Status: Active | Currently posted on FF.net, AO3, Quotev, GOTVG.net, and Lunaescene

Serpentine

His Observation

The Dueling Club quarters is a long hall near the dungeons that Tom slips into after his satisfactory lunch (A plowman’s lunch and pumpkin juice). It blends in with the surroundings well enough at first glance, but upon stepping in, he is greeted with warmth and earth tones--in the exposed wooden beams and golden sunlight streaming in through the one tall window in the room. Grand banners and tapestries hang from the vaulted ceiling depicting dangerous matches and triumphant wins, it makes Tom think of a proper den for older men to chat and smoke cigars in. Or a cathedral. A few students lounge up in the trusses with their owls and brooms, and some others sit chatting on a harvest table set aside near a quiet fireplace. Relaxed. Not at all what was expected.

His arrival is early and met with friendly faces and friendly conversations. Pretending not to see Ximena reading in the shadow of an obnoxious statue to his right, Tom speaks casually with his schoolmates, and is even introduced to a few new faces outside his usual circle. His smile works wonders on them, and he is even given the title of “adorable” by a few six year girls.

“Mister Riddle, is it?” The professor’s voice comes from behind him, and he turns to a tall, sparrow like woman with a sharp face, “Professor Slughorn told me all about you; here to observe our little show?”

“I hope they were all good things, Professor Willow.” A humble laugh, “I’ve wanted to visit and see for a long time, but unfortunately never had the opportunity due to schoolwork.”

“Yes, I hear you are a diligent student.” A radiant smile stands out brightly on her near black skin, “I can only hope what you see here interests you enough to enroll in my class your second year.”

Already he was being coveted by teachers who haven’t even seen his worth. Tom glows with humble pride as the professor makes her announcements to the students, some of which were barely flickering in with only seconds to spare. People clear the center of the hall, and Tom makes his way to the other side of the forming oblong space to claim his spot alongside Ximena. Her reading material is closed and set on her lap, and when he greets her politely, she blinks at him and replies “Good afternoon.” with a nod. To her other side, he hadn’t noticed, is his half-useful mentor.

“Riddle! Glad to see you here.” A wink is thrown at Tom’s direction as he gestures to the girl beside him with his head. Tom tries not to cringe. “Even came early! Making good impressions everywhere.” His feet come upward to sit cross-legged on the bench, “Willow always starts right on time. Must have been a bloody clock in another life, eh Lane?” His elbow grazes her side as she makes a small noise of acknowledgment.

“What happens if you’re late?” Tom peeps, sitting down with his hands in his lap.

“You have to go first.” His laugh is telling, and as if on cue, a poor Hufflepuff runs in, frazzled and out of breath, looking desperately for any sign of her timelyless.

“So nice of you to join us, Miss Kowalska!” Professor Willow’s tone is pleasing and warm, “And so good of you to volunteer for our first duel! Now, let us find out who will be your opponent,” she turns her attention to the archway where the echos of panicked footsteps could be heard.

“Kowalski[1]? This’ll be good.” Though annoying, his commentary might prove useful, “Who do you think it’ll be, Lane? Weasley? Peterson? Acarya?”

“Acarya is never late.” Ximena points out, appearing tired with the spectacle. Her disinterest is ignored in favor of speaking to Tom again.

“You up for a duel today, Riddle?” Another wink, as if he were trying to imply something, “Heard the commotion you made over there with those sixth year girls--Might impress them.”

What an idiot.

“Only here to observe.” Tom pretends to look shy, “I haven’t been given permission to join yet--I’m a first year, remember.”

“Shame, you’d be good.” A candy bar is picked out from a pocket sewn into his robes, “Heard a lot about you from my little sister--She’s in your Defense Against the Dark Arts class. Little snotface with lots of freckles? Glasses? Says you’re the favourite of the class already.”

Tom has no recollection of the girl in question, but she’s probably not important. Regardless, he nods along with what the older boy says as if he’s proud of his praise, “She exaggerates, but I thank her for her words.”

“No no,” he strongly taps the side of Ximena’s arm to focus her attention on the conversation, “don’t listen to him, Lane, he’s gonna be big.” Ximena appeared to not be listening at all, “We have to snatch up slots as his trusted friends and advisors before they’re all taken up. While he’s still a diamond in the rough.”

“Diamonds are exceedingly common, contrary to popular belief.” A command to shut up.

Tom almost winces. There are a lot of Toms. Words said only months ago

“--Mister Wood! My, you are the eager volunteer, eight times in a row!” The professor’s voice cuts through his train of thought like a knife through clotted cream.

“Augh, Wood, I should have known.” A slap on his mentor’s knee, another hum from Ximena.

Tom stays silent.

---

During breakfast, Tom is bombarded by students. Sitting down at their insistence, there is excited chatter about the duels from yesterday and proper introductions that were not able to be done before.

“Bet you were hoping to sit next to Lane, huh?”

As a matter of fact he was, but he hasn’t been able to catch her at breakfast time.

But luck, though elusive, is still on his side:

“Actually, I was looking for you.”

The girl who is never late turns her attention from Zabini to Tom and feigns vague interest. Tom’s mentor, who had been the one speaking, looks on in curiosity.

“Yami Acarya, correct?” Tom does his best to look like he was holding down his excited nerves,

Her dark eyes pool deeper than Ximena’s, and it makes Tom feel a different kind of on-the-spot. There’s judgement instead of analysis. Confirmation instead of suspicion, “I saw you in Dueling Club yesterday--I I was wondering if you would, um, do me the honor of maybe teaching me some of those jinks?”

---

The early afternoon sun bathes the library in a gentle orange glow, creating the perfect atmosphere for a nap. Tom walks in, eyes scanning for his new tutor, hands clutching his textbooks. He spots her among a small group of third and fourth year girls speaking quietly in a language he does not understand, and approaches curiously, hand grazing over the head of a grey tabby lounging on their table. One of them, perhaps the oldest, notices him first and breaks out of their conversation to address Yami,

“ਦੇਖੋ.” A head gesture to him, “Company.”

She looks surprised to see him there, “You showed up.”

“I would never miss a lesson, it’s bad manners.” The tabby purrs and rubs her face into his hand, “I really want to learn, really really.

A few of her companions giggle under their breath, and the oldest commands them to move and set aside, “Come on, come on, he’s small, but make room for him anyways.”

“Desire is the first step.” Yami starts, sitting back into her seat as Tom takes the chair perpendicular to her, while the other girls settle down, “Magic is not free from passion. Remember that.”

He will.

The rest of the hour runs by like a 101 class: All vocabulary, all theory, all warnings. And despite this, Tom does not find himself bored or frustrated with the information. There are no names or descriptions of spells like he had initially wanted, unfortunately, but there is wisdom. Controlling spells that are notorious for turning on the caster, concentration for spells that required eye-contact, and countercursing when you have no countercurses, to name a few. The whole group contributes their own experiences and advice with him, often giving paradoxical comments and erupting in silly debates: Two of the girls show him proper wrist movement on a hex, while the other two argue that it would be better if he learned how to do without his wand.

“No, that’s too advanced for him!”

“Any idiot can do it if they pay attention.”

“Who are you calling an idiot.”

“Well, not you, since you can’t do it.”

Conclusion: magic is not a one size fits all.

Despite the bickering, he can feel the camaraderie in the air. Their bond. To be this near it, to be (dare he say) a part of it was...Nice.

But it ends. One by one, the group leaves for a class, or for a date or lunch, until he alone remains with Yami and the grey tabby, notebook filled up and hand cramping. The low murmur of students in the room gone and replaced with the turning of pages and occasional humming of the library aide.

“And--Can I ask you something?”

“It’s all you’ve done this whole hour.” What a charmer.

“Why do some of the students avoid wands?”

“It’s common in many places to not use wands.”

But why?” Tell him what he wants to know, Goddammit.

Yami pauses, just for a moment, “When you perform magic with your wand, do you feel a disconnect?”

Intrigue, “What do you mean?”

“Does it not feel like you’re...Breathing through a tube? Wearing gloves while putting on clothes?” She stumbles rather gracefully through words, searching for the right comparison, “Like hot tea through a strainer.”

Tom nods once.

“And when you do magic without a wand, does it feel the same?”

A breath of hesitation, “I can do little magic like that.”

But you can, right?” She sees through him, and Tom nods again. “No matter how small or weak...You feel that connection stronger, yes? Not more amplified...But stronger.” Yami is careful to make this differentiation, “It’s difficult to bond enough with your wand to erase that feeling completely, but you can do it, in the end.”

“You teach like Ximena,” A casual comment, but he looks up at his tutor to see her reaction, “clear and confusing.”

Sepia lips pull back to a look of contempt, “Oh, her.”

“Do you know her?” Leaning forward, he makes sure to sound eager on purpose. Might as well use the ‘crush’ excuse to its full potential. ‘Tell me about her.’ His posture says.

Yami sits straighter in her seat, head rising, dark hair falling over her shoulders to create a thin curtain between herself and Tom. Her eyes look ahead at nothing. “She is shrouded in a veil of hope.” Her gold earrings tremble, but her head holds still, “I’ve only seen such dire need of purification from maledicti.” A shake of her head, eyes shut, pushing the idea aside, “Come, it’s unsavory to gossip, your class starts soon.”

Tom wonders if it’s a common trait among foreigners to speak in riddles.

---

What he learned in the library was worth more than he originally thought. Application to charms and transfiguration were the first to show results, and the last (and most surprising) was flying. Control of your broom and control of a hex dance in similar circles. He’s excited to share his progress and own findings to Ximena, and even more to ask about some things that Yami declined to explain.

Tonight’s dinner is meat stuffed into circular pockets made of something that reminds him of pasties composed with naan. She cuts into them with a knife and fork, and as steam escapes, she picks the halves up with her hands and bites in.

Tom’s plate holds blood pudding.

Exchanging pleasantries, he wastes no time, “Ximena?”

“Hm?” She wipes the corner of her lips with her thumb, mouth half full.

“What are maledicti?” The subtle halt in her eating is noted, and waiting on her answer while she finishes chewing and swallowing her bite is enough to make his fingers tap in antsy anticipation.

“Cursed women.” The food is set down on her plate and washed down with her milk-white iced drink, “You remember the witch from the dueling club meeting, Acarya? People like her, her family, they break these kinds of things. Or alter them.” Specks of something caramel colored swirl in the glass as she sets it down before her hat, “Here,” Her hand presses down on the book of the day (purple and only two centimeters thick) and slides it towards him, “If you’re curious.”

A tremor slithers through his heart and out his fingers as he grasps the edges of the book delicately, “Thank you.” Something like elation or thrill finds its way out of his mouth in the form of a laugh. It surprises him. He opens up the book immediately to drink in the contents, only half aware of the half amusement coming from his seatmate. The half amusement becomes clear when he reads a few sentences: it might as well be an academic paper translated from Ancient Runes, to Mandarin, to Finnish, back to Mandarin, and finally English. That is, it is difficult to decipher and frustrating to even try. Vocabulary and citations he knows nothing of mock him openly as he strains his tired eyes over Ximena’s handwritten notes in the margins, and almost huffs when he realizes it’s not in English.

“Simple translation spell.” As if she were reading his mind, “Few to choose from, but the notes aren’t important to your questions.” That makes the frustration worse. “Don’t worry about it.”

Skimming through a couple of more pages, Tom settles on a detailed illustration spread depicting symptoms of the Evil Eye and begins to read quietly for the rest of the hour.

---

The first few duels of the next meeting are chaotic and dynamic, and met with a newfound understanding of the skill possessed by the older children. Even the lackluster ones, whom Tom had taken for fools, show a cool and concise knowledge that he had not noticed before.

Unfortunately, his guide interrupts his study when he walks up to him.

“Been training up on those jinks, Riddle?” Tom sits to Ximena’s left, looking up at the older boy as he bites into an apple, “Heard you got some special tips from Acarya last week.”

“Just some advice, no real spells.” Disappointment is laced through his words, but he is anything but, “And demonstrations!”

“Aye, I bet that was a sight to see. Well don’t worry about her, she’ll loosen up in no time, Acarya’s a tough nut to crack.” His shoulders roll back in a stretch, “She’s worse than Lane here,” a hand slaps gently on her back in jest. She hmphs. “Didn’t bother to supervise our little house member at his lessons last week?”

“She’s good at what she does.” A simple and honest answer. He prods out more.

“Oi, I know you’re quiet, Lane, but I would call her more than good.” A coy, albeit conniving, smile, “Or are you jealous?” A wink at Tom.

Ximena blinks once, tilting her head back for a moment, mouth ajar in thought, “...No.” She nods once, satisfied with her answer, and returns to her book.

If you say so.” The buffoon is unsatisfied, “Don’t worry, Riddle here knows that one in the hand is worth two in the bush.” What in the Goddamn. “Awful nice of you to finally share him with the rest of us. though.”

For Merlin’s sake, what is he doing? Tom wants to know about her past, not about her feelings.

She spares a glance at Tom as if she hadn’t realized he was there, “I’m not his keeper.” Voice as calm and even as a glass of water on a sturdy table, “Acarya is a good student. He’ll learn a lot from her.” This, Tom knows by himself of course, but somehow hearing it from her own mouth solidifies his faith.

The current duel between two sixth year boys ends in a painful draw, and they clear the area swiftly before the next announcement is made:

“Let’s call on some students who haven’t been active, yes?” The professor drawls out teasingly, turning her wand in her gloved hands, “Miss Lane? Miss Acwellan?”

It takes Ximena a moment to register her surname (she was busy scratching the side of her thumb with her index finger, as one does), and when it finally processes, she looks about as nervous as a first year at their first flying lesson. The crowd, however, feels about as excited as a first year at their first flying lesson.

Miss Acwellan, on the other end of the room, is someone Tom has only spoken to in the classroom. They share a cauldron in Potions, and it took about four seconds into their first conversation for her to swear like a sailor and repel him for the rest of the hour. Perhaps since she’s here as a first year, he was mistaken to do so.

Hedwig[2] Acwellan tosses her hair out of her eyes with a quick headbang to the side, face blank and body language confident. Her sister beside her warns her of cockiness, and is quickly spurned off with a rude hand gesture. That’s better. Tom almost didn’t recognize her without her lack of manners (her silence is uncanny when she wears it, if he does say so himself.) She steps forward to the set dueling area, drawing her ashwood wand from her expensive robes and aims it squarely at her opponent, not bothering to bow first.

Ximena Lane gathers herself from whatever place her head was at before this moment and steps forward to face Hedwig, chin tilted upwards and back straight. The look in her eyes makes Tom tense as she reaches for her own wand in the depths of her sleeve:

A small branch, perhaps about 25 centimeters, with sprigs of leaves appearing to be growing out of it. Two thick and stiff vines intertwining together. To Tom, it looked like two green snakes coiling around each other. Ximena raises it awkwardly, as if she didn’t know what she was supposed to do with it. She does not bow either.

“Begin.”

The match does not erupt in sparks and light as the previous ones did, but rather with held breath and sizing up. Some students are disappointed, and attempts to egg both witches on start. Tom, of course, is silent: eagerly awaiting the next few moments…

Hedwig moves first, with the narrowing of her eyes and a fast flick of her wrist, her well known booming voice fills the room as her first spell is cast,

“Lacarrnum inflamari.”

Spitting fire licks its way to Ximena, who only stands still and causes the hair on the back of Tom’s neck to rise. The chill does not subside as the fire forks in front of the girl to avoid her--Without a movement of her own wand. In fact, Ximena looks to be unable to move out of...Nerves?

“Exerte statum.”

A bright light and gust of wind blaze through Ximena and leave her short hair wild, but she remains unharmed. A few students lingering too close to the parameters behind her were shoved violently back. Still, she does not move.

Bombarda.

Hedwig cannot be discouraged. Her confidence does not wain, and her knowledge of spells is heavy (in fact, it was quite annoying to Tom because they were spells he didn’t know himself and maybe he really was too hasty in writing her off--). With every spell, she has strided forward closer to Ximena, as if physical closeness would help.

A half moon crater erupts before the silent witch, crumbs and chunks of jagged stone blowing in varying directions with dust clouds. The crowd in the front of the spectacle cough and wave their arms, but Ximena remains the same.

At this, students were, to put it lightly, uproariously taunting and cheering on Hedwig all at once. The professor overlooking their session looked pleased and intrigued by the duel, despite her instructions to keep the spells at a first year level[3].

Show her who you are!

“You can’t manage to beat a mute?”

“Where are your knickers, Acwellan!”

Her onslaught continues onward, with spells and hexes of varying natures and levels without much change. His fellow students grow eager. Bellicose. With the tension of a tightly wound lute string, they all seem ready to pounce on Ximena themselves to get her to do anything. Move, speak, cry, attack--

“Don’t get cocky.” Hedwig’s sister’s voice rings as clear as a bell through the chaos, and Tom spares her a glance: she bares the look of the wise older sister. Patient and all-knowing. For a moment it makes his eyes narrow before…

“Expelliarmus.”

The wrist holding up her wand appears to snap to her right like a rubber band before rippling out through her body: Ximena is visibly shaken and she stumbles to find her balance with her eyes on the ground before looking wide-eyed up at Hedwig and the bare wrist still holding up her unusual wand. Hedwig’s smirk is the loudest thing in the room.

“Stupify.”

“Titexicoz.”

So quick and quiet, Tom could barely make out the words, a spell at last leaves Ximena’s lips, forming a bubble-like sphere of particles that rushed outwards to meet Hedwig’s stupifying spell.

White hair is thrown back as the once shield envelopes Hedwig, throwing her back into her sister’s arms, meters away, and fluttering her robes violently. The effect dies a silent death in a silent room as everyone pauses to access what had happened. Tom stays rigidly still, watching and waiting, eyes darting from Ximena to Hedwig. Hand closed tight in a fist.

Again, Hedwig reacts first.

“I--I won.

Audible noises of confusion fill the room as her sister’s hand moves hair out of Hedwig’s face and feels her head for any bumps, “What?

“I won.” She repeats, thinking the other misheard her, surely. “I won, didn’t you see? She finally fell back, she’s disarmed, I won.

A call for the professor is given, and Tom’s gaze locks solidly on Ximena:

Fresh sweat on her brow with heavy breath as if she had ran a marathon, her body appears to curl lightly into itself like a dry leaf. Left hand cradles her right wrist as if it were broken, wand slack in her fingers. The girl stares in disbelief at her own skin, and Tom’s lips wind into the satisfactory smirk of someone who knows more than he should know as he slips the torn beaded bracelet from his hand into the sleeve of his robe.
♠ ♠ ♠
[1] If my research is correct on Polish patronyms, Kowalska is how you would say Mrs/Ms Smith, and Kowalski is how you would say Mr Smith. The professor is just better w/ language, and calls the student by how she would be called in her homeland. Legally, though, she’s Kowalski.

[2] Hedwig is legit the name of an old OC. I decided to use her here, she’s a pistol.

[3] A few of these spells are used by first years/younger students in the books and movies, but I figure that (like real education), what’s hard in the past becomes easy in the future. Kids today are learning stuff I was taught in 7th grade whilst in 3nd grade classrooms. Wild.

i whole ass did this, right after i told myself i wouldn’t and that i would leave this idea alone and work on other things, i’m so mad @ myself

Everytime a chapter on this site ends in an unsatisfactory cliffhanger, I say aloud “You really gonna do this to me, huh?” and I hope I don’t do that here.

“Yo are you really going to pollute another fanfiction of yours with ocs and plots not related to the main characters or main plots?”

1. It’s really hard to write in this era/timeline of Harry Potter because there’s little canon students to fill in the background. Thus: you have to deal with some of my witch ocs.

2. There are names to “remember”, but they will filter in and out as the plot requires them to.

3. I didn’t intend to make any more chapters, so Tom’s mentor/guide still has no name, cries.

I wanted to use this story as a platform for world building, propaganda, and common sense, but then I saw that people actually were reading this, and I thought “y’all aren’t here for this, y’all just want some good ol’ fashioned tom riddle diddlin’ to happen, huh?”

I talk a lot of shit about how Tom Riddle stories like this are laden w/ historical inaccuracies, book/movie inacuracies, clichés, and plotholes, but in the end, as long as you have fun and stay away from racism/homophobia/sexism/etc in your stories, who cares what I think? Enjoy your fantasies and self-indulgence, I say. Make friends and write a lot. Enjoy your youth, one day you’re 15 and reading Quizilla reader-inserts, and the next, you’re 22 and rent is due on Monday.

Anyways, my point is: I’ll try to write with a balance.

I’d appreciate concrit and general social contact, but I understand if I’m not popular enough to warrant it :’^) I’m often a silent reader myself.

Thanks to Lion for reading over the story u.u <3