December 31, 1943
In the blink of an eye, 1943 was coming to an end; the time-traveller connected to this era had quietly moved forwards for 17 years, whilst 2001, abiding by the duties of the clock's second hand, witnessed the passing of 40 days, minutes and seconds.
At first, the young man was frivolous and unafraid of the long years; certain and smug. Only when he suddenly woke up did he realise how little time he had left.
Such little time left, yet the present situation before his eyes still hadn't changed. In whatever way history was recorded, the evolution of time followed.
Harry Potter was helpless; desperately waiting for the death bell's ringing.
Yet, Fate didn't intend to just stop there; it continued to spread.
Just like now.
Tom was completing his Christmas holiday papers.
The handsome Slytherin wrote well; his handwriting was slender and soft with just the right touch of elegance between the letters.
The tip of his quill was slightly bent upwards, setting aside a tangent point of contact with the paper, and the steel tip reflected the orange light within the lounge as it made a rustling sound against the parchment.
Seven is a magical number, the Slytherin wrote, a hint of unrecognisable fanaticism apparent between each stroke of his quill, as seen from primeval astronomy.
Ancient wizards, using the rotation of the seven planets, derived a seven-day time-calculation system. Among the constellations observed, the Ursa Major, where the Big Dipper is located, was the brightest and most important. Even from a magical perspective, the seven-pointed star formation was regarded as the most powerful and uncontrollable magic array; the processes and materials of many powerful medicines are related to the number seven, for example, the concoction of the Polyjuice Potion requires seven ingredients…
Coincidentally, Muggle communities also place high regards on the difference of 'seven'. The Bible's recordings of seven days, the Seven Deadly Sins and heptagrams are all incredibly consistent with the conclusions wizards had reached. The Ancient Greeks believed the world to be composed of rectangles, triangles and circles, and the sum of angles to be exactly equal to seven…
It might seem a little illusory, but we may as well make an assumption. Seven is a very magical number. Can the effects of spells, potions, and magical arrays be increased through the number 'seven'?
Tom's nib paused before he wrote, calmly and restrained:
- This has yet to be confirmed.
Tom was still unable to prevent becoming Voldemort.
Even though he promised Harry he'd be 'just Tom Riddle' in the Chamber of Secrets, even though he promised to not make any excessive moves, nobody could stop his pursuit for power in theory. Of course, theory would eventually develop into practice.
Once an evolution begins, it would not be stopped easily.
The time left for Harry had begun counting down long ago.
Christmas this year had been exceptionally calm and uninteresting.
Tom didn't intend to spend this Christmas with Harry and had submitted a stay-in-school application under Harry's silent expression
But the Slytherin Prefect would never be alone; as long as he wanted to, he could make a pretentious friendship or find someone willing to accompany him whenever he wanted.
Though it was Christmas holidays, the Ministry of Magic still left behind many wizards.
' This is the Deputy Director of the Law Enforcement Department of the Ministry of Magic.' Abraxas, who had already graduated, had become increasingly more glamorous; with a bright smile, he made an introduction for the black-haired teenager by his side before once again turning to look at the official, whose face was filled with an expression of flattery. "Tom Riddle, my junior."
Tom nodded with a smile.
Although Malfoy made the understatement 'my junior', how could the Slytherins not hear the twists and turns within his words? What kind of a junior would the always-defiant Malfoy just simply introduce?
Moreover, it wasn't the first time they'd heard of the name Tom Riddle. An unexpected Slytherin freshman to an outstanding Slytherin Prefect who's probably going to become next year's Head Boy - their children's words made them understand just how excellent this teenager was.
So they got up and impassionedly introduced themselves, diligently opening the road of politics for the Slytherin and carrying their own ** to betray their friends and bosses.
These kinds of people, who'd pass off one's vigour to focus on their coquettishness and ignore one's strengths to pick on their uncertainty, were far too boring.
But those who take the lead would happily watch them; because it's also these kinds of people who bring the most benefits.
Just like this Deputy Director of the Law Enforcement Department of the Ministry of Magic. The Malfoys needed him to create legal gaps and use rules to cover up their improper means; whilst he needed the Malfoys' financial resources because he was unsatisfied just by sitting in the position of Deputy Director, one step away from Director.
This was how Slytherins did business; benefiting others and oneself in a win-win situation.
Tom had long been familiar with these rules.
Abraxas led Tom around the Ministry of Magic, as relaxed as he'd be in his own home.
"Abraxas." After a while, Tom suddenly opened his mouth to ask as he pointed to a man who came out of the fireplace and hurried past with an armful of documents. "Who is that?"
Abraxas swept away and lifted his chin. "Ovidius Parkinson's father. The father-son pair look very much alike."
"It's just…" The platinum peacock who'd never minded men or women laughed with vile. "This one's older."
The corner of Tom's lips hooked up as the face of that timid Slytherin came to mind - black hair, a sharp and thin chin, and pale skin. He looked quite good; it was a shame he was too weak and was always so… Annoying.
Tom would never forget the look of surprise on his face when Harry passed over his raised hand and chose him.
So Tom spoke with malice, "It seems you treat your bed partner pretty well; he's been very carefree lately."
Abraxas shrugged. "What? Did he provoke you?"
Tom didn't speak; just looked at Malfoy with a smile.
Just one conversation between the two determined the future and prospects of another.
This is the power that came from standing at the highest point of the pyramid.
"Actually, it's very unexpected of you to come to me." Abraxas turned his head to joke. "Why not spend Christmas with your Harry? Isn't it almost your birthday?"
Tom's eyes sank. Only in front of Abraxas could he slightly reveal the ugliness under his mask. In later records, the only name considered Tom's friend was Abraxas.
"Tom, I can't understand you anymore," Abraxas said, even though he never understood in the first place. "In the end, towards Harry… What were your thoughts?"
Tom was about to speak before he was suddenly interrupted by Malfoy.
"Hey, don't say just ** or something."
The Slytherin's footsteps slowed down as Tom pondered, his eyebrows raised. "Then, what kind of answer do you want to hear?"
"Tell me exactly how you feel about him. Your behaviour shows already more than just **."
Tom narrowed his eyes, a trace of crimson appearing within the darkness. "Maybe… There's 'like', but I'm certain I don't love him."
The two walked forward, lapsing back into silence. Tom had nothing to say, whilst Malfoy still seemed to be thinking.
Abraxas flicked his long hair, removing a tangled knot. "Tom, you're always very extreme about the word 'love'... Oh, of course, I'm not interested in acting as your confidant bestie."
He didn't know how many times the Slytherin emphasised 'I don't love him'.
But Ancient Greek poets, known as the source of wisdom, once said: "Whoever says they aren't in love, are in love."
Whatever Tom was thinking, Abraxas didn't know; he wasn't interested in knowing either. He had something more important to focus on,
"You care too much about him. If someone was to use him to threaten you, what would you do?" Abraxas walked ahead, his long platinum hair draped over his shoulder; it was eye-catching and beautiful. "You're standing by the Malfoy family's side; this may become a weakness troubling for me and my family."
Tom followed Malfoy, silent as if stuffily agreeing.
How could Malfoy, who thought he had it all figured out, see the curvature of the Slytherin's lips?
Firstly, Harry didn't belong to this era; he could leave this era anytime to avoid harm. Otherwise, the rules of time would protect him. Why else would he say 'I won't die' during the bombing of London? So, the assumption that someone would 'use him to threaten you' was invalid.
Secondly, he was never standing by the Malfoy family's side. He'd never play for anyone's side; his purpose was to make Malfoy surrender to him. Whether it was with strategy, his privileges, or sheer power, he wanted Malfoy to be his support. The so-called 'standing by the Malfoy family's side' were just words of self-righteousness by a still-young and inexperienced Malfoy.
Abraxas Malfoy was in high spirits; he mulled over how he should accomplish his brilliant family's duties with Tom's help as he voluntarily led his future 'support' towards their destination. Soon, he was knocking on the doors of the Ministry of Magic's high officials - he provided Tom with free access to direct contact with power.
The descendant of Slytherin grinned strangely.
Were Tom Riddle and Abraxas friends? Barely.
But interests came first.
Just like what Dumbledore had pursued for many years - everything was for the Greater Good.
As a friend though, Abraxas still qualified.
"How about it? Do you need me to help you with your birthday party?"
"No." Tom didn't hesitate to refuse.
Could it be he had plans?
December 31 arrived as scheduled.
The Slytherins sent their gifts early; Professor Slughorn's package also fell on Tom's cupboard early in the morning. Even Professor Dumbledore sent a box of vile-tasting honey drops.
Tom's eyes sunk slightly, and he seemed to fiddle around for a while.
None; none of the gifts had that name marked on it.
Tom sneered and pushed all the neatly-placed packages away from anger. Several small boxes fell to the ground, forcing their lids open, and revealed the bright gems and ornaments placed within. Maybe they weren't cheap, but the Slytherin stingingly refused to offer them a single glance.
He understood the Slytherins. They'd pick something not too eye-catching out from their family's treasury before throwing it to their house-elves, who were responsible for packaging and delivering. Such gifts were nothing more than a formality.
In the end, birthdays were just means and excuses to win over and mingle with people, nothing more.
Tom put on his Hogwarts robe; the customised school uniform looked more handsome on him compared to others. With a cold expression, he opened his bedroom door and walked out.
Pa! Fireworks exploded over the Slytherin's head and flamboyant ribbons fell onto him.
"Happy birthday." Someone flashed out from the side, showing him the box of cake in their hands, their curly black hair draped over their forehead and fading scar. "Um… This was… Andrew and his friends' ideas, they… Thought we had a fight." He touched his nose in embarrassment; standing before the child's calm gaze, he couldn't help but feel abashed.
Andrew and his friends? Those idiot Gryffindors.
Tom calmly loosened his grip around the handle of his wand and pulled his hand out of his school robe.
"Thank you," Tom said, his lips pursed as he followed Harry into the hall - to celebrate his birthday with an inexpensive cake.
Compared to a gorgeous birthday cake, the cake before him was filled with sugar and cream; its dreadfulness made Tom tut in disgust.
But it was undeniable; that group of idiots finally did something intelligent.