Contains massive spoilers for Chamber of Secrets :-)
Tom hadn’t thought of himself as a caring person before he got to Hogwarts. A powerful person, perhaps, or a clever one, but not caring. Not until he opened the chamber of secrets.
The basilisk had lived in isolation for years in a state akin to hibernation. When he woke it the creature was weak, and although it was massive Tom could see that it was thin. Its bones were too visible and its skin was cracking and flaking, and it had little energy to move. Perhaps that was why it listened to him, instead of attacking then only piece of meat it had seen in centuries.
He sat beside it and reassured it, fed it pieces of meat and promised there would be more to come – but not too many too quickly, or it would be ill. He scraped at its skin, cleaning it and removing the dead pieces that the basilisk had been too weak to shed. He whispered that the roosters with their nasty cries would be destroyed, and that when the creature was well enough, he would find it live prey.
Tom knew the secret passage to the kitchens, of course, and the house elves gave him plenty of meat in the belief it was for the common room. And there were rats in the castle – they had been avoiding the sewers for centuries for fear of the snake, but they ran around the rest of the castle, and summoning spells were all Tom needed to catch them. The basilisk appreciated a little wriggling dinner.
The basilisk grew stronger, and it trusted him. He was sure it would do anything he asked of it, but he already knew the secret of wielding power – use people according to their nature. The same applied to the snake – he’d be using it to kill. Together they began to synchronise attacks, and every time the serpent struck it loved him for letting it, as if somehow he had the power to stop it doing as it pleased.
And then he had the fortune to discover Rubeus Hagrid feeding a giant spider. The spider would know about the basilisk, especially now it was roaming the castle, and for all he knew it would tell Hagrid any day. But even this could be turned to Tom’s advantage. When the inevitable death came, it was so easy to blame Hagrid. The boy was removed and the spider fled, and the secret remained.
Tom sat with the basilisk, idly polishing its scales, and for the first time in months felt nervous in its company. He explained that it would have to go back into hibernation for a while, and promised he would be back for it.
He braced himself in the silence, half expecting a killing bite so quick he’d hardly know about it. Or possibly a blow that would break his back.
Instead the snake hissed assent.
And although he’d never see them, he knew it would be watching him with trusting eyes.