It became a habit once more, to stare outside his window. The summer afternoon sun radiated inside of the room, trying to cleanse the sorrow that dwelled within the boy, but utterly failed to do so. Nothing could penetrate the barrier that Theodore had enforced around himself for the past week and a half. Ever since he had heard the news, he hasn't been himself. He kept himself to himself, rarely leaving his room except to eat, and ignored anyone who tried to talk to him. He didn't want their pity, their false concerns and forced interest in him. Eventually, they'd ignore him and return to not giving a single thought about him. Too predictable.
The acacia wand twirled between his fingers as he continued to look outside. Magic was forbidden from use during the summer holidays, and Theodore was on the verge of disobeying the instruction. He played a dangerous game with the wand in his hand, as it could easily blow the room in one go. Ollivander said that it was an unusual wand, probably even powerful. Maybe destructive. The nature of it felt… true to him, if that made sense. Conflicting, but hiding terrible power. Yes. It truly belonged to him. After all, he was a twelve-year-old murderer. Quirrell's slaughter at his hands haunted his dreams as he could feel his psyche twist a little, every passing night. Cold sweats and a constricting chest. It was like his soul was cursed from the horrific act, haunting his mind to punish him for what he had done. Theodore had to find some sort of closure for this. He couldn't go back to Hogwarts, ridden with infectious guilt. The impact of that night, coupled with the fact that Louise had left was strenuous, but he had to pull through. If Dumbledore said that he wasn't a blood-thirsty murderer, then it had to be the truth. Theodore had no reason to not trust the old man, after everything he said to him. He just needed to get rid of this damned weight in his stomach.
Theodore hid his wand inside of his suitcase and went to his cupboard to grab the packaged snake food for Viripin, who laid comfortably under his bed. He didn't tell anyone about his newly-acquired pet, seeing as how everyone else would become petrified knowing that there was a snake in the building. Viripin had almost been caught by Lenny Duckworth, who snuck in Theodore's room as a dare to see what he had been hiding from everyone else. Unfortunately for him, Theodore walked in when the intruder had his head stuck in the cupboard. Lenny had never been the same since. Theodore opened the bag of dead mice and spilled them under his bed. He heard the quiet snapping of jaws and the faint gulps come from the elegant snake, but decided to lay down on his bed. He rested the back of his head on the thin pillow and sighed deeply. Suddenly, something slithered on his leg, then onto his left arm. Viripin hissed gently as she placed her head on her master's left shoulder, eager to ask what had troubled the young boy.
"Master Riddle? You didn't speak a word all day, and you don't leave your room that often. Is there something wrong?"
"No," replied Theodore, unconvincingly. Viripin thought for a while, before speaking once more.
"It is your companion, Louise. Isn't it?" Theodore rolled over to his right and remained silent. Viripin didn't stop speaking, though. "It can't be that bad, Master. She can't have gotten that far from here."
"She lives in Sheffield, Viripin," he mumbled. "That's halfway across the country."
"Oh. I'm sorry."
"It's not your fault."
"But don't you remember your other friends? Ron, Hermione, Harry and Neville? They surely must be around in London somewhere, right?" Theodore sat up and weirdly enough, held Viripin and stroked under her jaw.
"Hermione's in France right now, I don't know where either Ron or Neville lives and Harry is with those horrible Muggles. There's nothing that I can do, anyways. I don't even have an owl." He flopped back down on the pillow. "If I did, I'd send letters to all of them, every day. Even Louise."
"Did you not ask for her house number?" Viripin asked. Theodore sighed again.
"Every time I'd ask for it, Madam would say that it was confidential, and that I wasn't allowed to know it. And I thought she was the only one here that cared about me." He hardened his grip around the snake, not noticing that he was choking her slightly.
"Master… you're… hurting…" He instantly released her, feeling regret at what he just did.
"Oh Viripin, I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to… Are you okay? I'm so sorry, please forgive me!"
"It's… okay. I'm feeling a bit tired anyways. I'll… talk to you later. Goodbye, Master Riddle."
"Viripin, wait… I'm sorry…" The snake did not stop as she made her way off the bed and back underneath. Theodore rubbed his forehead vigorously, then left the room. He needed to give her space, as well as gain his own. It was like every time he would talk in Parseltongue, his mind would become more susceptible to anger and agitation. Like the Slytherin inside of him would manifest in the most negative ways possible. Don't get it twisted, the boy was still proud of his heritage. He felt as if it was the one thing that made him unique, apart and above of the crowd. It made him… better. So why didn't he feel that way? No matter how hard he tried, he wasn't the same boy from one year ago. The 'gift' of growing up, perhaps.
He walked down the stairs and through the living room. Most of the children were playing outside, and a hefty amount of nine children, including Louise, had left to enjoy themselves with their new parents. At least it meant less people gawking at him when he'd walk by. The orphanage had improved its interior by adding new sofas, a brand-new television and two extra tables in the back. Theodore was not keen on exploring the refurbished building like it was Hogwarts, so was not aware if any other changes had been made. No matter. He sat at one of the empty new tables at the back, next to a group of three girls and two boys on the opposite one. They all hadn't noticed the silent boy sit down, except for one of them. Elise Thullen, thirteen-year-old girl who was one of the many girls that crushed on Theodore. Like all the others, she hadn't spoken a word to him throughout her time in the orphanage, which was comparingly similar to Theodore's. The girl had been smitten with the isolated boy since she was five, but held off at the sudden friendship between him and Louise. The pair didn't look like they wanted to become a trio at all. Elise had short blonde hair that bounced every time she'd walk. Her nose was as small as a button and she sported bright hazel eyes, not dissimilar from Theodore's. Her general appearance made her look younger than her actual age, prompting people to think that she was ten. Most people would consider her 'cute', in the context that she was like a baby. Elise didn't take kindly towards this and would badmouth anyone who'd be brave enough to speak in her face. For such a small girl, Elise was bigger than life itself and everybody knew that. Even Theodore.
The boy tapped his fingernail repeatedly against the pristine wood. He couldn't endure another five weeks doing the same thing over and over. He'd go insane. Harry knew where he lived, so why hasn't he sent a letter? Weren't they supposed to be 'brothers in arms', who escaped death on the very edge? What ever happened to that? Theodore facepalmed as he realised that Harry would've still been with the Muggles that he despised so much. Harry told him that they hated magic and anything to do with it, so it made sense that he couldn't use Hedwig. Theodore had almost forgotten about the connection between his mother and Harry. Surely, it couldn't be a coincidence that they were related. They were both orphaned boys, half-bloods and were unaware about the wizarding world until they were eleven. Theodore could find all of that before school would start, even at that very moment. If people would leave him alone, that is. He side-eyed the girl that invaded his table while halting the table-tapping.
"Theo? I mean, Theodore?" The boy turned his head and faced her directly. He raised his eyebrows to show that he was semi-interested in what the girl had to say. "Um, can I sit here?"
"I want to be alone," he said bluntly.
"Oh. Well I just thought that you wanted somebody to talk to, you know? I haven't seen you come out of your room that often."
"I like it in my room."
"Doesn't mean you have to stay there all the time." Hazel to hazel, the both of them stared at each other. This girl had no right to tell him what to do. He brushed his hair away from his eyes and broke eye contact. Elise sat down and leaned in to quieten her voice. "You don't have to shut everyone out. We're all the same, you and me included-"
"We are NOT the same." Theodore stated as he cut her off.
"Really? How?" Theodore stood up and was about to walk off, but was blocked by Elise. This girl was probably more persistent than Louise and Hermione, combined. "I just want to know what's wrong, that's all. Why won't you let me?" Theodore closed in, almost connecting the tip of their noses together. Elise's skin tightened at the sudden closeness between them. Her friends looked over to the two as a worrisome atmosphere brewed in the air. Theodore was not the type of person that they'd associate with.
"Okay. You want to know what's the matter with me, I get it. But tell me one thing. Do you care? Do you actually care for somebody who you never talked to? Please, tell me." Elise backed away. Her hurt expression did not faze Theodore one bit as he walked off. She sat back with her friends and sulked on the table.
"Why were you even speaking to the freak, Elise?" Richard Glaise, a dumpy boy of Asian origin, said.
"Don't call him a freak." Elise snapped.
"What, do you fancy him? Oh my gosh, you do," said Jason Watson. He was an average looking boy with thinning hair, despite his age, and heavy-rimmed glasses.
"I don't fancy him! I was just trying to be nice, that's all."
"Yeah, well when it's with him, nothing is ever nice. Did you see what he did to Simeon? A thug like him couldn't become a sissy just like that in one night. He did something to him, I know it."
"And where's your proof?"
Jason scoffed. Elise turned to where Theodore had walked out. Maybe he was right about her.
"Can't I just call her? For… for two minutes, I swear!"
"I told you once already. I can't give you the Reagul's number for reasons that I won't share. Now stop pestering me and go to sleep!" Madam Geoffrey had been battling Theodore for days as he persisted to try and break her.
"Why?! Why can't I call her?!"
"Don't you raise your voice with me!" Madam screeched. Theodore was silenced. "Please, just… go to bed. At once." Theodore slowly walked to the door and kept his head down. He reached for the handle and gripped it tightly.
"I hate this place," he muttered under his breath. Madam had heard what the boy had to say. Theodore closed the door behind him and walked to his room, ignoring the peering heads from the other children. They didn't dare to ask him what had occurred downstairs as they could feel the anger radiate from Theodore as he walked by, swiftly. He closed the door behind him and hopped into his bed, disregarding the fact that Viripin had hissed to him goodnight. He fell to sleep, not caring if the nightmares would poison his mind and soul, not caring if he could go insane. Nobody cared… nobody…
Theodore rose from his bed and planted his feet firmly on the ground. He checked the pocket watch on the desk. 03:07. Twenty-two minutes late, but the time was satisfactory. He quietly got changed in his casual clothing and dragged his suitcase from underneath the bed. Viripin had coiled herself inside Theodore's cupboard, as it was too cold to sleep beneath the bed. Theodore unzipped and brandished his wand before pocketing it. The suitcase was pushed back under the bed, and his schoolbag was hung on the edge of his bed. Before he grabbed the bag and opened the door, he ripped open several snake-food packages under his bed. He couldn't let Viripin go hungry when he was gone. He exited his room and tiptoed down the stairs, with such care and precision. A few creaks here and there, but none were loud enough to break the people from their slumber. Theodore reached the entrance hall and aimed for the main door, only to hear somebody creep up from behind him.
"Don't." He turned around to see Elise in a baby-blue nightgown. She looked at him with worrying eyes, but Theodore didn't care. He turned back around and twisted the door handle. Locked. He turned once more to go to the Madam's office, but Elise wouldn't budge.
"Go back to sleep, Elise."
"No. You shouldn't be out here, Madam would get cross."
"I don't care!" Theodore hissed.
"But I do! You go around acting like nobody cares about you, but they do. You're just to blind to see it!"
"I know people care about me. It's just that none of them are in this building."
"That's a lie," snapped Elise. Theodore narrowed his eyes, then raised an eyebrow. "Look, please go back to bed. I don't want you to get into trouble." The two children stared at each other in silence. Hazel into hazel. Theodore shook his head and walked over to the Madam's office door. Elise watched him from the outside. Theodore left the office thirty seconds later with a single key, attached to a red piece of string, in his hands. He approached the door and fitted the key inside the lock. As he twisted the key, he felt Elise's small hand hold onto his left arm. She didn't try to pull him back.
"Let go." Theodore said, quietly. Elise held on for a few more, then released. Theodore opened the door and just like that, the young wizard was free from Stuggle's. The cold wind brushed against his face as he walked down the front yard. A rush of excitement flowed through him. He actually walked out, in the middle of the night. By himself. It felt just like Hogwarts, leaving the common room at sleeping hours, roaming the castle to battle three-headed dogs and play life-sized chess. Maybe he enjoyed the rule-breaking a little more than he had let on.
He walked through the light-absent pavements, careful to stop underneath a lamppost to see where he was going. "Where am I going? Maybe I should've thought things through. Ahh, you idiot!" There was no way that he could go back to Stuggle's. Elise would've probably told the Madam and Gretchen that he had ran away, stealing the key from the office. The only place that he could possibly think of that was nearby was the Leaky Cauldron, and he had no idea where it could be.
"Maybe if I got a bus to the nearest station, I could find the Cauldron," said Theodore out loud. He walked quickly along the pavements as he left the street, and walked across the corner until he found the main road. Luckily for him, the street was well lit up with multiple cars and vehicles racing past with their blinding headlights. Theodore rarely left the orphanage, so lost wasn't even the word to describe him. He spun around like a madman, trying to see if there was a bus stop nearby, to no luck. A homeless old woman with ragged clothes and a toothless smile walked up to the boy in a creepy manner.
"You're a 'andsome boy! Why 'on't you give me a kiss, eh?" Theodore looked disgusted and backed away from her until he slammed into somebody else behind him. An obese man, with tattered robes and a pointy black hat, was weeping until he noticed the small boy that bumped into him.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I-I didn't see you there." Theodore said.
"Oh… it's okay. I… I'm fine, don't worry about it. I mean, my wife had just left me for Barristan Tibbleworth, just because he's up there in the Ministry of Magic! I may be a janitor but… but…" The man burst into tears once again as Theodore stared at him. The creepy hag, an emotional fat man who wore robes… Theodore was with his kind, alright. But what were they doing here? The man carried on crying after Theodore had poked him. He grumbled quietly as he turned to the old woman.
"Hey, lady. Why are you waiting here? Do you know how I can get to the Leaky Cauldron? And stop smiling at me like that, I'm twelve-years-old!"
"I'm waiting for the Knight's Bus, of course! The quickest way to the Leaky Cauldron! I would apparate, but I didn't get my licence…"
"What's the Knight's Bus?" The old woman looked shocked.
"For such a good-looking boy, you sure don't know much. Alright, I'll stop. The Knight's Bus is… oh look, it's here!" Theodore turned around and marvelled at the sight. What was right in front of him was a bus. A purple bus. A purple bus with not one, not two, but three decks. If Theodore had looked up any further, he'd fall backwards. The obese wizard, following the hag and three others, lined up on the bus to check in with the man at the door.
"You jus' gonna stand der or are yer gonna get on, kid?" The scruffy conductor shouted. Theodore could see that this man couldn't take care of himself as his purple uniform had multiple stains and tears along it.
"Where does this bus go," asked Theodore eagerly as he rushed onto the bus. The man stuck out his hand to stop the boy in his tracks.
"'Old on, kid. You gotta pay for the ride. Eleven Sickles, if you will."
"I… don't have any money."
"Well that's unfortunate. Guess you better take the Muggle buses instead!" The man cackled as he turned back into the bus. Theodore stuck a leg between the closing doors, which proved to be a bad idea. "Now look what you did! You hurt yerself and you can't afford a simple bus fare. Eleven Sickles ain't that much!" Theodore bent over in pain to rub his sore leg until his pocket watch fell to the ground.
"Shit! Please don't be broken!"
"That's a nice lookin' watch you got there. 'Ow about you hand it over as compensation for your troubles, eh?" Theodore snatched it from the ground and stuffed it in his pocket.
"What, no way! I'm not giving this to you, it's mine!"
"Well then, adios kid. Nice knowing you." He tipped his hat and walked back into the bus. Theodore glared at the man through the windows. He was probably the poorest wizard alive at the moment, unable to buy a wizarding or a Muggle bus fare. He was pathetic. He might as well return to Stuggle's, seeing as how he failed miserably. Theodore sighed and walked off, till he stopped at the shout of the conductor.
"Oi, kid! Come 'ere!" Theodore walked back. "You're in luck. That old hag paid for yer ticket. Well come on, then! 'Aven't got all day!" Theodore jumped onto the bus and looked inside. There were no seats, only beds that weren't strapped on the floor properly. As Theodore stared to the ceiling, which looked like it could go on forever, the conductor shoved the boy onto a bed next to the old woman. She wrapped herself under the sheets, while smiling at Theodore. The boy was heavily disgusted but had to choke it down. She did pay for him after all.
"Um, thanks. You didn't have to pay for me." The woman waved a hand and snuggled in her bed.
"Oi kid, what's yer name?"
"It's… Theodore." He said reluctantly.
"Theodore… Potter?" The conductor widened his eyes.
"You mean like Harry Potter," he whispered. Theodore nodded his head. The conductor slapped his knee. "Well then! I'm honoured to have a relative of the Boy Who Lived, to be on my bus. Of course, it be even better if he were here… Say, 'ow are you related exactly?"
"We're cousins." Theodore lied. Why couldn't he just keep his mouth shut?
"Oh, so you must be Valerie's child." Theodore whipped his head to the old woman. She knew his mother? Of course, she did! Names in the wizarding world were distinguished! You couldn't have the same name as somebody else and not be related.
"How do you know her?! Was she your-"
"TAKE IT AWAY, ERN'!" Theodore was instantly thrown back at the sudden burst of speed from the bus. He held onto the bed railings for dear life as he looked outside the window to see blurs of white, red and yellow shoot by. Theodore narrowed his eyes to try and focus but was sent back onto the bed. As he regained balance, the conductor stuck out a hand to display a toothy grin.
"Stan Shunpike, at yer service! Please to meet you, Theo!" Theodore used his free hand to shake Stan's hand before clinging back onto the bed. "So, where do you wanna go? London, Surrey, anywhere! Cept for underwater. Can't go there, son!"
"Leaky Cauldron." Theodore replied. Stan nodded and barked orders to the front driver. As he left, the old woman spoke up, with a cup of hot chocolate in her gloved, grubby hands.
"So, you still want to know about your mumsy? I knew her quite well. Terribly beautiful girl. Long hair, full lips and an aura that could entrap any man! Even some girls."
"What was she like," asked Theodore. The woman took a sip. A wizard from the higher deck plummeted straight onto one of the three beds, but carried on snoring.
"She was cunning and had a knack for outperforming her younger brother, James. She was two years older than him and always seemed to keep him in her shadow. Poor boy."
"You mean James Potter? Harry's dad?" The woman nodded and took another, longer sip.
"Honestly, if it weren't for their looks, I wouldn't know if they were related. Even when they were at Hogwarts, they were divided. Valerie was in Slytherin and James was in Gryffindor. Quite a shock came to their parents!" The bus took a violent turn around the corner and sped up even faster.
"Wait, so how did you know them? You don't really look like you went to school with them…"
"I was their neighbour. Little Jam and Little Val, I'd call them. Such adorable children… makes me cry about… about what happened to them." Theodore moved closer to her, ignoring the pungent smell coming from her clothes.
"What happened to Valerie," he asked in a whisper. "Please, I need to know!"
"Oh god, you don't know… Valerie… she turned… left everyone for… He Who Must Not Be Named." Theodore was frozen. It couldn't be. It couldn't be at all!
"My mother was… a Death Eater?" The bus came to an immediate stop as Theodore was sent flying to the front. Stan snapped his fingers, which made Theodore halt in mid-air. Stan snapped them once more and Theodore fell to the ground, quite painfully. He rubbed his hands while he glared at Stan with contempt.
"Mr Potter, the Leaky Cauldron." Theodore looked outside the window to see a barely lit up sign read, 'Leaky Cauldron', on the building opposite the bus. He thanked Stan and made his way to the door when the old woman called for him.
"Young man, you forgot your bag!" Theodore hit his head and quickly went to grab his bag. As soon as he got it, the old woman held his forearm and spoke silently to him. "Valerie Potter was a good woman. No matter what other people say, she was a good woman. Never forget that." Theodore stared at her for a few seconds, then left the bus without saying a word. The Knight Bus boomed behind him and disappeared into the night, without a single trace of it being there. He turned around to the Leaky Cauldron and pushed into the front doors.
The familiar smell that had been present last year smacked his face as his mouth began to water. He looked over to the clock, which said 05:49, and walked further in. There were a lot less wizards and witches downstairs than the last time he came in, realising that they were mostly all asleep. As he walked along the bar, the innkeeper that he saw last time was waving his wand in the back kitchens to clear plates until he was aware of Theodore's presence.
"Oh, dear boy, what are doing up at these hours? You should be asleep and- wait. I know you… you came in here with Albus last year!" Theodore threw his bag on the counter and sat on the stools. Tom was taken back by the boy's actions.
"Can I get room?"
"Uh, Room 13 should be available but tell me, why have you come here at the dead of the night?"
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Well you better head up there. No boy should be awake at six o'clock in the morning. Now hurry!" Theodore's stomach rumbled. The boy gave a look to the innkeeper, persuading him to make him a late-night meal. Theodore ravaged at his food, before going upstairs to go sleep. His sluggish body hit the bed before he fell into a slumber. He couldn't remember the dream that he had, only that he saw green eyes, messy hair and smile which kept him at ease.
At eleven o'clock in the morning, Theodore was scribbling on a piece of parchment while a grey owl hooted next to him, flicking its head in all directions. On his left were three other letters, one to Harry, one to Ron and one to Hermione. He was halfway through writing one for Louise as he was stuck on what to say. Calling her out for not telling him that she chose to be adopted was the absolute wrong move, and was better to be happy for her instead. Theodore was very happy for her, as she didn't have to be stuck in Stuggle's for the rest of her childhood. He just wished that they left at the same time. He wrote some more until he finished, and slipped the parchment in an envelope. Tom had let him use one of his owls for free, seeing as how the boy hadn't had a Knut to spend.
"Okay, give this one to Ron Weasley, this one to Hermione Granger, this one to Harry Potter and this one to Louise Free. Or Reagul, I don't know… make sure that you're not seen by anyone except to the people that I'm writing to. It'll be okay for Ron, maybe Hermione but not for Louise and Harry. Now go." The owl gave a little nod and held the letters in its little pouch. It flew out of window and out of sight. Theodore walked out of his room and down the stairs. The pub was full of people again, shouting and singing while clashing their cups. Theodore sat near the windows and observed everyone around him. This is where he belonged. With wizards and witches. Not with the Muggles. A fairy flew past his face as a dwarf hobbled past him. He blushed slightly as a girl with pink hair winked at him. Theodore was fully aware that he had caught the attention of many girls that he had crossed: Hermione, Elise, Lavender, Parvati, various other girls from Stuggle's and Hogwarts alike. He wondered if Louise felt the same as well, but he couldn't remember a single time that she had ever acted 'lovey-dovey' around him. Maybe he was just oblivious to her.
"Theodore? Hello!" The old woman from the bus waved to him from across the room. Theodore sighed and walked over to kill time with her. She may be a creep, but she wouldn't try anything on a beloved neighbour's child. Theodore plopped on the seat opposite the old woman and balanced his head against his arm. "Would you like anything? Hot chocolate and pancakes? They're very good here."
"No thanks. By the way, I didn't see you get off when I did."
"Don't worry about that, dear boy. I'm sure that there are other things that you would like to find out." Theodore leaned in to ask a question but was interrupted by a grey-haired wizard. He sat right next to Theodore and had a wide grin on his face.
"I thought that you'd come early! How are you, mum?"
"Mum?" Theodore looked confused. What kind of man lets his mother walk around like that?
"Yup. And who might you be, young man?" Theodore opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by the old woman.
"This is Theodore. Theodore Riddle, son of Valerie Potter."
"I didn't tell you my surname…"
"I knew it! I could see her planted on your face! Sure, you don't have her lips or cheeks but that nose, and those eyes definitely belong to her!"
"I'm sorry, who are you two? I know that you lived next to them, but I haven't got a clue about who you are." The wizard proudly puffed his chest.
"I am Erveris Padalin. And this is my mother, Terly. We know all about your mum and uncle!"
"So, I heard," muttered Theodore under his breath. "If you really knew them, then you should've kept a picture of them, right? You act like you guys were family or something." Erveris stuck out his tongue as he tried to remember something important. He slapped various parts of his body while spinning around so violently, he crashed into a passing goblin. Terly facepalmed and snapped her thin fingers. A thick book slammed onto the table, shaking the goblets that had been left behind by the other wizards.
"Go ahead, son. Take a look." Theodore nervously opened the book and flicked through the first pages. Inside, were multiple moving photographs of two children, mainly playing. The girl and the boy almost looked like twins yet seemed further apart from their facial expressions. The boy, who looked strikingly similar to Harry, had a cheeky grin with an aura of mischievous nature hanging around him. This boy had to be James Potter. The girl, however, had also sported a smile on her face, but instead had something secretive behind it. Her eyes made her look vicious underneath like a preying snake with beautiful scales. Valerie Potter. Theodore stared at her closer to see if there was any semblance between them. The nose and eyes were spot on, and the sheen of her hair matched his own. She even raised her eyebrow the same way he did after little James jabbed her with an elbow. He flicked forward to see her grow into a woman, looking even more stunning than the last image. He'd never thought that he could see his mother in moving picture, let alone a still one. In one of those rare instances, Theodore had allowed a single tear to fall onto the book without wiping it away.
"Oh, Theo. I feel… She was a good woman. Probably one of the greatest that I've ever known. I loath the way the media had depicted her as a deranged woman. She was nothing like that. Nothing like that at all."
"Did you know my father, Tom Riddle?" Theodore looked over to Erveris, who shook his head. Surely one of them should've seen him before. "Well, thank you for showing this to me. I really needed that."
"You can keep it if you want. A gift from me. Just don't lose it, okay?" Theodore nodded and closed the book. Theodore, Erveris and Terly talked about the past, how Valerie and James almost brought a swarm of giant killer bees to the neighbourhood. The two never heard the end of it. Theodore was giggling like a little child, something that he did not mind at that very moment. The more he talked to them, the more they felt like family. Despite the awkward introduction, Terly was a sweet old woman, who had lost her wealth when her second husband stole her money, as well as her house. The two roamed across Britain like tourists, not letting their tragic past catch up with their hopeful future. Theodore was secretly moved by this. They talked about how they would finally settle down in a grand home, surrounded by their big family without a care in the world.
"…and believe me, it better have a giant squid! Say, Theodore. I almost forgot to ask you. Weren't you inside that Muggle orphanage?" Erveris asked.
"Yes." Theodore replied emotionlessly. He didn't really want to think about that. He was enjoying himself here.
"Then why are you at the Leaky Cauldron? Is that not your home?"
"Don't you want to go back?"
"I'll go back… just not now." Theodore had just thought about Viripin, waking up without Theodore in the room. His stomach twisted. How could he abandon her like that? "Besides, it's not like anybody's going to miss me over there." The boy twirled his finger against the table. Why did they have to spoil the mood like that? Terly and Erveris carried on talking with each other, leaving Theodore alone to flip through the book again. Maybe he had to go back to Stuggle's. 'No, that's stupid. Madam would go mad when she'll see me come back. Might as well stay here."
The next five days at the Leaky Cauldron had been the best days of the summer holiday so far. Tom had been particularly nice to Theodore, by allowing him to stay in the building, as long as he helped to clean up after everyone had left. A fair deal. Theodore had received a letter from Ron and Hermione, but was still waiting on one from Harry and Louise. He expected the two to not even reply, given who they lived with. At least it didn't go to waste. Hermione was having the time of her life in France while Ron was telling Theodore about how Percy had flipped out due to the twins insistent pranking. Percy did need a reality check every now and then.
As Theodore finished reading each letter, he tucked them inside his bag and left his room. He had made a few acquaintances with his neighbours, seeing as how most of them were away from home. Theodore walked down the stairs and sat on the table that was vacant. The best mornings were those alone. He had borrowed 'The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 2', from a resident that was kind enough to let him borrow the book. He read several useful spells that he would probably use in the near future. The Wand-Lighting Charm, the Disarming Charm and the Memory Charm all caught his eyes, instantly. During the first year, he 'accidently' stumbled upon a second-years copy, and had a quick flick-through of the book. That's how he learned the Severing Charm to use against…
He shook his head. Theodore shut the book and returned it to its owner. It was best to not think about Quirrell all summer, as it would only spoil it even more. As he went back up to his room, Tom's owl was outside of the window pane, pecking its beak again and again. Theodore quickly opened the window and allowed the owl to hop through. A pink envelope stuck out from the pouch, indicating that only one of the remaining two had replied to his letter. He secretly hoped that it was Louise, as he hadn't spoken to her for a very long time. Sure, Harry was his friend as well, but they were going to see each other in two months. He and Louise could take years until they'd meet again. The owl reached inside the pouch and handed the letter to boy, before flying to the bird-stand in the corner. Theodore sat on his bed and slowly ripped the envelope, to read the letter inside.
You don't know how happy I am that you sent me a letter. Before I left Stuggle's, Madam said that you weren't allowed to call me because of stupid adult reasons. I thought that you'd never be able to talk to me again. I'm so glad that I was wrong!
Sheffield is a really nice place, you know. We live near a lake that has all the birds that you could find in the world. The house is ginormous and there are maids and butlers who follow me around almost all day. It can get a bit annoying sometimes, but what can I say? I was made for the finer things in the life. My new school is quite big as well, with loads of different people from around the world. I made some friends, but none of them are as fun to be around than you. Imagine I had to convince them for a week, to skip class for one hour. Twisted knickers, am I right?
I'm really, really, really sorry that I didn't tell you, Theo. I swear, if I could, I would have done so. It was going to happen sooner or later. I know that you knew that. But this doesn't mean that we're not seeing each other again, no way! You can come visit me sometime! I could ask Mr Reagul (it's a bit weird to call him Dad) to book you a ticket so that you could spend the summer with us. It'll be wicked!
I seriously miss talking to you face to face. I think I'm starting to forget your voice and face sometimes. I don't know if it's the same for you, but I put a photo of myself inside the envelope, so that you wouldn't forget. Be a good lad and send one back? It would really help.
From your No.1 friend, the Amazing, Louise Amalda Free (not Reagul). XXX
Theodore emptied the envelope and looked at the photograph inside. Louise was sitting on brick wall surrounded by various flowers. Her floral dress fitted the setting perfectly, and a baby-blue sun hat with a red feather, was fitted on her head. Louise had looked three years older in the picture as Theodore could see that she was wearing a small amount of make-up, and wore her hair in a French braid. Her smile tore through him as he couldn't help but feel something bubble inside of him. Louise had never looked like this before. Not in front of Theodore. Here she looked… amazing. He couldn't help but notice her emerald eyes brighten the entire image. Theodore wondered what she would think of him when he'd send his photo back. The only thing that changed about him was the cut on his cheek.
He gazed at the photo some more until he fitted it inside the photobook in his bag. Maybe someday, he'd charm it to make it move like the others. The letter was kept in the bag and zipped up securely. He was feeling too happy. He practically skipped down the steps and whistled. The other wizards and witches peered and smiled at the boy's happiness, but he didn't mind. He sat down on a table next to a long-bearded man, ignoring the obvious robes that were worn by him. Theodore carried on whistling until he stopped. The flowing silver beard stretched along the table. The purple robes and the matching pointy hat. Theodore knew who this was and tried to sneak away. He slowly turned his body to his right and rose to his feet to walk away quickly.
"I was wondering when you would come out, Theodore. Please, sit with me." Theodore hung his head low and sat down next to the old professor. Dumbledore still looked as spry as ever, his blue eyes full of excitement. The boy didn't look up at the old man, and focused his attention to the table.
"I haven't done any magic, so you can go now."
"Actually, I'm here for something else. Of course, I'm still here for you."
"What did I do wrong?"
"Aren't you supposed to be at Stuggle's, dear boy?" Theodore lifted his head to show to Dumbledore what he thought about the place.
"No. I'm supposed to be here with wizards and witches. Not with Muggles. There's no reason for me to go back there." Dumbledore sighed. 'Now what nonsense is he going to spew out this time?'
"You know about your mother, right? That she was-"
"James Potter's older sister, yes. I know."
"And that would make you Harry's only blood relative on his father's side." Theodore shrugged.
"So, what? It's not that big of a deal. We're just cousins, that's all." Dumbledore lowered his voice.
"But do you know the sacrifices that your mothers made, to save the both of you?"
"Valerie Potter, your mother, gave her life so that you would be free from her burdens. She realised that it was too late to save herself, so she did everything in her power to save you. She left you at that orphanage, knowing that you would be safe." Dumbledore explained.
"Safe from what?" Dumbledore said nothing. "Alright, don't tell me. I don't care anyways."
"Yes, you do. You act like you don't, but you do." Dumbledore stood up and walked towards the back door, after saying one last thing to the young boy. "If you deny your first home, then no other home is worth living at. Remember that, dear boy." Theodore cycled the words in his head, trying to make sense of the cryptic saying of the old man, instead of dismissing it.
"No other home is worth living at… huh," muttered the young wizard. Those words stuck with him for the entire day, from when he wrote the letter back to his friends (excluding Harry), to when he slept that very night.
'No other home is worth living at…'
Louise was gently tapping against the window, trying to catch any owl in sight that flew in her direction. It was 2 o'clock in the morning, and ever since she had received the letter from Theodore, Louise was restless for the entire week. She couldn't sleep at all. It had been so long since she had heard from him, and was overjoyed to see the owl with letter in the pouch. She missed the oddity that was absent in Sheffield. It was still a nice place but without Theodore, the place lacked the energy that made London… home. She'd still pick this place over Stuggle's any day.
Louise was wearing a grey nightdress and a pink dressing gown on top. Her large room wasn't cold, but she loved the fluffy sensation of the gown on her skin. It made her feel fuzzy in a weird, wonderful way. Her bedroom was three times the size of her old one, with the bed being wide enough to sleep in all positions, and her cupboard being large enough to fit the plethora of clothing that she possessed. She tapped her feet against the desk, shaking the pile of books and papers that were stacked upon it. Her school had upped the homework and studying but it was too easy for her. She waited for five more minutes, still stubborn on waiting for the owl.
"I know that you're coming, just hurry up will you!" Nothing. Louise wasn't going to give up that easily. She pressed her face against the glass, hoping to see if the owl would swoop in from the corner and to her surprise, it did. The same grey owl landed outside the window and pecked its beak, just like Hedwig. Louise lifted the window and took the letter from inside the pouch, after stroking the owl's head. She rummaged in her pocket and emptied out some seeds for the owl to eat, seeing as how long it took to fly from London to Sheffield. It ate them all quickly and flew back out in the night. Louise shut the window and clambered down to her bed to read the letter that she was waiting for. She tore it open and immediately read through the neat handwriting, albeit slowly.
I'm glad that you are enjoying yourself over there, even though you haven't got me around. It must be fun to not have Gretchen burst into your room and scream in your ear. I'd happily switch places with you.
And it's okay, you didn't do anything wrong. I should've been sending more letters instead, so it was my fault. Besides, you'd be an absolute idiot to not leave that place. I would've done it in a heartbeat (and don't act like you wouldn't). At least you're out of there.
The last few months at Hogwarts got pretty hectic! I can't exactly say what happened but maybe someday I will. Really just depends. I also made new friends, although they're the exact opposite of yours. They broke school rules like it was nothing! You'd definitely fit in there.
Going over there for summer sounds great. I can't wait to show you what I found last week. Hint: it has to do with my mum. My quill is running out, so I have to stop here. Can't wait to see you again.
From your best friend, Theodore.
P.S. I put a picture inside of the envelope, like you asked. Still not going to forget you.
She wiped a tear and read through the whole thing again. Louise could almost hear him speak through the letter, sarcasms and all. She traced her finger against each letter as she read over it one last time. Unbeknownst to Theodore, during the months that she had been away from London, Louise had allowed some of her attachments to flourish for the boy, upon realising that they were far apart from each other. He had no idea that his best friend was starting to fall for him, rather slowly. Every passing day made her miss the young wizard even more, wishing that she'd see him for even a minute. That was all that she needed. A minute.
She took out the fresh photograph and gazed at it, the same way Theodore had done to hers. Her heart skipped a beat as she saw the handsome boy awkwardly trying to fix his hair while attempting to create a natural smile. His hair was slightly longer, and he looked quite older, considering the last time she saw him was at Christmas. All of this would've been perfect. Perfect and absolutely normal, if the boy in the picture was not moving.
So this was a weird chapter to write, probably because I was in three different mindsets when I wrote this. I feel like skipping over the summer feels rushed and that I should ease the story into the second year so that it sort of fleshes out. That's why it's going to be a three-parter. Theo is going to find out more about himself in this summer as his 'shift', begins this year. I can't wait to write about Chamber of Secrets as it is my favourite book in the entire series, probably because of how creepy and mysterious it was. I'll try my best to emulate that later on. Later.
Side note: Did you guys get the reference when it said about the 'snake in the building'? I don't care, I feel like a genius for putting that in.
Dispyy: Learn more magic, see more magic, all of it (well not all of it, seeing as I don't want him to be overpowered when he's just twelve.) I'm glad that you enjoyed that chapter :)