Chapter 1 : Resolute
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“I would say happy new year but it's not happy; it's exactly the same as last year except colder.”
― Robert Clark
Lying face down on his bed, he tosses the last of the letters onto the pile on the floor; a flick of his wand sets them on fire, a thin trickle of smoke curling in the air. For a moment, he watches the orange flames licking at the edges of the parchment, dyeing them black, consuming them. He smiles, briefly, and then sits up, turning his attention back to the small pile of gifts on his bed.
So far, he’s received eight books, a vial of Felix Felicis and a box of expensive truffles Slughorn had pressed on him that morning. His friends, he thinks, have no originality, no creativity beyond their dull, ordinary lives. He knows they can’t help it – not everyone can be exceptional, after all, and no one can be quite as good as him – but it annoys him all the same.
Of course, he doesn’t mind the presents: the books are at least passably interesting, the truffles already half-eaten. The Felix Felicis still drips occasionally, shards of glass embedded in the plaster from where he’d hurled it against the wall. He does not need a potion, even one for luck. He would create his own luck, if he ever needed it, and he never needs it. The semi-circles on his palms are still there, pale now; evidence of his fury at the insinuation that he needs assistance.
He has never needed assistance. He will never need assistance.
Opening the last of the parcels on his bed, shreds of paper scattered over his sheets, he stares, unblinking, at the mirror in front of him. Blank, surrounded by a slender silver frame, he can see himself in it: grey eyes and dark hair, the collar of his white shirt crumpled a little. He’s not sure why he would want a mirror, but even as he watches himself blink slowly, his mind is already spinning. He could charm it, perhaps, to trick the user and leave it somewhere for some stupid babbling girl to find; or curse it – he’s always been fascinated by the thought that he could drive someone out of their own mind.
Yes, he muses, smiling at his reflection, perhaps it’s not a completely useless gift after all.
His attention snaps, and he swings his legs off his bed, hands absently going to smoothen out his hair and tuck his shirt into his trousers. It hardly matters since no one will see him anyway, but the idea of someone seeing him in any state other than perfection is abhorrent.
Slipping out of his room and down the corridor, into the abandoned common room, he picks up his pace, stride turning arrogant, almost jaunty. There’s a gleam in his eyes as he pulls out his wand just before the exit, and he stops, pauses, then whispers the charm. Instantly, he blends in with the surroundings, barely visible.
Remarkable, he praises himself in Dumbledore’s voice – the one the professor uses when talking to other students, not to him – really, truly remarkable to perform such a complicated spell at such a young age.
As he makes his way silently up through the school, passing the Grey Lady and Professor Kettleburn, he wonders what to get himself. There are so many things he wants to know, needs to know, and he’d take all of it if he could: smuggle it all into his room, flipping eagerly through page after page, devouring information, until he knows everything.
Maybe he will. It would be foolish and reckless, but if there was ever anyone who could pull it off he knows it’s him. No one would ever suspect him – not him, not Dippet’s golden boy who smiles so prettily with his perfect, spotless record.
It would be foolish, though, and he prides himself on not being foolish. He has never been a fool.
Still, though, he has to get something good – something more than the other times. He’s not ever going to turn sixteen again, after all.
“For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.”
― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
Slowly, he traces over the Hogwarts logo emblazoned on the inside cover of the book in red ink, his hand steady. This is the third one he’s done so far and he feels an inexplicable satisfaction once he’s finished. There, for all the world to see, the evidence of his crime.
He blows on the ink, leaving the book open on his bed to dry, before popping the last of Slughorn’s chocolates in his mouth, licking his fingertips. They really are very good; perhaps if he thanks the man enough, plays the poor orphan card again, he might be able to wrangle another box before term starts. Slughorn is always more generous after a few cups of wine: he’ll try tomorrow evening.
Sitting still, he admires his latest acquisitions, lying in a heap on his bed: six books, none of them with titles inscribed on the covers, but he knows what they contain – he flicked through them to see if he wanted them, after all. He would have taken more (wanted more) but he couldn’t carry more than six at one time. A later night, once he’s got bored with these ones, he might go back and pick up the rest of his birthday present.
Four minutes pass while he sits there, eyes roving over the open pages of the books, reading and re-reading titles, re-arranging the words in his head, trying to guess what each one will contain, what secrets he’ll learn from them. It’s an old game, one he hasn’t played in years – preoccupied with his live games here at Hogwarts – but it amuses him for a while.
Then he’s bored again, and, just to make things worse, he’s restless. It doesn’t show, not on the outside, by him drumming his fingers against the mattress or swaying from side to side; it’s not to do with excess energy, like some of his housemates, it’s more of an intellectual restlessness. His mind is working too slowly, and he wants a challenge.
It should be something good, too, something impressive: it’s the New Year in less than thirty minutes, and he’s only just turned sixteen. Both are important occasions – though he honestly doesn’t understand why, just knows that they are – and it seems only right that he start the year in style. With a victory, of sorts.
This year, he has become a prefect, learned the Imperious Curse (and perfected it on some of his more unaware and stupider housemates), studied the Cruciatus in detail, made the Head Girl’s owl vanish and then turn up dead on the windowsill of her bed in Ravenclaw tower after she tried to take points off him for being out after curfew, created a new identity for himself, and has taken control of Slytherin House, despite his muggle surname. Next year, oh, next year he will be beyond impressive; he will be extraordinary.
Not that he isn’t already, it’s simply a matter of showing those who don’t believe him.
Jumping off his bed, breathing out a soft, hissed ‘yes’, he smiles to himself in the dim light of his room. Oh yes, now that is perfect.
He will silence everyone who ever doubted his heritage, he will make them fear and admire him in one stroke, he will make them bow to him when he emulates Slytherin himself, when he finishes his ancestor’s last and greatest task.
“A bridge of silver wings stretches from the dead ashes of an unforgiving nightmare
to the jeweled vision of a life started anew.”
― Aberjhani, The River of Winged Dreams
It is five minutes to midnight, according to his watch, and he stands in front of the statue, refusing to shiver even though it’s cold. His heart beats loudly, fast in his chest, and adrenalin surges through his veins. He has done it (though, really, he found all the information years ago, it’s just now is the first time he put it all together and used it): he is the first person since Salazar himself to stand here, flanked by carved stone serpents, in the Chamber of Secrets.
Oh, if his housemates could see him now. If Orion Black and Abraxas Malfoy and Dolohov and all those who smirked and nodded when he said he was the heir of Slytherin – agreed because they knew it was foolish not to, but never really believed him – they would feel their pride shrinking, all their proud boasts about their lineages, how strong and pure their blood is turning to dust in their mouths.
He would laugh; just stand here, in front of them all, and laugh.
Licking his lips, he looks at his ancestor, frozen forever in time as a sculpture, and swears. He’s not sure what he’s swearing on, if even anything, or who he’s promising this to, but he does it all the same. He means it too, every word he murmurs, the sound of his voice echoing in the cavernous room, and it feels solemn, binding, as though a mantle is being placed over his shoulders.
This, he tells himself, is only the beginning. The Chamber of Secrets and Salazar Slytherin’s last, unfinished task are only the first things he will do next year. Next year, he will make himself into the best and most brilliant student the school has ever seen, nothing less; he will be guaranteed the Head Boy badge, he will run the school in everything but name. He will be famous and admired; in the Ministry they’ll whisper his name, talk about how clever and charming and wonderful he is, about how they hope he joins them straight after school, about how he could be Minister, how he will be, some day in the future.
Perhaps he will find his father, at last, and let the man see what he’s become, what he helped create. Maybe his father will be proud of him – he should be, after all he’s accomplished – but it doesn’t matter. He swears to his mother that he will avenge her, and destroy the worthless muggle who abandoned him. He will laugh and smile and scream while he makes his father beg for mercy as he shows him how powerful he is, and he will have the satisfaction of shedding his filthy muggle background.
Petty victories, petty gains, but he’ll enjoy it all nonetheless.
Clasping his hands behind his back, he frowns. It’s not enough – he wants to do more, wants to be more. Killing his father and manipulating the school and ministry is all very well, but it’s all so very easy. He wants a challenge, wants to do something people will notice and remember him for.
No, next year he will do something important, something unthinkably astonishing. He will perform a miracle; he will become a miracle. Next year, he promises himself fervently, he will defeat death. He will become immortal. He already knows how to do it – he will split his soul with murder and encase part of himself into something real, something tangible, and then he will never die. Permanent life, independent of a source: with it, he will not need to eat or sleep because it won’t matter. He will never die.
In the future, of course, he will do everything he ever wanted and he will make himself into a legend. Next year, he will content himself with merely becoming immortal. Conquering death seems like a good place to start, when the world, metaphysical and real, is laid out at his feet.
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering 'it will be happier'...”
― Alfred Lord Tennyson
At five past one, he is sitting with Professor Slughorn in his office, sipping at a glass of champagne, an unopened box of chocolate truffles sitting beside him and the professor’s gold phoenix shaped letter-opener tucked inside his pocket. Slughorn is, as usual, rambling on about his marvellous abilities and he allows a small, pleased smile to sit on his lips, at the same time lowering his eyes to the ground and murmuring his thanks, protesting that he’s not really quite that good.
Except, of course, he is and they both know it.
“I expect great things from you, Tom,” Slughorn tells him confidently, wagging a fat finger at him. “Why, in ten years you could be Minister! Less if you’re lucky!”
He doesn’t sneer like he wants to, simply demurs and replies that perhaps in fifteen years, but not ten, inciting a laugh, and adds that he’s not sure he wants to go into politics anyway. It’s interesting, certainly, but as a career?
“Well,” Slughorn allows, topping up both their champagne glasses. “Whatever you do, Tom, I’m sure you’ll be brilliant – and I must admit I’m looking forward to see what you manage to accomplish this year. After last year, well, I’m not sure how you could improve on that – my word, so very impressive – but no doubt you’ll find some new way of dazzling us all.”
He smiles politely and nods, ‘of course, sir’ slipping out of his mouth easily.
Raising his glass, Professor Slughorn beams at him, cheeks already slightly ruddy, and he copies the movement (though not the ridiculous facial expression).
“Happy New Year, Tom,” he wishes him.
He doesn’t reply, eyes gleaming as he takes a mouthful of champagne, giving a private smile, his mind focused on the future – the future which has only just begun. Oh yes, he thinks to himself, happy new year to him indeed.
A/N: None of the quotes used at the head of the sections belong to me - they all belong to their respective authors, who are acknowledged underneath the quotes.
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