The windows outside Tom's room were being pelted by a torrent of rain. The intimate sound of the raindrops began to sync, ushering in a symphony of staccato percussion against the pane. To the other children, the sound was unmistakably simple. Tom's own synesthesia caught each percussive note in the way a child chases a flash bug, only to catch it and release it in a never-ending summer game. Tom was different than the other children. He knew that and so did the Albus Dumbledore, the Headmaster. Earlier in the evening, Tom had arrived at Hogwarts only to be capped by a talking hat and sent off to a large dormitory. The other children seemed to pay no mind to the absurdity of it all; instead they welcomed their new homes with the kind of excitement that he had only read about in the Christmas stories at the orphanage.
Tom lay wide awake on his new bed facing the ceiling and listening to the asymmetry of nature's devices pelt the glass of his new room. Three other freshly sorted Slytherins were already fast asleep in their beds, lulled to sleep by the storm. The word, "new" kept repeating in his head as the others dreamed the dreams young wizards are want to dream. He resented them all. They came here from wealthy families, all eager to practice magic, play games and become famous. Tom came from a musty orphanage filled with what the prefects referred to as "Muggles." He understood the need to preserve what he had, and take what he could when he could. He knew this because that's precisely what he had done.
Tom was a collector. His eccentricities ostracized him from the other children at the orphanage, and in turn Tom became fond of his loneliness and his own deeper thoughts. His imaginings seemed all too natural for him in the dark hours. Yet, the Headmaster had seen his memories back at the orphanage. He had seen them and become…disappointed? No. The Headmaster had been afraid. A weak smile fell across his face and yet his heart grew heavy and fell to the pit of his stomach. The games he played at the orphanage were now in the past, and he could move on at Hogwarts. This was his home. This would be different. He wouldn't have to hide himself in the way he had so carefully done at the orphanage. He could be a wizard. He could be a lord. Tom's weak smile grew wider at thought of being called a lord. His thoughts cycled over and over in sync with the unforgiving battery of rain against the glass and he began to drift off to sleep..
"This is Eighteen", whispered a low voice.
Tom's eyes shot open as he quickly sat up in his bed. He began frantically searching the room for the source of the voice. It sounded as though it had come from all directions, just like back in the cave. The cave….
Something large caught Tom's eye and he turned his head towards the window. He squinted, but there was only the window and the heavy rain pounding against it. He turned his head slowly back towards the center of the room, and the source of the whisper revealed itself to him. At the foot of his bed stood what appeared to be a hooded and cloaked figure. Pale white hands appeared out of the robes and began to lift the hood of the cloak. As the hood lifted, it revealed a mane of jet black hair covering the milky pallor of what was surely this man's face. The man brushed his hair aside, revealing the most grotesque face that Tom had ever seen. The face itself was not itself terrifying; it was the age of the face that most disturbed Tom. As the light shifted, this stranger seemed to carry the wrinkles of a thousand years, and yet maintained the clearest, most youthful complexion Tom had ever seen. His eyes were not quite blue and yet were almost black. Tom froze, unable to quite process everything in front of him. The man in black began to speak.
"Too late for a game a Quidditch?" he said cheerfully.
Tom gazed back at the man in black with a curious intensity, answering his question without the need for useless words.
The man in black tittered. "You're right. It is too late. No need for such childish things anyways. After all, you're already busy playing a game, aren't you Tom?" At this the man in black grinned, revealing a row of perfectly white teeth. For a moment, Tom thought he saw them shift into a cavernous mass of fangs and claws. Tom said nothing, but leaned forward as the man in black placed himself at the foot of his bed; cross legged and as gracefully a cat.
"We must palaver Mr. Riddle," he said as he reached into what appeared to a knapsack at his side. He pulled out a small wrapped bag, began to pour a leafy dark substance into a small leaf wrapping. He began rolling what appeared to be a cigarette between his thumbs and forefingers. "That means we need to have a heart to heart chit-chat. I'd offer you a smoke from my gunna, but you're a wee bit young for such things. It's most certainly a bad habit for someone your age. Especially for children who desire to be kings, wouldn't you say, Tom?"
Tom stared at him, perplexed. "Who are you?" said Tom.
"Me? I'm no one important, Mr. Riddle. I simply happened to be in the neighborhood and I thought it would rude if I didn't pop in to say hello to my favorite wizard-to-be." The man in black grinned at him. At this the man in black lifted the cigarette to his lips and turned his hand out to him palm out. A deep scar was carved into his palm in the shape of an unblinking eye. A strange crimson light began to emit from the scar, bathing the room in a malevolent bloody haze. In an instant, the tip of the cigarette ignited, and the air began clouded with a sweet, musty fragrance. It reminded Tom of the orphanage.
"Formalities, Mr. Riddle. You understand." The man in black then lowered his hand, casting shadows across the room as it had been. He winked back at Tom's intense gaze. "You may call me Walter. Walter o'Dim. Present surroundings though are making it seem Walter o'Dark, wouldn't you say, Tom? Come now, Tom. Have a laugh! That was a good one!" The man in black tittered, reached and poked Tom in the shoulder with his index finger. Tom flinched as the man in blacks finger seemed to burn against him like hot coals. Tom's expression remained as unchanged as an ancient oak tree. None of this seemed natural to him. This was not at all like the previous visit from the Headmaster, nor was this as casual as conversations with snakes. This man was not of this world. He knew this with the strangest confidence he had ever felt; it exacerbated his dark curiosity.
"What do you want?" Tom asked.
The man in black grinned wider, and said, "What I want? No Tom, it's what we both want. Alas I haven't the time to divulge all of the delicious details to you. Where to begin? Why the beginning of course! You want power, Tom. You want fame. Not fame in the sense of being loved, but the fame that desecrates the very grass beneath your feet. I can help give that to you Tom. You're starting a new life here and you need the right direction! Your Headmaster is certainly wise Mr. Riddle, but falls so carelessly short on tending to true potential. You've a gift Tom. Think of me as your…facilitator." At this word, the man in black grinned so wide that Tom thought his head would split open.
"Explain yourself. If you are here to give me power, then give it to me." said Tom.
The man in black cocked his head slightly, and gazed intently into Tom's eyes.
"So eager for chaos! Ah yes…Tom Riddle, you've such an…incredible life in front of you. Such devastatingly wonderful things are in your future. However, I simply can't give you everything without a little something in return. You see, we need your help burning the candles back from where I come from. The Big Combination needs….fuel. You can help provide us this fuel and in turn gain unimaginable power. I will explain further…but first—" at this, Walter pulled something small from beneath his robes. He produced a strangely oblong crimson egg. He held it carefully between his thumb and forefinger as though holding a coin waiting to be used as a street merchants parlor trick.
"Consider this your binding contract. Once this touches your skin, it cannot be undone. Keep this egg close to you, and within a few years it will hatch. War is coming to the mainland, and the power inside of this egg will be fueled by the lives of thousands of innocent victims." Walter tittered at this. Tom became increasingly annoyed at his strange sense of humor. "Don't worry yourself Tom. You won't have to harm anyone—yet. I've already taken care of the ensuing madness. There will be plenty of victims and none of the blood will be on your hands. Remember the name Adolf Hitler. You'll admire him and his work with the….how do you say it in your world? Ah yes..Muggles."
Tom suddenly felt very cold, as he began to remember the caves back at the orphanage. Vivid images of screaming faces and the delight he felt as he took what rightfully belonged to him. He felt as if his memories were being watched by Walter. He didn't know how, but he was not alone anymore in his own head. Walter broke the spell of his memory as he continued, "Hold out your hand, Tom Riddle. Keep this secret, keep this safe. Just like Frodo Baggins." Walter grinned again, and held the strangely shaped egg out to him. Tom slowly extended his hands out to just beneath the egg. Something stirred inside Tom. He heard incoherent, serpentine whisperings emitting from deep inside the egg. Was this the egg of a snake? He was almost certain it was. Walter gracefully released the egg into his hands. The instant the egg landed in his palms, the deep crimson light from Walter's palms illuminated the room in a silky red mist.
Tom looked intently into the eyes of the man in black before him. His mind was racing and his heart was beating rapidly. He stared intently at the oblong egg in his hands, feeling something unimaginably powerful inside. Walter turned his gaze to the window, and slowly stood up off of the bed. He almost seemed to float, riding the crimson wave as though it would heed his every beck and call.
"The egg will hatch when the war is over, Tom. I'm certainly not a gambling man, but I'd call it seven years. Why, that's as long as you need to be at Hogwarts, isn't it Tom? But enough of my hokum….on to business. Beneath this castle is a chamber, Mr. Riddle. There are many here who have painstakingly attempted to keep it a secret. But secrets aren't for friends, are they Tom? No, secrets won't do at all. You must find this chamber. Inside its walls lies one of the many ways to the power you so desire. It is there that you will begin your journey. You are destined for great things Mr. Riddle. Terrible things…..but great."
Walter turned about face and fixed his gaze on Tom. Tom met it while keeping the egg safe in the comfort of his hands. The egg seemed to whisper to him, "Nagini….Nagini…..Nagini…"
"This is eighteen, Tom. We both have much to do. Remember that number, as it is both your power and your curse. More on this, I am unable to say. You will rise to power, Mr. Riddle. Just be careful not to venture too close to the storm. Lightning could strike." Walter tittered yet again, only this time with strange lilt and devoid of all humor. "I have said my piece, Tom Riddle. You're safe here. Nothing is here that should keep you worried at night. Remember the chamber. There are other worlds than this Tom, and the chamber will help both of us achieve our goals. You want power, and HE needs children. The Big Combination pays the light bills in end-World. Tom, before I forget…Horcrux."
"Horcrux?" asked Tom.
"Horcrux", said Walter. "I just know you'll be dying to find out about that one." He tittered yet again.
Tom blinked his eyes, and just as he did the man in black had vanished. Tom sat upright in bed, holding the strange egg in his hands until the rain subsided and the sun came over the horizon. He carefully hid the egg in his belongings, and prepared for his first day at Hogwarts. Not one part of him was exhausted or tired. Instead, he felt rejuvenated. He felt as though he knew his purpose at Hogwarts. Now was the time for secrecy from everyone, especially Albus Dumbledore. "Horcrux," he thought as he began his walk towards the great hall. Tom felt in his heart he would be dying to know what that meant, just as the man in black had said.