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The darkened, yet familiar corridors, held no terrors for Tom as he walked steadily to the office that he sought.  He grimaced only when his hand met the cold and rather damp metal of the door handle before turning it and stepping into the room beyond it.  He had barely entered when a familiar harsh voice spoke to him from within the confines of the ill lit room.

               

“Why have you disturbed the office of Salazar Slytherin?”

               

He turned to regard the menacing glare of the witch in the portrait and finally spoke when it appeared that she was preparing to lunge at him, even though he knew that it was impossible for her to leave her portrait and do so.

               

“I need to speak to Professor Slytherin,” he answered.

               

“And just what makes you think that he wishes to speak to you?”

               

Tom ignored the leer that she gave him as he settled down into a chair to wait.  He did not have to wait for long before the misty form of the one that he sought appeared before him.    The boy and long dead wizard stared at each other for a long moment before Salazar Slytherin broke the silence. 

               

“You have returned to my office, young Mister Riddle.  What counsel do you seek?”

               

“I seek to know the meaning of dreams that I have been having.  Clearly they are a key to something in my past and yet their relevance escapes me.”

               

“And why do you believe that I can help you?”

              

 “You are wise, Professor Slytherin, and I believe that you might be able to reveal some of what I need to know.

               

“Young Mister Riddle, as much as I would like to help you I am afraid that the answers that you seek are much like your surname.  I cannot possibly help you when I do not know what you seek.”

               

Desperation grew within Tom as he began to believe that either the wizard could not help him or was refusing to do so.  He was about to speak when the witch in the portrait behind him spoke.

               

“I told you that noble Master Slytherin did not have the time do fret over your pathetic problems.  You are wasting your time here, Tom Riddle, and would better spend your time in your attempts to become a wizard.  Far better than you have come to Hogwarts and failed miserably in their quest to learn the arts of magic.”

               

“But I know that he can help me if he only would listen to what I have to say,” Tom nearly cried out.

               

Salazar Slytherin paused for a moment at the impassioned plea and then turned his attention from the angered portrait and back to the boy that had just spoken.

               

“What is it that you need to know, Tom Riddle?”

               

Tom felt his anguish fade and then spoke.

               

“I have been having visions, always concerning the same people, always in the same place and each time I see a ring that I know is somehow important to my future.”

               

“I do not see how I can be a help in this.  It is hard enough to remember things from the past, but to see things that have not yet happened is impossible.  It is forbidden by law to meddle with time and dangerous in the attempt if one ignores those laws.  One might conceivably erase their own existence in the present if they meddled with events in the past.  One does not know what might happen if they were to tamper with events in the future.”

               

“But I have seen things that I feel are important to my past, and yet do not understand how they are important.  They are always the same and then there is the ring.”

               

“If it is a ring imbued with magic there is no way of determining which ring it is, for there are many such rings in our world.  If it is a ring belonging to a Muggle your quest will yield no useful results.”

               

Tom’s heart sank as he heard what was being said.  Clearly the people in his visions must be Muggles, for no respectable magical folk would live as those in his visions did.  But how was it important?  Certainly he would not see it again and again if it was something of a mundane nature.  He glanced again at the wizard before him, a wizard who was beginning to regard him with impatience and nodded weakly as he rose from the chair.

               

“Thank you for your time, Professor Slytherin, I will not trouble you again unless I have real reason to.”

               

As he turned to leave the room, Tom paused and spoke once again.

               

“It is a gold ring, set with a black stone that is engraved with a strange symbol that I know that I have seen before somewhere within the walls of Hogwarts.”

               

“If you have seen it within the walls of Hogwarts, then I am certain that it is significant and that you shall run across it again,” Slytherin responded.  “Have patience, Mister Riddle, I am certain that you will be rewarded for your persistence.”

               

Tom could only watch as the ancient wizard faded once again and was turning to leave the room when he stopped to regard the portrait of the witch.

               

“You want something do you not, Mister Riddle?”

               

“You have been in the castle for a very long time?”

               

“I have, and how is that important to you?”

               

“You have seen things that many others have not.”

               

“Yes.”

               

“Then perhaps it is you that I should speak to.”

               

“Use care, Tom Riddle, for insulting the great Salazar Slytherin, especially within this chamber, is a fine way to come to a sticky end.”

               

“Oh, I have no intention of insulting him, but I have a feeling that you know some things that he might be unaware of.  I know that he left Hogwarts for a time, so perhaps something that happened in his absence might be what I need to know.  I think that the symbol in the ring might be the answer that I need.”

               

“Perhaps, but I would need to see the symbol or know what it is called before I can even attempt to help you.”

               

Tom nodded and then turned to leave the room.  He stopped as the voice of the witch reached him.

               

“You know where else to seek me if you do not wish to come here.”

               

“I do,” he answered.

               

“Then do not trouble our House’s master again unless you truly have a need to.”

               

The boy nodded silently and then left the room to step out into the dimly lit corridor.  He nodded grimly as he remembered what the witch had said, he needed to see the ring again in a vision and listen to what the old man had to say about the ring.  Only then would he have the information that he needed to answer the questions that he had.

               

But how do I get the visions to come to me?  I have no power to summon them.

               

He walked slowly up the stairs as he tried to remember every detail of the ring that he could, but knew that he did not have enough in his memory to recall them.  Clearly he would have to wait until a vision presented itself to try to fill in the missing pieces.

               

While Tom walked slowly back towards his chamber he thought about what little he had learned.  Clearly he did not yet have enough information to be able to act.  This meant that he was going to have to wait until the visions came to him again, until then all that he could do is be patient.

               

Tom was not the only one who was waiting.  Molly had managed to get to the Owlery to send a message to her father about the incident with Sarah and what she had learned about the other girl.  Carol had joined her friend as they scurried to their destination and then back again.  Both knew that the other girl would likely confront them again, maybe not openly, but she would.

               

As intent as they were on the path before and around them, neither noticed the gathering clouds above them and, even more ominous, the indistinct form that glided effortlessly on terrible wings.

               

The creature far above them, the creature that Sarah had become, watched with dread as the pair of girls arrived at the Owlery and then departed it a short time later.  There was no doubt that, especially with the flurry of owls that had left the building, the message to Molly’s father was on its way to the wizard.  Obviously not all of the owls carried a message to Joseph Porter because owls left the building constantly, but at least one of them did and this worried Sarah.

               

The Veela and the Ministry of Magic had a long and, at times, contentious relationship.  Many within the Wizarding World wanted the magical beings confined to their homeland, while others favored a more inclusive relationship.  Veela were openly welcomed within the halls of Beauxbatons, while being publicly scorned at some of the other magical schools. 

               

Molly and Carol vanished back into the safety of the walls of the castle while Sarah orbited above.  She finally came to a landing a short distance from the outside walls and then became a girl once again.

               

“How do I stop what is coming?” she asked herself.  “Molly’s father may not call for my removal, but he will certainly want to know why I have left the homeland and that will bring uncomfortable questions.  How do I tell them about the death of my mother at the hands of my filthy Muggle father?  How do I explain why I did not return to my kin?  How do I get past telling them that I am on a blood hunt that will not end until I find him and make him pay for what he did?”

               

Terrible thoughts that should not have troubled a mind so young filled the head of the girl as she walked quietly towards the castle in the distance.  So intent on her thoughts was she that she failed to see the form that stood on one of the many balconies of the castle while the person that it belonged to watched her.

               

Albus Dumbledore watched the approaching figure until the girl was hidden by the walls that she had drawn near to.  The wizard finally turned to reenter the castle as he thought about what he had seen.

               

‘You had every opportunity to attack them without being seen, and yet you allowed them to walk back to Hogwarts unmolested.  Veela are known to be mysterious, and you are certainly no exception to this characteristic.  But, as one secret about you has been revealed, I have to wonder if there are more.  What other secrets do you hide, Sarah Jenkins, and how do they effect this school and its students?’

               

Dumbledore sat down to examine the tome that he had withdrawn from the library concerning the creature that Sarah truly was.  She had been extremely evasive when questioned about her parentage and why she had left her homeland.  In fact, the several hours that Headmaster Dippet and he had spent talking to the girl had yielded almost nothing in the way of useful information.  The child had adamantly refused to speak about her father and had been nearly overwrought concerning her mother.

               

Clearly, something had happened to the mother of the girl, quite possibly with her father being at least partly responsible and this thought brought his attention back to the page that he had been examining.  If that was what had happened, if the father of the girl was responsible for whatever had happened to her mother, then things could get very bad indeed.

               

‘Is that what this is, Sarah Jenkins,’ he thought to himself as dread filled him, ‘a Blood Hunt?  Have you sworn on the blood of your mother and ancestors to find and kill your father?  Is he here, near Hogwarts, is that why you have appeared as well?’

               

Dumbledore examined the passage again as he wondered just how bad things were going to get and just what part Tom Riddle had in all of this.  Was he an active player in this or merely someone who had managed to get involved in something far above his ability to survive?  The wizard leaned back in his chair as he gazed towards the ceiling of the chamber and thought about his own family.  They were no strangers to tragedy and had experienced losses so painful that they weren’t spoken of openly.

               

Their family had lost so much not the least of which had been his sister, Ariana.  It had been the tragedy involving her which had sent his father on the course that had resulted in three Muggle deaths and his imprisonment in Azkaban until his death.  The deaths of his mother and sister in a senseless accident had managed to destroy what remained of the family as he and his sole surviving family member rarely spoke. 

               

‘He blames me still Aberforth does, and perhaps rightly so, for I was too involved in my quest for power to give attention to where it was needed.  I was too centered on myself to care about the pain of others, perhaps they would all be alive still had I worried about what mattered most of all.’

               

The lights in the chamber would burn well into the wee hours of the morning and Albus Dumbledore would, like he would so many times in the long years of his life ahead, fall asleep in his chair with a book in his hand.

               

Tom lay in his bed while he thought about what he had failed to learn.  The answers to his questions were in this castle, they had to be, but they were being elusive.  His mind centered on the ring, it was the key to it all he was certain of it.  Was the ring somewhere in the castle?  Had he seen it in a portrait that he had glanced at or in a book that he had read?  Perhaps it had even been in one of the many trophy cases scattered throughout the school.  Irritation filled the mind of the boy as he began to realize that the progress that he felt that he had made in learning more about his family had now become only more setbacks

               

‘Am I ever going to find out more about my family?  Who were they and where do I start to look to find them?  And who are the disheveled people that I have seen, surely they are not my family.  If they are, how are they related to me?’

               

He closed his eyes and hoped as he fell asleep that the visions would come to him again.  Tom was not to be disappointed.

               

The filthy hovel appeared within his dreams, but the people that had always inhabited it were nowhere to be seen.  Apparently they had not been within the awful space for a great while for thick spider webs and other signs of a place long vacant filled his view.   An indistinct face that seemed vaguely familiar filled his vision and he could only watch as the person reached down towards the rotting floor with one hand.  A space that had not been there abruptly appeared to allow the hand of the man to dip under it to withdraw something small that had been concealed under the floorboards.

               

Tom felt his heart nearly stop beating as he realized that the item that had come out of hiding and then vanished into the pocket of the visitor was the ring that he himself sought.  The vision came to an end as the visitor rose and then vanished in a fashion that could only be magical.

               

The boy awoke and found himself staring with dread at the darkened ceiling above the bed.  A single thought ran through his abruptly aware mind.

               

The ring had been stolen!  Who knew where it had gone and who had it now.

               

All that he had done thus far, including being sent to the Isolation Tower on purpose and visiting Slytherin had been for naught.  Would he ever be able to find the ring that he sought?  If he was able to determine who had taken the ring from its hiding place, would he be able to get the item from them? 

               

His mind swimming with the questions, Tom lay awake for the remainder of the night while the rest of the castle slumbered.

               

The next morning the boy rose to find his meal waiting for him and a brief handwritten note stating that he could return to classes.  His transgression had not been severe enough to warrant an extended stay within the confines of the Isolation tower and obviously, probably over the arguments of the offended staff member, Headmaster Dippet had released him.

               

Tom hurried to eat the meal that had been provided and then slip into his clean robes to make his way to classes.  That he would be shunned by some was obvious, Molly and Carol would have nothing further to do with him and he doubted very much that anything could be done or said to change their minds.  His continuing friendship with Sarah also made things problematic, for the entire castle knew what she was.  If it was even possible, and Tom had doubted that it could be, the girl was more of a pariah than he was.

               

Sarah, although powerful, was going to be under constant scrutiny from now on.  Professor Dumbledore was not going to let any of this pass and undoubtedly was looking into the Veela and their ways.  There was also the fact that Molly had no doubt contacted her father about Sarah.  His position within the Ministry of Magic could lead to trouble for Sarah and likely himself as well.  Molly’s parents had demonstrated the fact that they would not hesitate to deal with anything or anyone that represented a possible threat to their daughter.

               

Molly spotted Tom as he entered the classroom for the first session of the day and groaned.  Carol took note of her friend’s reaction and turned her head to see what had happened, only to sigh deeply.  Others noticed his entrance as well and very few reacted in any way other than that that Markham and Porter had.  As poorly as he was reacted to, Tom’s reception was pleasant compared to that which Sarah received when she entered the room.  Students hurried to move away from her and none, save Tom, gave her any sort of greeting.

               

“That is right, Riddle,” a girl from Hufflepuff announced under her breath, “greet the freak because no self-respecting witch or wizard would.”

               

The statement had its intended reaction from Sarah, who settled down into a vacant seat and began to cry while Tom turned to glare at the female student who had made it.  It almost appeared as though he intended to say something rude in response but then changed his mind, most of the students believing that it was the sudden appearance of Professor Lands which prevented it.

               

Jacob Lands scanned his classroom and took in the situation, obviously something had happened and he had a good idea what it was.  The secret of Sarah Jenkins was out and now many of the students wanted nothing to do with his.  It was that or, more likely, they were all terrified of what the girl could do with her innate abilities.  None of them wanted to challenge her for fear of what she might do as a response, things that none of them had any way to counter.  The possibilities were frightening.

               

“I am not quite certain what happened during my absence, but whatever it was you can rest assured that I will deal with it and deal with it harshly.  All of you here are welcome as students otherwise you would not be here, therefore if any of you have a problem with one or more of your classmates you need to see me about them and not take matters into your own hands.  Doing this will only ensure a trip to the Headmaster’s Office and likely the Isolation Tower or perhaps even the dungeons.  I believe that they are still in use from time to time.

               

Students shuddered at the thought of having to spend any time in the dungeon, the stories of punishments past terrified them and none wished to find out if the stories were based in truth.

               

The Defense against the Dark Arts class settled down to studying the creature that had been selected for the session.

               

Only a few eyes did any straying from the books and those that did meant nothing but ill will for Sarah Jenkins and Tom Riddle.  

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