"That filthy… Mudblood! What… is she doing to the diary?!" The false scenery around the writhing teen smouldered and withered slowly as something powerful was corroding it away. Tom clutched his chest and fell to his knees, filled with confusion and such anger at the current situation. How could an underling with no true extraordinary power could possibly affect a Horcrux? It made no sense! Theodore had his eyes closed, trying to reach out to Hermione, but it was proving to be difficult above the screams of his father. The younger Riddle too, felt his father's pain but had partially numbed himself to focus.
'Hermione, you have to destroy it! Destroy the diary, right now! Please!'
"I don't understand… my soul and your own, had become one… I should be more powerful! Yet a filthy Muggle-born is destroying me! How? HOW?!" Tom screamed. Theodore's focus and thoughts were slipping away, unable to speak to his friend on the other side. "This isn't right… this isn't right…"
"Whatever you did, do it again…" Theodore muttered.
"No. I will have you. They won't save you, boy. We have merged, and to kill me means your death as well. Save yourself before she kills us!"
"Listen to me!"
'No. Not ever again. Come on, Hermione. Come on…'
Theodore suddenly screamed when Tom formed into a black/green mist, and forced himself into the boy through his nostrils. He felt his father stabbing him on the inside, desperate to reclaim control over his resistant son. All thoughts about Hermione helping him were instantly ripped out of his mind. Tom was right, they really had merged. Theodore could feel everything of his father's memory. He saw and understood the true nature of Tom Riddle as he witnessed the creation of the ungodly Horcrux. The foul, unloving and pure wickedness of the elder Riddle, all poured into the boy's mind. He'd surely go insane.
The walls around him healed from their unexplainable damage, slowly rebuilding the boy's prison as he laid on the floor, thrashing against his father. He was slipping, further and further away…
On the other side…
"Harry! Ron! Get up, quick!" Both boys shot up instantly, indicating that they weren't sleeping in the slightest. Hermione was stood between them, clutching the diary while her hair looked wilder than before.
"Is it Theodore," whispered Ron as he left his bed. Hermione nodded her head frantically, tightening her grasp on the diary.
"I wrote something in the diary and he replied! I knew that he was inside, I knew it!"
"What? Inside? What are you talking about, Hermione?" Harry asked as he placed his glasses on his nose. Hermione then dragged the two downstairs and slammed the diary open on the fireplace table. She squashed herself between the two, to show them her extraordinary discovery.
"What's supposed to happen now?"
"Wait… just wait," said the Muggle-born. Hermione plucked the quill from the ink bottle and hurriedly wrote the trapped Parselmouth's name on a page. They watched the words vanish in silence like they did before, expecting something in return. Nothing. Hermione quickly dipped the quill in the bottle and tried again but, nothing. He wasn't responding. "No… no no no… he was… Theodore wrote back to me, I swear!"
"Well we know that this ain't no normal diary, but how could be so sure that-"
"I know what I saw, Harry," snapped Hermione before pulling back in regret. Harry wasn't shaken by this and understood her desperation to believe that it was Theodore. He would've, had he seen the message. But nothing was happening. Theodore didn't write back. Hermione was wrong.
"Hermione, please. Don't go crazy over this." Harry consoled as he wrapped an arm around her shoulder, underneath her mane.
"Theodore wrote back," said the girl quietly. "He wrote back to me when I… you have to believe me, Harry. Please." Harry stared into her eyes, reading the certainty of the boy's survival. He wanted to believe so bad, but he couldn't. He saw Theodore break down into dust right in front of him yet he was expected to still think that he was alive. How? How could he?
"Maybe it's the diary just playing tricks on you. If it could kill Theodore then-"
"Theo's not dead… He can't be dead. I refuse."
"You refuse? How- am I the only one who saw what happened?" Harry asked, sounding a little more louder than usual. He and Ron stood up, ready to butt heads.
"We get it. Theodore was your best friend. But sorry to burst your obvious bubble, he was our best friend too. IS our best friend. This isn't no time to be moping around when we know that Theodore's in there!"
"So you believe it too?" Ron nodded his head, serious and unmoving. "Did you see the writing?"
"Then how could you believe it then?"
"Guys, stop fighting." Hermione pleaded. The boys ignored her as they came closer towards each other.
"It was wrong of us to abandon him when he needed us. We should've been there but we weren't. Instead, we were cooped up here like cowards, scared of our own best friend when we should've been helping him. I don't know or care what you think, Harry. We're getting him outside the diary." Harry was hesitant in his own words but still stuck through with them. Something was blocking him from seeing the truth but he didn't know what. Yet.
"Don't you think I feel that? That we didn't help him when he needed us? I felt that every single day from the moment we knew. And yeah. I was scared of him. How else would you expect me to feel, knowing that your best friend is not only the actual Heir of Slytherin, but also attacked six people because of it. Theodore would never do that on his own, I'm sure of it. I know that he wouldn't. It was a mistake to leave him but I'm sorry. Okay? I'm sorry for fucking him over, for being such a shitty friend to him. Theo was like… like a brother to me. And I failed him. He was probably the only person in this school, in the entire world perhaps, who I really understood and he's gone because of me. I couldn't save him. He… only person… I want to believe you two, so bad. I really do. But…"
Harry tried to let out every bit of grief and guilt but they were replenished at every released ounce. He thought that if he admitted to feeling terrible about everything, the weight would be taken off his shoulders. So then, why did it feel so much heavier? Harry slumped back down to his seat and rubbed his face with his cold hands. His burning skin overwhelmed his hands as he was too hot with the turmoil boiling inside of him.
"Um, guys?" Hermione spoke nervously.
"I'm sorry for lashing out like that, Hermione. I just… I wanted..."
"…because I know that he wouldn't do that. Theodore is a-"
"Guys!" Harry and Ron flicked their heads to the direction where Hermione was pointing. The scar-bearing boy's doubt was slowly drawing away from his body as he saw it. The diary's open page was spread flat on the table but the pages themselves grabbed their attention. Something was pushing out of the diary, like a face plastered in paper. It groaned and writhed, resembling the possibly possessed book that resided in the library(as if this book wasn't possessed already). The groans turned into screams as the trio bounded to the diary to stop it from waking the other Gryffindors. Explaining why they had a screaming diary, on top of the whereabouts of the missing boy, was not on their agenda. After two minutes of struggling against the juddering diary, the screams lowered into cries of help, the voice easily recognisable to the others.
"T-Theo? Is it really you," stammered a reluctant yet hopeful Harry.
"Yes! It's- you have to help me! Tom i-is… trying to… trap me…" Theodore choked. "Whatever you… did, Hermione… do it… again!"
"You want me to write in the diary?" Hermione asked. She was just as frantic as the boy trying to escape from his father's powerful grasp.
"No, the other… oh god… no, NOO!" The face vanished as the pages flattened again. Harry firmly placed the diary on the table and held it down with some effort but managed.
"Theo! Theo, talk to us! How did he… so he really was-"
"In the diary, yes. But that doesn't matter, we need to get him out of there!"
"I-I… I don't…" The diary gave one last shudder, bringing the eyes of the three children to its pages, displaying its haunting message to the trio.
'You have lost him. Theodore is mine.'
The words disappeared as the diary became still once again. Ron was gripping his hair in silent frustration while Hermione sat back down with her face in her palms. Still standing with the diary now at hand, Harry could only watch the flickers of light from the fire, spit onto the wretched diary that had taken his best friend.
"I was so close… I was this close, but you pulled me back. Why can't you understand? I'm nothing like you! I hate you, so much… I-I hate being the Heir of Slytherin, I hate that I ever thought that you were a great wizard, I hate… I hate that you made me this way and I hate that out of all the wizards in the world… it was you who had to be my father… why you? I hate… everything about you… do you hear me, Tom? I HATE YOU!
The smokey setting circled around Theodore in response to the boy's words. They clumped and separated until they formed another area that Theodore was familiar with. The stone flooring, pillars and ceiling, he knew. This wasn't Tom's memory. It was his. From one year ago. He was really going to do it. Theodore had buried this so deep that even he couldn't reach it yet Tom plucked from his mind like a stone in the shallowest reef. Everything solidified to recreate the scene from when he and Harry ventured underneath the school to protect the Philosopher's Stone. When it wasn't Snape but Quirrell who deceived everyone. When he truly met his father for the first time. When he truly killed for the first time… How could he forget?
Theodore watched his eleven year old self bellow the fatal charm which slew the traitorous teacher. The image was even more horrid than what he had remembered. The ghastly remains of Quirrell fell into a pile amongst each other as the younger Theodore screamed in pain. That ripping pain which teared through him so fiercely that Theodore couldn't take it. He watched himself slump to the ground, unresponsive and unconscious. The pain, the guilt, it all came back to him. And it was destroying him.
"No more… please. I'm not… I didn't mean to." Theodore whimpered as he held his face in his hands. He felt Tom's hands on his shoulders, easing him into false self-hatred. The more he broke him, the easier it was to slip right through all the unrepairable cracks.
"But you did. I know that you did," whispered the corrupted Riddle in his son's ear. "You didn't bring that wand out because you wanted to protect Harry. You killed that man because it was in your nature to do so. Acted upon instinct. And that was only a glimpse of who you really are."
"That's not me. That was never me. I did that to protect Harry. Not because I'm a monster. I… am not a monster."
"Really? Then let's take a look… here." Everything morphed into smoke again as they created a new image that Theodore recognised. Stuggle's. Before he left for Hogwarts. He remembered that day so perfectly that none of this was necessary. But it still made him feel the same way.
"If you're not going to talk then I'll ask your stupid girlfriend. Maybe she won't act as much of a bitch as you are now."
The former bully then began to scream in agony from the fury of the younger boy. Theodore still had no clue as to how he did it. To make a person feel so much pain was beyond anything a wizard or witch his age could possibly be capable of. If he could do that at the young age of ten, the monstrosities that he could do in the future was near endless. It almost scared him. The image of Gretchen dragging the small boy from his wrist painfully made him tick with anger. By god, he wished that it was her instead. If he could've gotten so livid to the point where he couldn't control himself, he could've ended the pig-skinned bitch where she-
"Stop it! Stop it! I'm not a monster, I'm… Stop getting into my head. I don't want to see any of this. Please, I beg of you. Please…"
Stone and faces turned into smoke as Tom brought on the next haunting memory of Theodore's past, wearing him down by every passing second. Theodore was losing a bit of himself, and he couldn't do anything about it…
'Stop it! Leave me alone, Tristan!'
'It's just a rat! Come on, don't be scared. I said don't be scared, pussy! I squashed this one just a few seconds ago around the corner. Look! There's baby bits hanging out from it's stomach!" Tristan flicked the dead rat onto the four year old Theodore's face, guffawing horridly as the younger boy yelped. Theodore brushed the dried entrails and the unfortunate unborn rats from his shirt, whimpering in fear and disgust. The boy was the main target of bullying in the orphanage, and would suffer terribly from it. This wasn't the first time they smothered Theodore with dead animals. Two weeks ago, Theodore was forced a half-decaying squirrel down his back and was too scared to retaliate. What could he do against the older children? Something. Right now, it was something.
"I'm going to tell Madam Geoffrey on you." Theodore said meekly. "S-so leave me alone!"
"Or what?" Tears of sadness flowed out of the younger boy's eyes as he gritted his teeth for he was feeling true anger. Anger that could not be described at all. Anger that completely overwhelmed him to exhibit magic for the very first time…
"Four years old and you were able to curse a Muggle. You didn't turn him into a simple frog, made him go bald or even twist his tongue. You tortured him like it was nothing. Why would a boy with such extraordinary power and latent talent, show such a horrid act as his first usage of magic? Because you are like me. There's no denying that, Theodore. You and I are-"
"What?" Tom hissed.
"Louise," repeated Theodore, a bit more loudly. Tom spun back around to the sight of the crying bully and a worried Theodore scurrying away.
Theodore rushed away from the scene, thinking that a snake or an animal must've bit Tristan on the leg. Whatever it was, he wasn't going to stay any longer. Why should he even deserve his help? He's sick, vile, a waste of human life who wasn't worth a single-
"Theo? I mean, Theodore?" A four year old Louise came from around the corner, with curly hair and fading freckles. The girl was like a little angel, despite her wild hair. Her massive green eyes was unique among the average browns and blues that scampered around the orphanage.
"Oh. Hi." Theodore said melancholically as he brushed off extra rat bits off his shirt.
"Do you want to play on the swings with me? No one else wants to play so…"
"I don't feel like playing. Maybe later." Louise looked hurt but sucked it in.
"Just for five minutes." Louise grabbed the boy in a tight hug, quickly pulled back in slight disgust from his shirt then pulled him by the hand to the swing set. Even though they only been friends for two weeks, Theodore felt like he knew her forever, despite his age. His first true friend. Louise Free, his first true friend…
"ARRGGHHHH!" Tom screamed as he staggered through the smoke, clutching his head in pain. The memory dissolved as something loosened within the younger Riddle, only just. In this brief moment of pseudo-freedom, Theodore gave in to his thoughts, processing why his father was in such pain. Like he was almost weak. This wasn't the first time that something like this happened. In the Chamber, when it was just the two of them. Theodore remembered when Tom was pushed back by the thought of Louise, only for a moment. It didn't save him back then so why now?
"You… that filthy Muggle… no matter. I will… have you," panted Tom as he brought himself to his feet. He lunged to Theodore, squeezing the younger boy's head brutally. Theodore gritted his teeth and held back the screams. Tom was digging deeper into his mind, seeking the horrific memories that dwelled within the boy. Deeper and deeper he went…
"Is there… anything you'd like to tell me, Theodore?"
A very faint red pigment flashed in the boy's eyes. Theodore's tainted heart felt pleasure in the headmaster's uncertainty, secretly trying to pierce in his own when it was his turn to be foolish, for Dumbledore had seen everything.
"No… nothing at all… Professor…"
"No… that wasn't me…"
"You… you won't tell anyone?" Dumbledore held the boy's hand tightly between his own.
"Not a soul." Theodore gave him a small smile. Dumbledore was many things in this world, but he was by far, one of the greatest men that he had ever seen before…
"Argh… you still attempt to resist me? I will have you, boy!" Tom exhaustedly grabbed another memory from the boy's psyche, desperate to find the single one which would make Theodore submit to him.
"Stop lying to me! I see you with that thing everywhere, obsessing over it like it was… like…"
"I told you…," said the boy gravelly, "it's… nothing. Just a normal diary."
"Then you won't mind if I take a look." The girl snapped as she reached for Tom's diary. An unexplainable urge and power to move, gushed into Theodore's muscles as he leapt to snatch the diary before Hermione could take it. "Theodore, give me the diary."
"I said give me the diary."
"And I said no!"
"Give me the-"
Theodore slightly turned his head to see if the girl had left. All he saw was Hermione red-faced with misty eyes. She tried to hide them underneath her mane but it was obvious that she was about to cry. She was acting just like Louise when he would rub her in the bad way. Hermione wiped her tears with her sleeve before she felt a nudge on her arm.
"Well you might as well be my friend, seeing as you have no others." She immediately took that as a compliment and gave a little smile towards him. If that was his way of apologising to her then it was good enough...
"That isn't… going to work anymore, Tom." Theodore said, the strength that was stolen from him for so long, returning. He didn't know how it worked but it just did. Every memory that he'd regretted or hated would only crumble against those he treasured. Every moment of hatred, bloodlust and anger was purged from the times that he held close to his heart. He couldn't understand it but he didn't need to. Theodore had all the power that he needed. Tom was losing.
"No… no! This isn't possible! H-how can you resist the influence of a Horcrux?! That's impossible!" Tom furiously snatched memory after memory but each one was countered. Theodore could feel Tom dwindling away gradually, like ash to the wind but his persistence was commendable.
"Viripin," asked the boy in Parseltongue, "are you here? Viripin? Viripin… she's gone, isn't she?"
"I was scared, master. I thought that you were going to leave me."
"But I did leave you," muttered the guilty boy.
"But we're here, together. Whatever you did, I'm sure that there was a good reason for it."
"No, there was no good reason. I was just being stupid. I thought that I was better off in the wizarding world with everybody else but it turns out, I'm supposed to stay at Stuggle's."
"Well, at least you'll be there with me, Master Riddle…"
Feeling the chains snap off his mental being, Theodore pushed his father's weak figure back, feeling more powerful than he had ever felt. As long as he thought about the people that he loved, Tom simply couldn't touch him. The taste of Theodore's memories scorched the tongue of Voldemort, severing the link between boy and father. Tom was losing.
"No matter… what you'll do… you will never be… like them. You… have the blood of the darkest wizard of all… time," spluttered the dissolving memory of Tom Riddle. "Y-you think that they… they will accept you for who you are? Son of Lord Voldemort… that is who you… are."
"You continue to resist," mocked Theodore, feeling filled up to the brim with vibrancy. The diary was losing its power over him. Tom was losing his power over him. "I don't know why you can't fight me like this, Tom. A mere boy stands up to the 'great' Lord Voldemort, and has defied him twice. A true testament to who you are. And I wasn't even referring to me."
"Get away from me…" Tom slurred.
"You've lost, Tom. Can't you see? I'm rid of you and you'll never have me."
"I said get away…"
"And you know why? Because you'll never come back. Ever." Giving one final lunge to the strengthened boy, Tom tapped into his last desperate attempt of victory, reaching for Theodore's most deleterious memory possible, the one that could snap him in an instant…
Within the depths of the broken boy's mind, Theodore was almost docile, barely conscious to his father's words. Voldemort was his father. Theodore Riddle was the son of Lord Voldemort…
"Sleep, Theodore. Sleep…"
"Yes! No more resistance, no more fighting! You belong to me now. You serve the Dark Lord, and the Dark Lord-"
"My darling… I love you so much. I love you so, so much. I'm sorry for what I have to do, to leave you here. But it's all for you, my baby boy. All for you. I want you to be strong. Be strong for yourself. I wished… I wished that it'd never come to this. I love you my boy. Please do not hate me for what I've done…"
His mother's voice. He could hear her so clearly but… how could he possibly remember something so pure but distant? Theodore could never remember anything about his mother. Not her voice, not the smell of her hair… not even her face right next to his own. But now, he could hear…
By his own doing, Tom obliterated himself from the boy, reaching for Theodore's most detrimental memory only to inadvertently draw out his most powerful. It utterly destroyed the once impenetrable bond between father and son, ultimately releasing Theodore from his father's hold. Even in death, a mother's love would still coat her baby from his father. Only a mother's love…
On the other side…
He smacked the ground with such force that he wished that his body would give way like it always used to. The back of his head felt a horrid pang throbbing continuously, probably worsening every passing second. Brown, red, yellow and green swirled entrancingly before his eyes, lulling him to sleep slowly before he felt the abrupt change in balance. Theodore felt his torso being dragged up from the ground and was crushed by multiple arms, entangling him in his confused moment of daze. He had no clue as to what was happening, if this was all just a sick joke from his father or if he was really free of him. Almost all of his senses went haywire from the moment he hurt himself but the aromas that smelt familiar to him, focused his mind to realise where he was.
"Am I… is this…"
"I told you… I knew that he was alive." That was Hermione's voice near his left ear. It felt like he hadn't heard her in days.
"Theo, you're okay! Wait. Let me see his face." Ron's voice. The pressure against his body was lessened as he saw himself staring into Ron's blue eyes, attentive to any change in colour. Theodore struggled to keep his eyes open but nonetheless kept on staring at the red head. A few seconds more…
"He's okay, Ron, leave him alone!" Hermione snapped.
"Alright, alright, lay off me! I was just checking, that's all. He looks alright but he isn't speaking at all. You don't think that-" Hermione instantly cupped Theodore's cheeks in her hands and turned his head to her's rather quickly. The boy's head was still burning from the pain.
"Now Theodore, this is no time to lie. You have to be truthful with us. Is it really you this time? Not the diary, you. Because we need to know, otherwise…"
"Where's the diary?" Theodore asked quietly, fully regaining his stability. Hermione frowned and drew her hands away from his face.
"Again with the diary? You want the diary after what it did to you? We almost lost you, Theo! And you expect us to… to give it to you!? You've seriously lost it!" Theodore had to ignore the Muggle-born for just a short while as he needed to know where the diary was. There, in front of the fire. It looked withered and ancient, like the life within it was riddled with disease. He had to act, now. Sprinting to his feet, the Parselmouth leapt to the diary, avoiding Hermione's attempt to pull him back. Without a second's hesitation, Theodore grabbed the accursed book and instantly threw it into the fire, watching the red flames lick the surface of the broken diary. He done it. He was free. No image of Tom, no voices in his head, no warmth. Tom Riddle's diary was no more and he was free of him.
Hermione and Ron slowly came to his side to watch the diary burn slowly. How something so simple as a memory inside of the book, could cause so much destruction was terrifying. Only it wasn't just a simple memory. It was a Horcrux. A Horcrux made from the murder of Myrtle. This was why he was still alive, lurking in the shadows like a being barely tethered to Earth. Voldemort couldn't die. No, that didn't matter right now. The lies, the secrets, all of it had to stop here. It almost cost him everything that he had, almost stripping him away from the boy he used to be and that was true. Even though he was no longer underneath the diary's influence, he wasn't the same.
"I… I think I might go to sleep now," murmured Theodore as he slowly backed away from the fire. The red head and the Muggle-born followed him as he walked to the boy's dorm stairway, initially objecting for him to leave.
"You were sucked and trapped inside of a diary belonging to your dad," said Ron sternly. "Don't you think that we have something to talk about here?"
"There's nothing to talk about. After everything that I did… I don't deserve forgiveness. Even Harry hasn't said anything." Everyone looked at Harry in the corner who tried to divert his attention somewhere else. Theodore felt the pure disappointment coming from his only cousin from the other side of the room. Harry remained silent, still looking away forcibly. Theodore turned around and made it up the stairs before he felt her warm hand hold him back. Why did he stop?
"You'll tell us, right? When you're ready?"
"Sure." Hermione released him as he walked up to the dorm and straight to his bed. He just defeated his father's Horcrux. This was the second time that he faced the Dark Lord yet he didn't feel victorious at all. Maybe because Harry didn't want to talk to him. Or maybe the diary wasn't destroyed like he had thought. All these thoughts flooded in as he felt none of what he wanted. He wanted the four of them to move on and to forget everything that happened during the past five months. To be best friends again. He wanted Viripin to come back to him so bad. He wanted forgiveness for his attacks but they never came. It all just felt so wrong. As he settled into his comforting bed, the self-renounced Heir of Slytherin recycled those words that saved him from his father. The words he last heard from Valerie Potter. His mother's last words.
"My darling… I love you so much. I love you so, so much. I'm sorry for what I have to do, to leave you here. But it's all for you, my baby boy. All for you…"
The Parseltongue fluttered his eyes open from the movements of the other boys in the dorm room. He heard Neville scuttling past his four-poster bed, worrying over something that he had lost as he lifted his leaden head from his plush pillow. His slumber was neither amazing or terrifying. Just blank. Nothing. He couldn't even remember his dream, if he had one that is. Just nothing.
Theodore yawned and stretched before he got ready for the new day. So much had happened in the past few months, hell, the past few hours. It all happened so quickly yet he felt like it wasn't over. That somewhere in the darkest corners of his mind harboured Tom Riddle. His father. Voldemort. Theodore's spine crawled with pure detest for his father as he trudged down the stairway with his uniform on and his bag hanging off his left shoulder. Most of the third, second and first years were crowded around Fred and George who displayed a family of friendly Bowtruckles for everyone to see. Not wanting to draw attention to himself again, the young Heir sat down on one of the armchairs and sighed deeply.
'The diary's gone for good, Theodore. No need to worry. He can't get me. Not ever again… but maybe I should check it, to see if it's really gone.'
The bell for breakfast was heard in the common room as everyone left for the Great Hall. Theodore was trailing behind the clumps of Gryffindor students, feeling like the black sheep of the House. It wasn't false. The Great Hall was filled quickly as Theodore sat near the middle of Gryffindor table when he felt somebody slide and slightly squash him against Seamus on his left.
"It's okay, Harry." Theodore said in a relaxed manner before he reached for the plate of eggs and bacon. He chewed on his breakfast for a little while longer before Harry spoke up.
"I couldn't sleep yesterday, you know." Theodore stared into the plate of egg and bacon fat while nodding his head slightly. Theodore still remembered what he had said to Harry yesterday. They were surely none of his words but they felt so true at the time. A few more seconds of silence. "I just wanted to say that-"
"Don't apologise. You didn't do anything wrong." Harry watched the regretful boy chew half of a piece of toast, unsure to where this conversation was going to lead to. Maybe he should've talked to him before. He had the chance yet it passed by, squandered.
"Theo, I was just… I was just so scared because I didn't want to believe that it really was…"
"Harry? I have something to- Theo! Hi!" Hermione walked alongside the opposite side of the table as she sat in front of the Heir, quickly followed by Ron. Anxiety was slowly starting to overwhelm him completely, certain that the trio would try and force the real truth out of him. But instead…
"Snape's doing practical season for the next two weeks. Want to partner up?" Ron asked happily. Theodore looked at him half-confused then answered back.
"O-kay? I mean, yeah! Sure." The red head beamed before he dug into the breakfast plates. Theodore looked at him one last time before he returned to eating his breakfast in silence. From the very corners of his eyes, the boy could see the trio staring at him momentarily before they turned away. It was like that for the entire morning, Theodore having to constantly stare into the other three's eyes for them to turn away while they were in lesson.
Snape was ruthless to everyone within the class, even to Draco, detracting points for such minor accidents. The usual. The lesson ended with everyone secretly cursing the professor as they left the room, and Theodore being held back for his usual routine in the classroom. To the boy's surprise however, Snape excused Theodore thirty minutes earlier before expressing the strange amount of concern that he showed before. Theodore didn't hesitate to leave the room and briefly walked up the stairs to enjoy his free period in the common room. It would be much more silent and lonesome without the Adder to keep him company but he enjoyed the silence. Some of it. Theodore walked up two flights of stairs and turned into the second floor corridor where the bathroom was. Moaning Myrtle's tomb. An innocent Muggle-born that was slaughtered for the creation of something so horrid. His father, her murderer. To think that history would've repeated itself again with Theodore killing his own friend for his ancestor. It made him feel sick. The boy closed his eyes and brushed past the haunted bathroom when he saw somebody slip out from the half-closed doors.
"Ginny," said Theodore. The small Weasley almost yelped at the mention of her name and spun around to face Theodore. She was acting much more timid than before. "You still go inside of that bathroom?"
"Yeah." Ginny squeaked as she brushed her robes with her hands. They were slightly damp with dirt mainly covering the fingertips. Almost looked like ash.
"Well, I wouldn't go inside there again. It's a… just stay away from there, alright?" Ginny nodded then skipped away out of sight. Theodore still kept his eyes trained on the door, still remembering what Tom did to Myrtle's body in that memory. It mirrored the inside of the book perfectly. "I have to tell somebody. I wish I could, anyways…"
Theodore spent the next few weeks visiting the petrified people in the hospital wing quite thoroughly, not able to give them gifts with his empty pockets so he decided that it was best to just sit beside them. He usually found himself sitting next to Luna, still wondering how she could possibly look confused upon seeing a hulking Basilisk. Luna was an odd girl after all. But she didn't deserve to be attacked by him. None of them did, even Filch. Maybe by staying with them until they returned would count as some form of redemption for the boy. Just maybe.
"Ancient Runes… or Magical Creatures… Ancient Runes… or Magical Creatures… hmm." Theodore was locked in thought from the choice of his second elective that he would take for his O.W.L's. Although it was sprung on him out of nowhere, Theodore was careful to not make the mistake of choosing a regrettable class. And right now, Care of Magical Creatures was opposed with Study of Ancient Runes, two subjects that sounded particularly interesting to Theodore. Arithmancy was already out of the picture as he wasn't looking forward to the mountains of homework that were awaiting him. Professor Vector did not take the class lightly at all. The boy carried on contemplating in the corner of the common room while he saw Hermione walking up to him quite briskly.
"Have you chosen yet," asked the Muggle-born quite brashly. The two had slowly reconciled during the past few weeks, along with Harry and Ron, but it wasn't exactly the same. Theodore was quieter and a lot less snappier than usual which did raise a cause of concern from the other three. But now wasn't the best time to discuss about Theodore's unwillingness to tell them what really went on during the year.
"I'm deciding on my second one. I don't know whether I should try Ancient Runes, or Care for Magical Creatures. Maybe I should do Ancient Runes…"
"So you're going to do Arithmancy and Ancient Runes?" Theodore raised an eyebrow.
"Arithmancy? No, I'm not doing Arithmancy. Divination was my first." Hermione then pulled her head back in dislike, almost disgust, for the said subject.
"That's all a lot of balderdash, Divination. It's much less accurate than Arithmancy. Choose it." Theodore shook his head. Hermione sat down the table and started to pester the boy. "Come on, choose it! No one else here's doing it and I don't want to be the only Gryffindor there. Please?"
"Sorry, Hermione," said Theodore as he returned to his choices. "I'd rather take two subjects where I know that I'll get the best grade. Stressing throughout three years is just not worth it. You watch, some lunatic is going to pick all four of them."
"You think I'm a lunatic?" Hermione asked quietly.
"Oh… well I'm sure that you'll manage. You're the smartest one in our year, remember?" Hermione said nothing, not out of pride for hearing Theodore admitting that she was a tad better than him, but the fact that he admitted it at all. It was almost scary to see him change in such a little amount of time. Hermione remained quiet for the next five minutes until she gave one last go at convincing Theodore to choose all four, failing in the end. Slightly annoyed but glad that he was still stubborn, the Muggle-born felt like she was getting somewhere with finding out the truth about Theodore.
The news that the Mandrakes were almost mature enough to revive the victims made Theodore feel joyful and scared at the same time. The victims would come out unscathed but would they remember him? If they did then it was straight to Azkaban for the rest of his life. He read about the Dementors that guarded the gruesome prison, beings straight from Hell. He'd shudder from the memories of flicking through the book of the darkest arts.
March was nearly over as Theodore was reminded that his birthday was in two weeks time. Being at Hogwarts for so long made him forget the normal things like the day he was born. Still, the boy wasn't overly invested as he was content with a simple 'Happy Birthday' and nothing else. Of course, he'd get owls chasing him down as they were eager to present to him the multiple birthday cards from the multiple girls in his year(probably some in the year below, unfortunately), just like last year. But it wasn't all that bad. Lavender went the extra mile to get him a box of suspiciously nice-smelling chocolates which weren't drugged with a Love Potion. And they were good chocolates.
"Is it me, or does the fireplace look a little bit… empty?" Theodore asked as he looked over to area of the diary's demise. He couldn't explain it but something was missing from the ashes of the fireplace. Like there was less than what it should've been.
"Why would you think that?" Ron asked with a broken wand in his mouth.
"I-I don't know. It's nothing. Just nothing." He and Ron returned to their assignment on Potions which was due the next day that it was set. Theodore still felt the distrust between him and the red headed boy but for the sake of not upsetting Snape, he forced himself to ignore it. Soon, the Mandrakes will be ready and fate will decide if the boy rots in a cell for the rest of his life. Optimistic, am I right?
"My darling… I love you so much. I love you so, so much. I'm sorry for what I have to do, to leave you here. But it's all for you, my baby boy. All for you. I want you to be strong. Be strong for yourself. I wished… I wished that it'd never come to this. I love you my boy. Please do not hate me for what I've done…"
"Theodore… Theodore…? Wake up, Theo!" Theodore groaned, refusing to open his left eye. The sunlight penetrated through the windows, allowing the boy to barely make out the image that was blocking the sun. But he didn't need to, for her voice was enough.
"Hermione… this is the boy's dorm… go back to your bed…"
"We couldn't forget your birthday!" His eyes snapped open as he sat upright so quickly that Hermione almost fell backwards. Standing on the corners of his bed were Ron and Harry, faces bright and happy.
"What's this?" The three reached under the bed and brought out each of their own presents for the Heir, who almost expected them to haul Viripin out of nowhere. Alas, the snake was really gone. Never to come back. He braced his hands to refuse the gifts but the other three weren't listening to any of it.
"Just take it man," said Ron as he shoved his gift onto Theodore's lap. "It's your birthday!"
"But I can't-"
"And I kinda… used up my half year allowance on this…"
"Ron, why would you-"
"Enough talking! Open them up, let's see what you got!" Hermione said excitedly.
"I think you'll like my one, though. I got it from-"
"Guys!" They all became silent as Theodore finally managed to get their attention. He was the last person on Earth who deserved anything near a birthday. The fact that they all gave him presents was ludicrous. "We can't just act like nothing happened."
"We know," responded Harry quietly. "We just didn't want you to be alone for your birthday. After Christmas…"
"It's your birthday, Theo. Aren't you happy?" Theodore scratched the back of his head, sighing.
"I mean… yeah. I'm happy, but… it's like you're ignoring what I did. I… I opened the Chamber of Secrets. I almost killed six people, minus a ghost. You guys should be… I don't know, angry?"
"But it was the dairy's fault. Right?" Hermione asked as she placed her present on Theodore's lap. "You didn't do it because you wanted to." Theodore's already saddened face fell slightly. The diary didn't work by infecting its evil nature into the boy. It only evolved what was already lurking on the inside. Theodore's hidden nature. And it all made sense. To be capable of brutal torture and murder at such a young age was to be expected from the Dark Lord's spawn. Theodore shook his head and twiddled his fingers.
"Oh! I've got Quidditch practice in about ten minutes so you have to open it now. Here!" Harry spoke quickly as he placed his present firmly among the other two. Not wanting to drag the conversation longer than it needed to be, Theodore lifted and unwrapped Harry's present first. A small glass box that held a model of a glinting Golden Snitch, reflected the sunlight onto Theodore's face. "I know that Quidditch isn't your thing but I thought that it was cool. You like it?"
"Yeah," said the Heir truthfully. "I like it a lot. Is it a real one?"
"I think it is. Probably an antique. Cost me nearly 150 galleons, that did."
"150 galleons?! Are you crazy?!" Harry was already halfway out the door as he said goodbye to everyone. Theodore carefully placed the box on his bedside table and opened Hermione's present. Hopefully, this one wasn't overpaid for. He stripped away the wrapping paper to reveal a hardcover of the book 'Rune Dictionary', a textbook that he was eager to buy, despite his lack of money.
"I was going to get the book for myself but I realised that it was your birthday soon. You'll probably read it more times than I will."
"Sure, Hermione." Theodore sarcastically remarked. Ron sniggered and Hermione cracked a half smile. Sarcasm, along with stubbornness. Maybe the boy was really okay. "But thank you, seriously. I really appreciate it." Hermione beamed in satisfaction that he received her gift well, and allowed him to open the final present from Ron. A freshly-scented orange jersey with a shield holding two golden cannons in the centre, flopped out onto Theodore's lap.
"Personally, I had no idea that Harry was going to get you the Snitch but at least you'll have the best team in the league, all across your shirt!" Ron stated proudly. Theodore held it up and inspected the cleanliness. It was very pristine, not saying that Ron wasn't.
"Chudley Cannons… are they any good?"
"No," interrupted the Muggle-born. Ron gave her a dirty look, ready to argue the second she'd open her mouth again.
"What do you know about the Cannons?" Ron asked, rather annoyed. Lifting her chin to pronounce her well known snottiness, Hermione folded her arms and replied.
"Well Ronald, I know for a fact that the last time they won, was in 1892. Bit of a long time ago, don't you think?" Ron mumbled something under his breath and turned back to Theodore who was folding the jersey neatly next to his other presents.
"It's a nice jersey, even if the team is terrible." Theodore joked.
"They're not- I'd like to see you coach a team full of dunderheads, Riddle! You'd crumble in an instant."
"I was kidding, Ron. Thanks. I'll wear it when I'll see them play." Theodore thanked them again one final time, not worrying about Christmas, his time trapped inside of the diary and even the diary itself. It was destroyed in the fire, burnt into a fine crisp. The victims would soon wake up and hopefully, the year would end with without anyone mentioning the Chamber again. It was foolish to just push it to the side but what else could he do? He would just have to hope for the best.
The trio left the boy's dorm and soon, made their way to the Great Hall for breakfast. Theodore received numerous birthday wishes from his fellow students and just as he expected, several owls loomed over him while they held letters in between their beaks. Ron and Hermione had to wait patiently for the boy to finish collecting the letters, seeing how he'd rather not walk into the Great Hall with a swarm of birds trailing behind him. After he was handed a bagful of birthday cards, the three walked into the Hall and sat on their table to finally eat. Oliver was busy gathering the team into a massive bunch, insistent that the twins sat far away from each other.
"Lavender, Parvati, Pansy, Alice, Lily, Sophie and Sally, and… this girl's in the third year!" Ron exclaimed as he went through Theodore's cards. Theodore snatched them away and pushed them to the side. It was embarrassing to be the only boy in the year who had to go through all of this. Granted that the boy two years above Theodore, Cedric Diggory, received similar attention, Theodore was still not use to all of it. Maybe it was an age thing.
"What should we do today," asked Hermione as she flicked through Theodore's book.
"I don't know, to Hagrid's? There's not that much that we could do. Hermione, if you go too fast, you'll rip it."
"Sorry. Where are you off to, Ron?"
"To the toilet. I think I drank way too much Pumpkin Juice for the entire day. I'll see you later on the pitch." Ron ran off with desperation upon his face, earning a few laughs from the Slytherins, especially Draco. Theodore's face grew dark. He still couldn't let it go. Hermione noticed this and elbowed him gently in the ribs, knocking him out of his sudden loss of focus.
"I wasn't going to do anything." Theodore said while he turned back to his plate.
"Well, good. I can't stand him either but we shouldn't do anything to him."
"It's not like we could. He'd get his father here so quickly that I wouldn't even be able to say Sly-"
"Hey guys," cut off Harry as he arrived by the two. "I'm going to go get my broom and uniform upstairs. Where's Ron?"
"Toilet. He said he'd meet us on the pitch. Hey, we'll come with." Harry nodded his head and the trio had set off to the common room once again. Theodore was starting to feel himself again as he joked around with Harry about the Muggle-born's electives, just slightly rubbing the girl the wrong way. But she didn't mind it that much anyways.
"… so rather than just sticking to something that barely holds a flame to Arithmancy, I'd highly recommend that you choose otherwise. It's not too late to change, you know."
"I think we're set, thanks. Not everybody can be like you, Hermione." Harry said as they walked up the first floor staircase.
"Well, I'm sure that if you focused hard enough, you'd pull through. Theodore's not doing the same and I don't know why."
"Because I'm not a lunatic, remember?"
"Doing the best you can in school is not lunacy, Theodore!" Hermione shrilly snapped. The boys snickered as they reached the top of the stairway. They were about to enter the diverging corridor to reach the moving staircases when that voice, that morbid, fearsome voice that Theodore knew all too well, reached Theodore's ears. The Basilisk.
"Kill… rip… purge. I must… purge for master… dirty blood… dirty, dirty blood…"
Theodore remained frozen, in fear and shock. He had to be hearing things. He heard the exact same voice as the giant serpent coming from within the walls but that couldn't be true. The Chamber couldn't be reopened because the only two Parselmouths in the school were standing in the corridor right there. Unless… there was another. Another Heir of Slytherin that Theodore had no clue about. Hiding in shadows, waiting to bide their time before they'd strike at the appropriate moment. No, no no no. There was no other Heir of Slytherin in the school. Only one Heir and two Parselmouths. The Chamber is not open, the Basilisk is not going through the walls at that very moment and the diary was destroyed. Nothing left. Theodore felt a slight surge of relief at his reassurance, turning to the other two to only have that relief vanish. It was all over Harry's face. He heard it as well.
"Did you hear that as well, Theo?" Theodore couldn't nod his head. He knew it. He knew that the diary wasn't gone for good, how could it? It was a Horcrux, unable to be damaged by the likes of a mere fire. He should've known better than to throw it into the fireplace. Theodore began to panic as he wheezed quietly, kneeling to the floor as he held his chest. Harry and Hermione came to his side as they too, started to panic. "What's wrong? Did you hear that voice as well? Theodore, what's wrong?"
"He's back," whispered the boy as he caught his breath. "He's back. I didn't destroy him and he's back. He's going to kill somebody."
"Kill somebody? Who is it? Theodore, what was that voice, you have to tell us!"
"I smell… I kill… I kill…" Theodore heard the behemoth slither upwards through the pipes in the walls, sensing and feeling each contraction of her gigantic muscles. He lifted himself to his feet quickly and began to frantically stare at all the pipe-holes in the ceiling. It was probably coming for him, ordered by his father to drag him into the Chamber where he'd be viciously killed for his betrayal. Theodore's paranoia only grew until Hermione held him by the shoulders and stopped him from moving.
"Theodore! Calm… down. Now, tell us what was that thing." Theodore hesitated but knew of the consequences if he said nothing. He opened his mouth to tell them that it was a Basilisk but he was cut off again by the sudden appearance of Oliver, who had Harry's broomstick and kit in his hands.
"Come on, Harry! I know that you're not scared of facing Hufflepuff! Sure, they have Diggory but we have you, so let's go!"
"Oliver, wait-" The Boy Who Lived was ignored as the Gryffindor captain dragged him by his arm down the steps to the Quidditch pitches. The team suddenly gathered around the reluctant boy as Theodore and Hermione followed behind him. There was a deadly snake awake inside of the castle and all he cared about was Quidditch. How foolish. As they left the castle, Hermione was walking on her tiptoes, searching for a certain missing red head who was nowhere to be seen.
"I can't see Ron anywhere. Where is he," asked Hermione nervously.
"He's probably already up in the stands." Theodore reassured. "You know how he is with Quidditch." But the Parselmouth was also feeling a little nervous about Ron's absence. The two made their way up to the Gryffindor stands, feeling even more worried when they couldn't see Ron there either. Theodore asked Seamus and Dean whether they seen the red head anywhere, and was only given the answer that he went up to the fifth floor bathroom. Something didn't seem right about that. Hermione trembled at the thought of what could've happened. She'd even occasionally brush her little finger against Theodore's, probably wanting to hold on to his hand but she decided against that. "Maybe he's just late, that's all."
"Yeah… late…" The two teams shot out from the locker rooms and soared around the air, ready to start the match when they heard a booming voice emerging from far below the stands. Everyone peered over the edge to see a small figure of the deputy headmaster holding her wand to her neck as she spoke to everyone in the amidst of confusion.
"Everyone leave the playing grounds promptly! This match is cancelled, I repeat! This match is cancelled!" Almost everyone booed and jeered at the news while Theodore's heart made a pang in his chest.
Everyone made it down the towering stands and onto the ground level to understand the meaning of the cancellation. Crowds of angry supporters yelled at each other, but did not have the nerve to shout at McGonagall herself. Theodore witnessed Oliver complaining to the professor that the match needed to happen with her only ignoring the burly boy.
"Everyone please return to your common rooms! No questions will be answered until then. Students return to your common rooms, please!" As everyone moaned while they returned to the castle, Theodore, Hermione and Harry were called over by McGonagall who looked pale and shocked. Theodore prayed that she was going to say anything than what he was thinking.
"Professor? What's happening?" Harry asked as he squeezed his broomstick tightly. McGonagall swallowed before she spoke but nothing came out. "Professor…?"
"I-I think that the three of you should come with me." McGonagall said gently. Theodore's eyelids fluttered anxiously, dreading to see what was the reason for all of this. If it really happened, if it was him…
The three followed the witch into the castle and up the stairs on a recognisable trail. The Heir's heartbeat was thunderous, almost deafening as he walked alongside his friends. Up in the hospital wing, laying upon a bed was a victim of the Basilisk. Whoever released it from the Chamber had used it to attack somebody, probably to even kill. He knew that. But who was it? Theodore didn't want to find out. He'd feel so much guilt even if it wasn't by his hand. He didn't want to see.
McGonagall opened the infirmary doors and allowed the trio to walk in the slowly. Theodore, being the last one through, stood by the doorway, unable to find the strength to walk in there anymore. But somehow, he did. He followed McGonagall to the far end of the wing, looking side to side to the victims of Slytherin's Heir. The professor stopped right in front of Theodore, obscuring his vision from the last few beds. She turned around slowly and placed her thin fingers on the boy's shoulders, having grown even more pale.
"There's been another attack… a triple attack."
"Triple," replied the boy with a croaky quiet voice. McGonagall nodded slowly then allowed Theodore to walk behind her. He wished that she didn't. It would've been much better if she hadn't. Three beds, three males, all three distinguishable from each other. The first boy was someone that Theodore knew by name and face but not of nature. The other Theodore, Theodore Nott from Slytherin House. His arms was sticking out oddly, like he was trying to reach for Theodore's neck with the intent of death. His face? Fear.
The next boy almost made Theodore's blood crystallise within his vessels. Out of everyone who had been attacked by the Basilisk, this was by far the least expected. Draco's pale grey eyes expressed the very fear that the Basilisk intended to inflict onto the Muggle-borns of Hogwarts. His left arm was snapped to the side, his right arm covering his mouth. He must've tried to block his vision with his hands.
'But Draco is pure blooded… why would anyone try to… this doesn't make sense. Two Slytherin's, three pure bloods. Who tried to kill…'
The third and final boy cracked the Heir's heart as he saw who it was. The red head's hair was tussled and unkempt with his palms being firmly pressed together like he was ready to dive. Theodore stood in between the equally broken Harry and Hermione, unable to say a single word other than…
I'm done. I can't take it anymore. There are way too many mistakes in this story after reading it through. I'm not illiterate guys, I promise. After CoS is over I'm going to update the chapters as well going on a short break due to exams at school. Hope you liked this. Later.
MCJB Echo: Thanks for that. I hope that you'll like my twist on this certain chapter:)
P.S. WE HIT 100 FOLLOWERS! THANK YOU GUYS, SO MUCH!