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In the time since the disaster that he had inadvertently created, Tom had returned to the Isolation Tower to find that things there weren’t any better. Portia and William had nothing to say to him and avoided him when they could. The fact that they had received shorter sentences of punishment didn’t help any either.

He woke one morning to look out through the window in his room to see a fresh blanket of snow on the courtyard far below. It angered him that the students that he could see were free to frolic in it while he could not. He stalked back to his bed and sat down on it while he considered recent events. Somehow, he knew, he had caused what had happened, much like he had caused the terror in London. The Ministry had become aware of his abilities then, so could he expect a visit from one of the Ministers because of what had happened here at Hogwarts and down in Hogsmeade? Would they expel him for it? And if they did, how would they prevent him from using what he could do to lash out?

Stories of the horrors of Azkaban Prison resounded in his mind and he shuddered as he thought about having to occupy a small cell, surrounded by the ever present Dementors, for the remainder of his life. He would die there in that hellish place.

‘It will not happen! I refuse to die in Azkaban! I am never going to die, because I intend to find a way to live forever. I do not care what it takes or who has to die for me to achieve my goal, I am not going to die and be buried in a forgotten grave like my mother was.’

The boy flopped back onto his bed to look once again at the ceiling of the room and finally rose to walk out into the common room where his breakfast would appear. The other students rose from the chairs that they had been sitting in as he entered the room to walk to the library of the area and close the door meaningfully after them. He was alone once again.

‘I guess that this is no different than any other time in my existence,’ he thought as he ate. ‘I have been alone for most of my life, even when the room that I am in is full of people.’

He silently ate his meal and then watched as the dishes vanished after he had finished. Books waited for his attention in the room that he normally occupied and he intended to work on the assignments that he had been given, but there was something else that he wanted to do first.

A long forgotten door had been noticed by the boy and he intended to examine it. Where it went he had no idea, but the mystery that it represented for him was overpowering. Although he had no desire to slip out of the tower, as that would bring severe punishment and perhaps even expulsion, he wanted to learn what secrets it held. Perhaps he would learn the secret of the ring and what it meant.

Rising from the chair he walked down a corridor that the other two had not seen a need to explore and soon was standing outside the door. Obviously it had not been used for a time and the elves hadn’t expended the effort to clean the area. Thick spider webs clung to the door and he brushed them aside, wishing the entire time that he had his wand, before reaching forward to grip the handle and then tug on it. Although he had no clue as to how the door would have behaved prior to the repair of the tower, it opened freely now and he stepped through the portal and into a small room beyond it. As in the rest of the castle the moment that he stepped into an area that had not been entered for a very long time the torches lit to provide him with light. The flickering light revealed a door directly ahead of him and a set of stairs to his left which went downward.

Tom almost paused in his explorations as he remembered what he had done to the first years earlier in the term and the words that had been directed at him concerning the possibility of encountering a troll. He had no wand and he wasn’t certain that he could make a troll hurt enough to leave him alone. If he did run into one, he knew that very likely he would lose the contest and be eaten.

The boy stepped forward and tested the handle of the door before him. It moved easily and soon the door was swinging open and the boy cringed with his eyes squeezed tightly shut as he waited for the attack that he was certain would come. Instead, nothing happened.

He opened his eyes and gazed with wonder at the room that had been revealed. Although it was chocked with spider webs, some likely from spiders that were many decades dead, the room was filled with long forgotten contents and sunlight filled the room through large windows that lined the walls. Clearly it had been a classroom of some sort as rows of desks stood in the room and a lectern stood in front of a board that still held a long ago written assignment, the chalk marks greatly faded.

Tom entered the room and pushed his way past the flimsy barriers until he was at the front of the room. He heard something faint and glanced at the area where students had once studied and was stunned to see filmy figures seated at the desks while they listened to a professor who was just as transparent. The robes that the students wore were much different than what he did and he noted the ancient textbooks that they were using. He had seen one of them in the library and knew that they had not been in use in well over three centuries. Tom realized that he was seeing an echo of the past and turned to leave the room and its eternal occupants behind.

He stepped out of the room and watched for a moment as the ghostly class continued before the door obscured it from his view. The boy brushed the spider webs from his robes and self before turning his attention to the stairs which led downward. Once again his way was lit by the torches as he moved down stairs that had not been used for a very long time. The staircase seemed to go on forever but he finally arrived at the bottom and found a short hallway that had a number of doors along its length.

He followed the hall, trying each door and finding them either locked or swollen shut. He was about to end his expedition when he tried a door and it opened easily into a darkened room. His heart beating wildly, Tom stepped into the room and was relieved when what had covered the windows slid aside to admit light into the chamber. A look around the room showed him that it was the office of a professor and he moved closer to the desk where several parchments lay scattered on the surface. Motion caught his eye and he turned to see a large portrait on the wall, the subject glaring at him hatefully.

“Will you please explain to me why you so rudely interrupted my sleep by opening those windows? What House are you from?”

“Slytherin House, ma’am.”

“Of all of the lies that I have ever heard, you have just told me the most bold. You are not wearing robes belonging to our noble House! I know Slytherin robes when I see them, and those are most definitely not Slytherin. I would expect a student from Gryffindor House to wear something like that!” the witch in the portrait announced scornfully. “If you are from Slytherin, how do you intend to explain them Professor Slytherin himself? Tell me that please!”

“I cannot explain them to Professor Slytherin, because he has been dead for centuries.”

“Dead for centuries, is he? Well, I suggest that you look behind you and see for yourself that he is most certainly not dead!”

Tom turned slowly as he caught motion out of the corner of his eye and was stunned to see a wizard sitting behind the desk, his arms folded in front of him and his gaze firmly fixed on the student who stood unbelieving before him. He stood stock still as his mind tried to rationalize what he was seeing.

“Are you going to speak?” the wizard behind the desk queried. “Why have you come to my office dressed in those ridiculous robes and claiming that I am centuries dead?”

“You… You cannot be Salazar Slytherin. He was one of the founders of Hogwarts and died long ago,” Tom stuttered.

“I am most certainly Salazar Slytherin! And just who are you, young man?”

“Tom Riddle,” the boy responded as his confidence returned.

“Riddle? Riddle?” the wizard repeated as his anger clearly grew at the sound of boy’s surname. “I clearly have no time for your jokes and have no reason to accept them. Now, who are you?”

“That is my name, sir. I am Tom Marvolo Riddle; I am not trying to make a joke.”

“Mister Riddle,” the wizard stated as he rose and moved towards the boy. “Why have you come to my office and what are those robes that you are wearing?”

“Professor Slytherin, these are the robes that students belonging to your House now wear. An enormous number of years have passed since you taught here and many things have changed, including the robes that students now wear.”

“He is lying, Salazar, only one of Godric’s students could have come up with such a tale,” the witch in the portrait snarled.

The wizard raised his hand and cautioned the witch to silence before speaking to the boy again.

“Mister Riddle, you continue to hold to the notion that many years have passed. What proof do you have of this?”

Tom thought wildly for a moment and then glanced at the window.

“Professor, have you looked out the window of your office?”

Tom watched as the wizard glanced at the window and then walked towards it to look out. He gazed out through the ancient glass, seeming to be unaware of the multitude of spider webs that he passed through without breaking them. Finally he turned back to the boy and spoke.

“Mister Riddle, I see nothing outside my window that I should not! I am in no mood for these games and want you to return to Gryffindor and tell him that I am not amused this.”

Tom could tell that the ancient wizard was becoming angry and realized that he had to do something soon and that was when he looked at the witch and his eyes widened with recognition.

“You are her! You are the witch whose portrait guards the entrance of Slytherin House.”

“That is no proof, young fool! Any student would know that, regardless of House.”

“Yes, but only a Slytherin would know your name!”

“Quite correct, so Mister Riddle, what is my name?”

The boy, smiling broadly, stepped forward and then spoke the name that he knew well.

The witch nearly shrieked out her surprise as the boy hissed out her name in Parseltongue. Slytherin’s eyes opened wide at the sound of the language that only persons of the correct lineage knew and he settled back down behind the desk that he had left.

“It is true,” he whispered slowly, “you know the language. You know it and there is only one way that you can.”

Tom studied the wizard behind the desk and his gaze traveled over the body of the image from the past. He had seen the wizard many times before, in portraits on the walls of the castle, in the Slytehrin Common Room, even in books about the school, but none of these had captured the presence of one of the founders of Hogwarts. Tom felt something at that moment that he had never felt before in his life, belonging! This moment was a part of his destiny, but how did it fit in?

“Your family, I do not recognize their name.”

“My father, it belonged to my father, Master Slytherin.”

“I do not recognize it! Are they Pure-Blood?”

“Yes!”

“Then you are truly a Slytherin, descended of purity of blood, untainted by the blood of the Muggles that threaten to corrupt our world.”

Tom felt his being swell with pride at the sound of the praise, yet wondered how the wizard before him would feel if he knew that one of the parents of the boy had been a Muggle woman. Tom was not a Pure-Blood, but a filthy Half-Blood and not much better than a Muggle-born. This was something that the wizard before him could not know and he was about to say something more when the apparition before him vanished and the room became choked with spider webs as the cover began to close over the window again.

‘I will be back,’ he thought, ‘now that I know that this is here, I will be back to learn more and possibly determine the mystery of the ring.’

He turned and found his way out of the room and then back up the stairs as something that he had seen puzzled him. There had been something familiar within the room, something that he had seen that seemed to answer questions that he had, but what had it been? The door behind him faded as the torches went out as swiftly as they had lit and he soon was in the small room at the top of the stairs while he watched the door in front of him open. As he walked back into the common room he was pleased to see that neither William nor Portia had noticed where he had come from and therefore his secret was safe. They wouldn’t explore as he had, he was certain of that.

He crossed the room to enter his bedchamber and then settled down onto the bed while he carefully cleaned the spider webs from his robes and hair. It was important that they not determine that there was more to the tower than they knew. Tom opened one of the books that held his assignment and carried it to the desk that waited for such a need. It held a stack of blank parchment and, once an assignment was finished, the completed work vanished to appear on the desk of the necessary professor. He wasn’t incredibly worried about the quality of his work as he had already proven his abilities and intelligence. The parchment before him filled swiftly as he wrote and it was not long before the completed work was on its way to Professor Dumbledore.

As for the other two, once they determined that they were in over their heads with the work they could come crawling to him for assistance. Portia might be older than he, but she wasn’t the brightest and would seek him out. He would have fun listening to their pleas for help and would finally give in once he got tired of hearing them beg. Then, in payment for his help, they would agree to do anything that he wanted them to do and thus be further under his control.

‘This is only an inconvenience, Dippet thinks that he is in charge here but I know better. He is old and slowly losing his mind, I wonder how much pushing I need to do to make him lose it faster. Then only Dumbledore will be in my way.’

He shoved his Transfiguration book aside to seize his Potions text. It was only moderately difficult and he worked diligently to complete the assignment that Slughorn had provided. As he worked on this assignment he thought about how easily this professor would be to sway. Horace Slughorn loved to have his favorites, and all that one had to do was to show unwavering dedication to the task at hand as well a stroke the ego of the portly wizard. Slughorn often praised him for his results on assignments and Tom had been eager to respond in kind. Yes, Horace Slughorn was already well on his way to being in the pocket of Tom Riddle and the boy couldn’t wait to learn how he could use the wizard to his own gain.

Flitwick was another story; the professor was friendly enough but always scrutinizing his students. Tom knew that he had to be careful not to reveal his true intentions to the part-goblin professor. The professor was a part of a long line of part goblins from the same family that had held the post of Charms master at Hogwarts and would likely be succeeded by another of his relatives when the time came. He would be very swift to report any suspicions to Dumbledore who would, in return, go directly to the headmaster with what he had learned and then, Tom knew, he would be immediately and permanently expelled from Hogwarts.

Professors Lands and Beery held no particular terror for the boy because Tom wanted to get through school as quickly as possible to try to succeed Lands as Defense against the Dark Arts professor. The wizard tended to skirt around things that he felt would be too disturbing for his students and this irritated the boy. What good did it do the skirt things that he might face once he was finished? In fact, why teach it at all? Could not the power held by dark witches, wizards and beasts be of use? Especially to one who wanted to do much more with his abilities than the teaching here at Hogwarts would allow.

Another parchment vanished, another assignment finished, and Tom looked at the Herbology assignment. It wouldn’t take long and Tom made certain that it didn’t. Beery wasn’t known to like to read long parchments and the easiest way to get a good mark was to write a lot on a parchment. The wizard would glance at it at most and then mark it as acceptable before setting it aside. This made exams in the class easy to pass and get exceptional marks.

Binns was difficult to read, how did one read someone who never did anything but read from notes? It was dreadfully boring in the classroom and many times one would fall asleep, not that the wizard took note, he was too busy reading them. Everyone passed the class without fail as the old professor often fell asleep himself, when he wasn’t presenting obscure information that nobody really needed to his hapless students. Every student in the school dreaded having to go to classroom 4F and many professors avoided it as well.

It was afternoon when he finally laid the last parchment aside and closed the book that he had been working from. The quill that he had been using vanished and the stack of parchment replenished itself. The evening meal would come soon enough and, per normal, he would eat it in the common room although he didn’t count on much companionship from the other two students. They would sit silently, unless they had decided that they needed his help and then the fun would begin. Then he could play the injured party and hold off his aid until he had been amused enough. Neither of them had anything that he particularly wanted, except for their loyalty when it came to dealing with less cooperative members of the student population.

He glanced out once again at the falling snow and knew that very soon he would be walking through the front door of Wool’s Orphanage for the holiday break. Mrs. Cole would make the time dreadful and he intended to make the best of it, although there would be plenty of chances for some wrath of his own to be manifested. Once he came back after break, he would once again report to this tower to serve the remainder of his penance and plot against those who had sent him here, including Carol Markham and Molly Porter.

He sat there for a long time watching the falling snow until the bells ringing announced that the evening meal would be served soon. Then he rose and walked out into the common room to take his place at the table and eat a nearly silent meal with the other two students. They were nearly finished with dessert when William Crabbe spoke.

“Oi, Tom, I was wondering if you could give me a spot of help on my Potions parchment?”

Tom Riddle could only smile inwardly as he shook his head and waited for the pleading to begin.

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