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None of the members of Tom’s group were aware of what exactly had happened in the lower levels, but they were quite certain that the other three Houses were now down a substantial amount of points. This was good news for Slytherin as an early lead in points was a tough thing to beat, even at this point in the term.

The news about the escapade had spread all over the castle and many older students snickered with amusement at the announcement that a first year initiation had taken place. Nearly every one of them had been subjected to this very sort of thing and, although no one knew the specifics of the event, what they had heard amused them highly.

It would have been more amusing to the Houses to which the students involved belonged if the points loss associated with the incident had not occurred. This portion of the event angered the older students as they understood that already they had a deficit to overcome. The members of Slytherin House tried to act ignorant about the happenings, but it was hard to do when their House alone had escaped losing points. This had produced the result of an already tense rivalry becoming far more volatile.

Tom and his chums walked towards their first class of the day and soon were climbing the stairs which led to the Defense against the Dark Arts classroom where Professor Lands waited. The professor watched as the door opened and then the second years swarmed into the room to swiftly find a place and settle in for the class. Jacob Lands had no misunderstanding about the episode. His name had been brought into it and he was not amused by the intimation that he was at fault.

The second years quieted as he rose from the tall chair that he had been sitting upon and then strode to the front of the room to stop by his lectern. His expression told the students that he was not in a happy mood and the chatter died swiftly as he surveyed the children.

“Last night,” he began, “a group of first years entered the lower levels of the castle. Now, this is forbidden under any circumstance, but these students were under the impression that they could improve their marks in this class by doing so. How in the name of Merlin they came to this conclusion is unknown, but an investigation into the matter is underway. Clearly, an older student or a group of older students convinced these first years that they should do what they did.”

Barely muffled laughter sounded through the room and this brought the temper of the professor to a boiling point. He straightened to his full height and then bellowed his response to the gaiety.

“YOU WILL BE SILENT! ANY FURTHER NOISE SHALL BE DEALT WITH BY ANY MEANS THAT I FEEL APPROPRIATE! THIS COULD INCLUDE DETENTION IN THE DUNGEONS, WHICH I ASSURE YOU SHALL NOT BE PLEASANT!”

The whispering and laughter died immediately and the second years returned to paying attention to the angered professor.

“Now, one of the afflicted students has said that they entered the lower levels under the advice of a quartet of older students. I feel that to give inexperienced students the idea to enter that area is foolhardy for surely you all remember that occasionally trolls do prowl those catacombs. If those students had encountered a troll we would likely have experienced a tragedy.”

“The student told Headmaster Dippet that the four students that they talked to were boys, so all of the young ladies may leave the room and enjoy this time off. “

A rustle of movement sounded as the girls hurried to gather their things and then leave the boys in the room to their fate. Molly stopped to look back at Tom before Carol urged her on and the door closed behind them.

“That cleared the room somewhat,” Professor Lands exclaimed as he looked around the room before continuing. “The student also said that the boys were believed to be second years, according to what one of the boys responsible said during the conversation and, since you are all second year boys I assume that the four responsible are in this room, but I am going to clear the room further. All boys who belong to Slytherin House remain seated while the others leave the room.”

Tom could only watch with a growing sense of dread as the boys filtered out of the room, leaving only a handful to face Jacob Lands.

“I see ten boys in this room and there were four involved. As I have descriptions of the boys in question, I have a very good idea who I am looking for.”

The professor reached into his pocket to retrieve a parchment and then he unrolled it before looking around the room.

“Mister Malfoy, you bear a very strong resemblance to the description given and Misters Crabbe and Goyle also fit the bill. You three may rise and stand over by the wall while I finish with your companion.”

Tom felt the eyes of the wizard boring down on him and knew. Professor Lands knew who he was looking for, the group was seen together far too often for it to be anyone else.

“Mister Riddle, I believe that I wish for you to stand up and join those three while the others leave this room and I mean now!”

The remaining boys that had not been named hurried to rise and leave their chums behind. Tom and his friends stood together as the door slowly closed behind the departed students. Professor Lands stepped forward to tower over the students and all knew that they were in deep trouble.

“Gentlemen, I assume that I have the correct four students and the expressions on your faces do much to confirm it. I am going to give you a chance to confess because if you do not I shall have the afflicted students identify the people responsible for their incident. If I have to do that, I shall take four hundred points from Slytherin. I will also assign detention for each of you.”

Tom saw the chasm in front of him and knew that he was dangerously close to falling over the edge. There was no way around what was coming and he did the only thing that he could do, something that surprised everyone else in the room.

“I did it, Professor Lands! It was me and only me. I talked them,” he continued as he indicated his friends, “into doing it. I should be the one punished, not them and certainly not Slytherin House.”

Jacob Lands felt his jaw drop as the confession was given and, by the looks on the faces of Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle, it had taken them by surprise as well.

“Mister Riddle, am I to understand that you are telling me that you alone bear the responsibility for this action?”

“Yes, sir, Professor Lands, it was me.”

“Very well,” the professor answered with a sigh as he looked at the fortunate three, “you others may go while Mister Riddle remains.”

Tom remained where he stood as his friends hurried out of the room and then Professor Lands rounded on him.

“Mister Riddle, it is only the fact that you are an exceptional student that prevents me from recommending expulsion for you. I am highly disappointed at your conduct, which could have ended in severe injury or even death had they encountered a troll. As you wished, Slytherin House shall lose no points and the points taken from the other Houses shall be returned. You alone shall bear the burden of this punishment and it shall be quite severe. Mister Riddle, I am assigning detention for you for one month. During this time you shall perform chores around the castle that normally are done by the elves, but you shall not use magic. It shall be done as a Muggle child would do it.”

“I understand,” Tom answered as he stood emotionless in front of the professor.

“Your punishment shall start tonight after dinner and you will be informed when you are released. This will go on every night until the month is up.”

“Yes, sir, Professor Lands, I understand.”

“You may go then, Mister Riddle, and I caution you to never do anything like this again. The results would be most terrible.”

Tom turned and gathered his things before walking out of the classroom and then hurrying down the stairs. He was furious and the first year that passed him recognized him and spoke out.

“I hope that you got into a lot of trouble because of that.”

The smaller boy, in full view of many other students, suddenly doubled over as waves of pain shot through his mid-section. Vomit erupted from his mouth as he collapsed to his hands and knees and he only barely escaped falling backwards down the stairs. The wave that was pummeling him abated just in time for another to strike him with equal force and another round of vomiting as his head seemed as though it wanted to split. Through it all he heard something that he had never heard before and it terrified him because it was in his head.

‘You should not have made me angry! You and your friends will pay for this, all of this!’

Tom walked on, ignoring the plight of the first year, his features set in anger and terrible to see for any that viewed them. He soon arrived at the library and flopped down into a chair where the sunlight could beat in on him while his fury poured forth. The stricken first year had been helped to his feet and was being walked to the Hospital Wing when he was struck again.

‘It is because of you that this happened and you are going to suffer for it!’

The boy collapsed again and writhed on the stone floor of the corridor while he alternately clutched his middle and then his head. He vomited repeatedly, making no small mess on the floor and his robes, and it was all beginning to subside when the nurse arrived to apparate with him to the Hospital Wing. The small boy was helped into a bed and given a dose of Pain-B-Gone, a rather foul elixir that children dreaded but which could cure almost anything, before he settled down to sleep.

He opened his eyes to see a somewhat familiar figure standing over him, although he did not recognize his surroundings. The warm, familiar walls of Hogwarts were gone, and in their place dark terrible walls that seemed to crawl with unidentifiable creatures. A hissing noise attracted his attention and he looked once more at the person next to him. His eyes opened wide as he realized that the serpentine noise was coming from the mouth of the person next to him. Frightened, he tried to roll off of the bed that he was on only to realize that he was not alone.

Another terrible hissing noise, not from one source but from many, gained his attention and he looked down at his chest to see a writhing mass of snakes. They were coiled around each other as they struggled to move up towards his face, their mouths open and issuing forth terrible hisses. The fangs of the creatures seemed to drip a viscous liquid as they moved ever closer to his vulnerable features.

'Are you prepared for what is to come? Are you ready to writhe in agony as they feast on your paralyzed flesh? Your suffering will be long and mercy will never come for you. Prepare to die!'

His eyes shifted from the terrible snakes to the face of the person over him and he recoiled as he saw a pale, hairless head with slits for a nose and red eyes that had serpent-like slits for pupils. Long, nearly white fingers reached for his throat as he attempted to squirm away from the nightmarish assailant and found that he could not gain purchase to escape. The very sheets of the bed that he reclined upon seemed to wrap themselves around him as they became apparent allies to the force that worked towards his demise. He had only one thing to do and he did it as the largest of the snakes lunged at his face, he screamed in terror.

The nurse whirled in alarm at the hellish noise that erupted from his throat at a pitch that should have sundered human vocal cords. Thrashing wildly on the bed that he had been placed upon, the boy was on the verge of tipping the normally stable bed over. She raced to his side to attempt to rouse him from the nightmare only to realize that the Pain-B-Gone would resist her efforts. Her patient suddenly began to gasp for breath and his chest heaved as he seemed to lose the ability to breathe. Panic took her as she realized that if something was not done, and done soon, the boy was going to die. She turned and shrieked for help from the nurse that was just entering the room and together they managed to restrain the boy as they vanished with a POP to remove him to St. Mungos.

The boy screamed again, a long, piercing scream that tested the strength of his remaining breath, as they arrived at the hospital. Swarms of healers converged on the wailing child as they hurried him towards a treatment room while all puzzled over what could cause such a terrifying affliction. His bulging eyes gazed at the frightening countenance above him as he was spoken to again.

'They cannot save you, no one can except for I, and I have no intention of denying my allies their entertainment at your expense.'


The boy struggled to withdraw into the mattress as the figure standing over him leaned down to menace him. A young healer, doing all that he could to help the boy that they were frantically trying to save, recoiled as the boy’s face became one of agony and the child began to writhe on the bed while he struggled against whatever was assailing him.
Helpless, the healers and nurses could only watch as the struggles of the boy weakened and they knew that time for him had become short.

The boy, struggling through what he believed was the remainder of his life, suddenly heard maniacal laughter in his mind. Bright lights flashed around the edges of his vision as his mind threatened to shut down into death. Abruptly he was able to take a deep heaving breath that filled his lungs with much needed oxygen.

'Not now, but soon, soon I shall come for you and then there will be no mercy. Until then, enjoy the company of my friends.'

The healers that had surged into the room crowded around the bed as the child settled back into something resembling peaceful sleep. They might have believed it, but the sleep was anything but peaceful as the boy lay paralyzed by the fear of the thing that lay on his chest. The large snake moved ever upwards towards his face until its tongue danced across his chin with every flick from the mouth of the serpent.

Cold slits that were the pupils of the snake’s eyes looked into those of the child and he whimpered with fear as it moved up ever closer to his face. Slithering closer it began a slow gathering until it lay coiled under his chin and he knew that he dare not move, lest he risk a life-threatening bite. The healers stood, mystified, as the child seemed to stiffen as if in fear and a sudden foul odor told them that fear had gotten the better of his bowels.

“What in the name of Merlin is going on?”

The other healers looked at the younger member of their team before one of them answered.

“He is under some sort of curse and it is up to us to determine who is responsible for this. We are also responsible for bringing him back to his parents and good health.”

Tom sat quietly in the library as he thought about the boy that had spoken harshly to him and then he smiled. The punishment that he would undergo would not be pleasant, but he had solidified his bond with the other three by accepting the full blame for the incident. He thought once again about the boy and the pain that the child had to have experienced before turning his attention to something else and letting the matter drop from his mind.

There were others responsible for this indignity and they would all pay for it. All of the first years would be taught a lesson, one at a time, and not all at once. That would be far too obvious and bring unwanted attention to him. Dumbledore knew some of what he could do and it would not be healthy to arouse suspicions.

He turned his attention back to the book that he had selected as he continued his search for his surname. This book was also revealing nothing useful about the name Riddle and he had seen many other names that he recognized but not his. He was also trying to find the significance of the ring that he had seen on the hand of the old man in his vision. The ring was a part of the mystery; he was certain of that, but what part?

The passage of a group of girls from his year attracted his attention and that attention was rewarded when Molly suddenly appeared to settle down next to him. The girl looked into his eyes and smiled before speaking.

“Are you in trouble with Professor Lands, Tom?”

The boy nodded as he tried to avoid looking her in the eyes.

“What happened?”

“We just wanted to do to them what happened to us last term. They told Professor Dippet what had happened and he told Professor Lands.”

“They are not going to expel you, are they?”

“No, but I have a month of detention.”

Molly winced as she thought about what the boy was saying.

“I have to do things the way that a Muggle would while I serve.”

“Can I help in any way?”

Tom shook his head as he looked into the eyes of the girl and saw only sincerity. The girl honestly wanted to help him.

“Thank you for offering, Molly, but I have to do it on my own. I would not want to get you into trouble with Professor Lands.”

The girl nodded and then glanced at the book that he held.

“Looking someone up?” she asked.

“I am just looking for my family name, but I have yet to see the name Riddle anywhere.”

“Surely it is there somewhere.”

“This is the second book that I have looked at and I still have not found any mention of my ancestors.”

“I can help you look, if you want me to.”

Tom nodded and Molly moved closer to him as they scanned the volume for any mention of the surname Riddle. While they worked they were unaware of the presence of James Farley, who stood to one side while he watched the pair of second years. He seethed with anger as he remembered what his younger brother had told him about the second years that had talked him and his friends into going into the lower levels of the castle. The younger boy and the others in his group had emerged from the dark spaces below Hogwarts bruised, bloodied and frightened before being led to the office of Professor Dippet.

Although his brother had not known the names of the second year boys from Slytherin who had caused him such grief, James was very certain that he knew who was responsible. The description that William had given to him matched Tom Riddle and his chums. He watched the dark haired boy as Tom and Molly Porter looked at a book together and occasionally spoke to one another.

'It was you, Riddle, I know that it was. I am going to pay you back for everything that my brother and his friends went through.'

James Porter walked away and disappeared down one of the many corridors that were part of Hogwarts. The plan for revenge was already forming in his head and he would make certain that the plan was foolproof before enacting it.

‘When I am done, Riddle, I will see you thrown out of Hogwarts forever.’

The healers at St. Mungos were relieved, the boy was showing signs of recovery from whatever had laid him low and color was returning to his face. The chalky face of death had been replaced by the normal hue that belonged to an eleven year old and there were no lingering signs of difficulty. Two healers watched as the parents of the child sat next to his bed and ran their fingers over his damp with sweat hair.

“What was it?”

“It was the only thing that it could have been, Zachariah, a curse! It was an extremely powerful one that for some reason released him before we made it do so.”

“Then it is over?”

The older healer shook his head in denial before speaking.

“No, it is not over. Whoever is responsible will strike again and the next time, young Master Williams may not be as fortunate as he was this time. The next time may mean the end of his life.”

They stood silently for a long time after that, watching the boy and wondering what would come next and if they would be in time to stop it before it stopped the child’s heart forever.
 

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