August came and went, September hot on its heels as the Hogwarts Express made its way to the school. Students were milling about, shouting joyously and hugging, sharing photos and souvenirs of their summer vacation travels, or mourning over unfinished revision.
Naturally, the Slytherins refrained from behaving like so. They, who have always prided themselves on tact and poise, looked on the robust Gryffindors with contemptuous eyes filled with derision and used their remaining glamour to compose themselves. Even if they, too, hadn't completed their assignments or spent their summer in disarray, they still had appearances to keep.
Surely, hypocrisy could be found in their vanity and postures.
Tom silently watched it all unfold, a detached and passive smile lingering on his lips.
These people were nothing more than disposables, and could only, at best, play the role of his stepping stones.
The corpses left in the cave, his territory, had fully matured. The power of the inferi made Tom completely obsessed - the only things left to do were minor builds and minute modifications. However, Tom alone couldn't afford such a large expense; so the cunning Slytherin eyed the students before him, silently debating with himself as to who would serve best as his next stepping stone.
Such swine should feel grateful for the opportunity to serve the great Slytherin descendant, isn't that so?
The corners of Tom's lips hooked up, his cruelty causing his kind facade to flicker for a fraction of a second.
Black, Prince, Lestrange and the recently graduated Malfoy... Tom's eyes swept across the Slytherin table; everyone was nothing more than a pawn in his eyes.
Weren't Abraxas Malfoy and Cygnus Black his friends, you might ask?
Tom's response would only be a chuckle.
Dumbledore, who was sitting on a staff seat, clapped his hands to signal silence; Headmaster Armando Dippet cleared his throat and spoke. "Welcome, once again, to another year at Hogwarts. I am pleased to announce that this year, our faculty has made some changes..." He paused, then shook his head helplessly. "Oh, he hasn't come yet. Then let's eat first."
Immediately, all kinds of fragrant foods appeared on the long tables, letting the students who just took a seat burst into cheers. As for the new teacher? Who cared!
Tom raised his eyes and looked at the quivering, elderly woman sitting beside Dumbledore and tutted. Merrythought, the old hag, still hadn't retired?
Defence Against the Dark Arts was a joke to the Slytherins. Merrythought had always stressed on defence, keen on telling them how to subdue stupid, ugly trolls, expel ghouls from the corners of a room, shield house-elves from harassment, and so on. How could it possibly be taken seriously? The real Dark Arts consisted of curses as insidious as Crucio and as fatal as Avada Kedavra!
Defence Against the Dark Arts should involve actual Dark Arts; it was utterly senseless to remove the Dark Arts and only talk about defence.
"If they didn't deduct points for it, I would've gone back to the dorms already," Cygnus whinged, yawning as he walked beside Tom.
Tom didn't comment; just smilingly sat down onto his seat.
No matter how much disdain he felt in his heart, his exterior was still that of an outstanding student.
But Tom never thought there would be a day like this.
"Oh, isn't that…?" Cygnus exclaimed as his back straightened in shock, his original drowsiness instantly dissipated as he looked at the young man by the entrance doors. He swallowed back his words after seeing Tom's expression.
Merrythought stood on the podium, and even her voice trembled - she was indeed too old.
"I introduce you to my new aid, Mr Potter. You may know him as one of last year's Triwizard Tournament judges." Merrythought smiled, pleating her old face. "Maybe in a few years, he'll become your Professor too."
"Hello everyone. I'm Harry Potter."
Tom never thought there would be a day where he'd sit under the podium, and the young man standing by the doors would become his professor.
He didn't feel surprised or happy but outraged for being on the receiving end of this deception. Harry never mentioned a word in front of him; not even when he'd been sent off to the Hogwarts Express with a gentle smile.
More importantly, Harry cannot stay at Hogwarts!
Tom had plans; plans that Harry had no business being part of. This year, Tom wanted to open the Chamber of Secrets, release Slytherin's wrath, delve into the darkest part of Hogwarts, and control the supreme power of Slytherin's legacy! Such dark ambitions, he must not let Harry have a single chance of discovering!
The Slytherin didn't consider his plans to be too dark, but he knew how Harry would react.
Harry cannot stay at Hogwarts!
But would Harry leave? No.
Would Tom Riddle cease his pursuit for power? Similarly not.
It was a sad yet ridiculous cycle. The Slytherin made sure to nurture his keen ambition for power; it was never allowed to die, not even for Harry! His calm, cold-blooded nature and sensibility made it very clear to him that strength and power were his ultimate goal - Harry was just a display of success!
But the Slytherin, who had a chance of unopposed success in his plans, ignored the fact that reason and emotions have always been two separate entities; even if he could tolerate reason, the same could not always be said for emotions.
What if Harry found out?
He'd go mad. Just like how Bluebeard's unbearable past was found out by his beloved wife, and she raised the axe above him; he'd go crazy.
The Slytherin gathered restraint over his emotions once again and looked at the young black-haired man. Tom smiled gently, it's brilliance so bright Harry could only look back helplessly in a daze; entranced by the sun, ignoring the traces of fire underneath.
Harry never thought there would come a day like this either.
He stood at the platform, looking down on forty or fifty pairs of eyes as he stumbled over his introduction to the Shield Charm.
He was only a teaching assistant, so whenever Merrythought was physically unavailable he'd substitute and teach the children for her.
"The Shield Charm is a powerful protection spell." Harry said, his voice finally found as his thoughts organised and stiff neck straightened, "It can resist most Dark Arts, such as the Severing Charm, Incarcerous Spell, Langlock Jinx, and other offensive spells. Most physical attacks can also be repelled."
The Gryffindors before him yawned shamelessly. Even those theoretical textbooks were more descriptive than Mr Potter, who had only unknowingly spoken in half measures.
"Hm, I think I need a volunteer." This statement immediately grabbed at the impatient Gryffindors' attention.
"Tom, will you come help?" Harry set his eyes on the handsome Slytherin sitting at the back table, his green eyes irrefutable.
"Of course, it'll be my pleasure." The tall, handsome boy stood up from his seat, the smile by the corners of his mouth oozing charm.
Harry winked at Tom, looking so bright Tom wanted to reach out and touch him.
"Tom, I want you to cast an offensive spell at me. I'll defend myself using the Shield Charm," Harry said, drawing out his brand-new Phoenix wand. In the narrow classroom, he moved into a defensive and alert posture, his sudden concentration making Tom narrow his eyes.
He liked Harry's tight posture but disliked his vigilant eyes. Those… Cold eyes he'd seen many instances a long time ago.
So he raised his hand, eyes flashing. "Legilimens."
The Shield Charm did resist most offensive spells, but Legilimency wasn't included; Occlumency was the only act that could stop it. However, Harry didn't have the habit of running it consistently like Snape as he was used to being trustful of family and friends.
So the intrusion was easy.
Instantly, there was an image in Tom's mind - a woman, a baby, the hissing of a snake-like voice, then a vision filled with green light.
After the beginning of the war, Harry was no longer the seventeen, eighteen-year-old boy who could only disarm the curse. He could firmly withstand the Cruciatus Curse, escape the Killing Curse, and practice Occlumency to its furthest limits the moment his brain gets invaded.
Tom stared at Harry. His initially smooth invasion was immediately blocked, turning him away before he could hear more information. His Occlumency was flawless; even the eyes that had always shone incredibly brightly had begun to cast grey, their emotions and vitality fading as they became terrifyingly dull, bringing with it an illusion of death. Tom looked into his eyes and was almost suffocated by that illusion, so he stopped his magic.
"Harry, are you okay?" With his eyes glimmering, Tom always managed to find the right expressions - anxious, worried and at a loss.
Harry gasped out and gradually recovered, shuddering from the feeling of his memory being turned over. Tom, however, didn't show any sense of abnormality, allowing Harry to feel slightly more at ease. He didn't dare imagine how furious the child would be if Tom knew he was from the future and what his purpose was. Only he understood how much he hated betrayal and concealment.
"It's nothing." Harry took a deep breath and calmed his accelerated heartbeat. Looking down the platform at the curious students, he smiled. "The Shield Charm can resist most Dark Arts, but Legilimency isn't included. This goes for the three Unforgivable curses, * black flames charm and other powerful Dark magic as well."
*I believe this is referring to 'Protego Diabolica', used by Grindelwald in 'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald'
The students beneath them exhaled - never before had a professor so brazenly mentioned the names of the Dark Arts in front of them.
"Assistant Potter, are you good at the Dark Arts?" A Gryffindor asked with his hand raised, curiously and defensively looking over the twenty-something-year-old assistant. With one question, the entire classroom of two Houses perked up their ears.
Harry smiled wryly. "I believe not."
"Then have you ever used the three Unforgivable curses before?" Asked a Slytherin girl sharply. Tom turned his gaze on her and silently remembered her name.
Harry was silent for a moment, then nodded calmly. "Yes, I used the Cruciatus Curse to kill my godfather's murderer."
His tone was casual, but it made Tom's breath stutter; his heart skipped a beat and a strange feeling instantly seeped into his body. He felt hollow and empty.
Who was the murderer?
This question made Tom feel cold from the inside-out.
"Alright, let's put this question aside for now. Tom, let's continue our demonstration."
Harry only used the Cruciatus Curse once, against Bellatrix. Harry had suffered from the curse too and understood the bone-searing pain, yet he could only allow the red light that sparked from the tip of his wand make Bellatrix fall. He hated her but he still held his principles, just like how he faced Voldemort but never used the Killing Curse.
Tom was already vaguely aware. At least… The terrifying assumption in his mind had already taken shape.
When he invaded Harry's mind, the strange scene he saw seemed to explain his connection to the Unforgivable curse… The green Killing Curse.
Intuition told Tom Riddle that the murderer who killed his godfather and the person who initiated the Killing Curse was somehow related to him.
The murderer, Tom Marvolo Riddle.
Or 'I am Voldemort'.