner of his eyes, Malfoy observed the seemly harmless first-year with interest. His carefully-honed, high-society sensibilities warned him that this first-year was going to be someone special.
Of course, a Malfoy never jumped to conclusion without staunch evidence. Before the train had left the station, Abraxas saw the boy through the window, standing obediently by his guardian's side. His head hung low, meekly listening to the young man's every words, almost too respectful and duteous for a child of his age. But, as soon as the young man had disappeared from view, the child's demeanour changed completely. From his small body, a dark aura and turbulent magic came alive, almost frightening in their powers.
Like he was a caged beast being set free—
Malfoy shrugged and closed his eyes.
For sure, this is one is a Slytherin. Ambitious and dangerous, through and through.
"At Hogwarts, there are four houses— Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin," Harry had explained to him once.
Tom remembered everything Harry had ever told him about Hogwarts, including the slight hesitation that came with mentioning Slytherin.
Slytherin? Just as the word popped into his mind, the ugly hat on his head started to quiver. A small voice whispered in his ears.
"So... so you want to go to Slytherin?"
Tom inspected the Great Hall, concealing his surprise carefully. None of the teachers and students seemed to be able to hear it.
"Psst, I'm inside your head," the ugly hat replied before a question even formed in his mind. It paused, before resuming talking again. "Hey, little prat, you can't tell me to bugger off— I'm the great sorting hat—"
Tom decided to ignore the voice as it droned on and on, prodding annoyingly at his mind.
"So you want to go to Slytherin? I don't know if that's the best choice for a half-blood like you. Maybe... WAIT! HOLD ON! —" Suddenly, the dry croaking voice started shouting. Tom's ears rang painfully. It paused again, and Tom thought he had felt a tremble of shock passing through the old hat. "Oh Merlin, are you—?! Of course, then you must go to Slytherin—"
Before Tom could even respond, the hat announced loudly.
Harry never told Tom about the prejudiced nature of Slytherin society, because he wanted to give the boy a chance to form his own opinions. However, when the sorting concluded, Tom was observant enough to notice that Slytherins did not welcome him, deducing from the muted applauses and his housemates' judgemental glares.
By all appearances, the boy should've fit in nicely with the snobby, well-dressed crowd: he had impeccable manners, rich jet-black hair and sharp aristocratic features; he had the right countenance, proud and intelligent with a straight backbone and neatly pressed robes; and, most importantly, ever since he had left Harry's side, he had unleashed a dangerous charisma that spoke of his willingness to do anything to achieve his goals. Yes, he was a Slytherin in every conceivable way — in every way, except the most important one.
All Slytherin children remained quiet in their seats, not like their neighbours, the Gryffindors, who were already in an uproar greeting their newest members.
Tom sat down on an empty seat by the end of the long table. No one greeted him.
"Riddle? Not a pure-blood name, is it?" Someone asked from across the table. But from the boy's unfriendly eyes, it was obvious that the question wasn't addressed to Tom.
"Nope, never heard of it in any wizarding families," another answered.
"So... Is it a mudblood?" A girl snickered.
Tom couldn't understand the extent of their insults... Not that he cared for the opinions of children. No, right now, he was thinking about the Sorting Hat.
It had said, " Are you—?!" and "You must go to Slytherin—"
Why must he go to Slytherin?
It seemed the Sorting Hat knew some secrets about Tom, something that Tom himself didn't know... Something like his parentage, perhaps? Beyond the utter commonness of his name— there must be something special about Tom... whether it is his bloodline or his powers...
Who was he?
As expected, the Slytherin Common Room was furnished lavishly. Exquisite marble fireplace, intricately carved high ceilings, enormous glittering chandeliers— everywhere was glided by wealth and legacies from Slytherin's distinguished alumni. Their noble house deserved only the very best, with assets and furniture that would be envy of kings.
"Very good... I hope all of you will last and thrive in Slytherin," a fifth-year Prefect said. His arms folded across his chest causally, as he inspected the nervous first-years. "Now for our noble house motto—"
"We rise from mud and blood. We aim for power. We grow from ambition. We are strong and steady. We are restraint and grace. We do not rue. We are Slytherins— such are our house words. Do remember it! Of course, the most important part you should know already — We aim for power; we grow from ambition."
The Prefect paused, rewarding them with a sinister smile. "Honestly, compared to the house motto, I prefer something simpler — No matter the means, no matter the sacrifices, winning is all that matters. Winning is our honour."
Tom stood amongst the first-years, a newly-minted Slytherin crest on the breast of his black robe. He listened carefully, eagerly. He licked his lips, a sweetness like the copper taste of blood spreading in his mouth, enough to arouse the dark magic growing within.
No matter the means, no matter the sacrifices, winning is all that matters.
Winning is our honour.
Slytherin — a place where illusions of glamorous riches and bright futures hid all the dark secrets of its rotting core, all its rotting, cunning, paranoid, selfish, ruthless, ambitious and glorious core. It was a place made for men like Tom.
Under the green lights, the child's beautiful obsidian eyes gleamed bright, hiding the fervent madness within.
The Sorting Hat was right. He was a Slytherin.
In time, he would come to love this place.
"My Lord?" The Death Eaters trembled before their master.
On the tall throne, the Dark King seemed to have fallen into a trance.
Was...was he napping... during the meeting?
Suddenly, Voldemort snapped his attention back to his followers, all of whom cowered under his scarlet scrutiny. He gestured toward a man who was giving a report. "Continue—"
The red-eyed, black-haired Dark Lord leaned casually in his throne, the words of his childhood flashed in his mind.
No matter the means, no matter the sacrifices, winning is all that matters. Winning is our honour.
Never mind why he was reminiscing about his school days at a time like this... Such memories only awoke the bloodlust within his veins.
Voldemort cut off the speech of his subordinate quite suddenly.
"Get ready for battle! Let us go pay our saviour a little visit— and have some fun, shall we?" He stood up, a formidable figure towering over them. To all those present, the Dark Lord's quiet yet vicious tone sent a shiver down their spines, as it surely was harbinger of the bloody slaughter to follow.
Death Eaters roared excitedly.
Contrary to popular belief, Slytherins were not cowards. They did not shy away from battles, cowering in some war room, only looking to save their own necks. No— more than anyone else, they understood the chaos and necessity of war. Power was their calling, and thus, war was in their blood.
Even if victory demands for eight-hundred lives of their own men to kill all one-thousand enemies, then so be it— Winning is all that matters; sacrifices are necessary.
A Slytherin never gives up, because he cannot lose.
If Gryffindor's flaws were their impetuosity and thoughtlessness, then ironically, Slytherins' flaw was their mad, all-consuming determination.
Harry sat in front of his desk, wondering whether he should compose a letter to Tom. But as ink dripped down his quill and dried on parchment paper, he still couldn't think of anything to say.
Oh, never mind— After all, he should be back in time for the Christmas holiday, then he could talk to Tom in person. Harry smiled and laid down the quill.
He fished out the silver chain from under his collar and clutched the miniature hourglass. It felt warm, heated by his own body. Carefully, he spun it, and, once again, time began speeding forward.
It was time for him to go home.
Fate sat behind its chess board, planning its moves. History was a series of teetering events. If merely one piece fell out of line, then empires would crumble.