The next four days had been amazing, yet painful for Theodore. The revelation of his heritage had brought his inner ego to new heights as he practically strutted around the orphanage as if he owned it. The other children couldn't make of what caused him to act like this. The rumour of him being adopted soon flooded through everyone, but as usual, nobody would talk to him about it. They would see him eat with his only friend, acting smug and almost in their faces. For some, it wasn't anything special seeing Theodore act pretentious but for others, it infuriated them. To see the odd child in the orphanage capturing the chance of leaving before them had filled them with jealousy to the absolute brim. But they wouldn't show it. Not at all. It was better to be subtle about it, talk about him behind his back but never to him. They were petty in that way.
Theodore scanned the Hogwarts letter every single night, reciting those words which lodged themselves into his brain. Dear Mr Riddle… His old habit of staring tediously outside the window had been replaced by one single piece of paper. It honestly looked ancient. He would analyse the elegant handwriting that flowed across the letter, the bizarre equipment list for his first year and the name that was written at the bottom on the back of the letter, Minerva McGonagall. All of it seemed wondrous to Theodore, even though it had only been a few words. Yet it killed him inside to not share it with anyone.
He sat alone in the playground corner while he observed the entirety of the orphanage to draw in every detail before he would leave. He would remember the wonky fence that slightly leaned towards the yard next door. He would remember the small hole beneath the defective grey shed that housed a family of rats which would occasionally peek out during the night. The swings, the sandpit, the corroded bell that hung above the backdoor. All these things that he had crossed within his time here would only be a frequent memory.
The stone in his hand was pressed against his skin and forced it to redden. Theodore had been trying, for the last five minutes, to make the stone disappear but it seemingly failed. Forcing magic was harder than he had expected. He could make other children feel intense pain, but couldn't make a simple rock vanish from his hand? Pathetic. He gritted his teeth and strained his eyes, trying to ooze any magic out. Nothing. He flung the stone away in frustration, and brought his knees to his chest. The Madam had let a delusional old man talk to him about nonsense for no apparent reason. This was by far the biggest disappointment that he had encountered in his life so far. And of course, trouble would always stick onto him in so many more ways than one. Just like now.
"Oi, pisshead! Look at me!" Theodore lifted his head in annoyance at the sight of the oldest kid in the orphanage, Simeon Ferning, a burly boy who looked too old for his age. Even though he was the ripe age of fifteen, his distinct moustache and sideburns would suggest differently. His muscles were swollen compared to Theodore's, and his legs pressed against his tight jeans. The beastly appearance intimidated every child in the building, except for Louise and Theodore. Simeon had targeted the two for years and years, grabbing any opportunity to taint their morale, but failed at every attempt. That didn't mean he'd stop trying.
"Hey, you twat! I'm talking to you!"
"What do you want?" Theodore replied irritably.
"You leaving this place? 'Cause that's what I heard. That some guy came for you. That true?"
"Maybe you should mind your own business, Simeon. I don't want your ugly face in my things." The older boy's face turned red instantly.
"Where are your fucking manners? Do you want me to break those twigs you call arms again? 'Cause you're going in the right direction!" Theodore stood up and proceeded to walk away and ignore Simeon's threats. The less he talked to other people, the quicker the time would pass until he'd be at Hogwarts. However, Theodore was sent crashing down onto the concrete, scraping his palms as he tried to break his fall. Several children peered at the commotion, but did not say a word out of the fear of provoking Simeon. The bully stood over the younger boy in glee. His simple mind was always amused by the actions of hurting the younger kids, especially Theodore.
"I don't know how many times I have to smash it into your tiny skull, freak. You're nothing special and I'm going to show you that." The surrounding children had made a circle around the other two, observing at every angle. Theodore rubbed his wounded palms on his shirt while holding the urge to cry inside himself.
"Leave me alone," he said quietly. Simeon arched over him to taunt the boy even further.
"What d'you say, freak? Leave you alone? Speak up."
"Leave me alone," Theodore repeated at the same volume. He couldn't see Simeon do anything as his face was towards the floor, and his hair flopped over his eyes.
"You little boys don't know when to shut up. You think just because your mum dropped you here like rubbish, that you're better than me?"
Theodore didn't respond. Simeon huffed.
"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 older boy turned around and stomped away with the intention of finding Louise. Theodore pressed his knuckles against the ground until they turned red. His hands were already sore, so why did it matter if the pain worsened? The anger was coming back to him. The complete loathe for Simeon and all the other children who were too cowardly to do anything, the hatred of Simeon disrespecting his mother and even worse, Louise. Yes, all of it seeped into his head as he pinned his eyes on Simeon's back, imagining blistering-hot knives driving across his body, sending him into a suffering frenzy. And just like always…
Simeon screamed when he felt it. What the hell was happening to him, why was his skin being seared by supposedly nothing? The other children scurried backwards at the sudden shrieking. He had dropped onto the ground and was twisting, convulsing in the most violent of ways. His body was repeatedly being stabbed by knives while waves of intense heat scorched his body. The boy's sanity was becoming depleted by large amounts every passing second.
Theodore heard Simeon's screams as they felt like daggers in his ears. But he loved it. The sounds of his suffering was intoxicating, it filled him up completely. This boy who had tormented him for so many years, this… Muggle. Theodore was taken aback by his previous thought. Why did that name suddenly pop up in his mind? The word 'Muggle' was always weird to him and he hadn't referred to anybody else as such, since the day he heard it. But in a fit of anger, he used the term as if it were a slur.
As he contemplated on the ground, Gretchen waddled onto the scene with her piglike skin glistening with a disgusting amount of sweat. She squealed at the barricade of children to move to the side as she tended to Simeon. Simeon had stopped screaming, but tears were welled up in his eyes as he only managed to whimper at Gretchen's questions.
"Oh you poor boy, what happened?! W-who did this to you?!" She immediately turned to the closest child to her, who decided that it was a good idea to lean into the two on the ground.
"You! You little brat! Who did this to him? Was it you? Because if it was, you'll go two weeks without any food!"
"I-It wasn't me, Sister Gretchen, I s-swear! I didn't do it, I-I p-promise!" Gretchen's devil eyes darted across the crowd as she looked for the next witness.
"Who did this… WHO DID THIS?! IF I FOUND OUT THAT ANY OF YOU ARE HIDING THIS PERSON, I'LL MAKE IT MY DUTY TO LOCK YOU INSIDE THE CELLAR, FOR THE NEXT MONTH!"
Nobody spoke up. They didn't know, of course. Simeon started to scream like a madman after bullying Theodore, there was no way that any of them could do this to him. Even Tristan Duckle, the other broad-shouldered bully in the orphanage, would not consider picking a fight with him. He was too much of an animal. Theodore had heard every word from Gretchen. She would never know that he was the cause for his pain, but she could definitely blame him if nobody confessed. He quickly got on his feet, wiping his hair with his bloodied hands as well as wiping them even more on his shirt. The filthy woman would take one look at him and suspect him of everything.
"Riddle! Come here, now!" His heart wrenched. There was no way.
"I didn't do that to him, he has to be lying," he called out from the other end of the scene.
"You wretched boy! You have the cheek to lie to me, when you're covered in blood!" He looked down and sure enough, his own blood had sullied his shirt. Gretchen left Simeon's side and paced over to Theodore, grabbing him by the wrist before dragging him into the building. Her grip was far too strong for the likes of a ten year old to escape from. He dug his heels into the floor, but his slim legs gave way every single time. She hauled him through the door leading to the back room while ignoring his attempts of clawing at her hand. Theodore kicked and punched but she only squeezed tighter. Gretchen trudged through the hallways and made her way to one of the rooms near the front of the building. She pushed through the door and released her painful ape hand on Theodore. He caressed his wrist while he still tried to firm the burns from his palms.
"Gretchen, what is it this time?" Madam asked, feeling quite bothered at Gretchen's intrusion. She glanced at Theodore's blood-ridden shirt and gasped.
"Gretchen, what have you done to this boy?!"
"I didn't do anything, Madam! This boy was singlehandedly attacking the other children in the playground, leaving them hurt on the ground!" she confessed proudly.
"Well I can't imagine how they look like, compared to this! His hands are bleeding for Pete's sake!"
"But Madam… Simeon was on the ground crying! He could barely speak!" Gretchen spoke. Theodore looked down to his feet as he had to endure the 'lies' that were being told. He didn't absolutely, wilfully intend to cause him pain. The idiot spoke ill of his mother and friend. He had gotten what was coming to him.
"Forgive me for intruding this conversation, but is it okay if I stay with Theodore alone?" Theodore's eyes led him to the familiar voice as Dumbledore sat comfortably on the chair opposite the Madam's. A significant part of him was joyful to see the old man here once again, but another was angry that he did not come sooner. This wouldn't have happened if he did.
"Professor, we can't ignore this! I'm sorry, but until this situation is solved, Theodore stays with me!"
"I'm only asking for the boy's company. After all, I was supposed to take him outside today. Remember?" Dumbledore responded with a lifted eyebrow.
'Outside? Outside where?'
The Madam hesitated to make a decision. She looked at Dumbledore who looked unfazed as usual. She turned to Gretchen, her face still smothered with sweat. Her eyes lowered to Theodore's small face, whose eyes irked her to choose the situation that would save him from Gretchen's wrath. She sighed heavily and walked towards the door, motioning Gretchen to follow her. Her disappointment would not be seen by the young boy, but he knew it was all over her disgusting abomination of a face. The door was shut and the two wizards were alone again in the the larger office.
"Your hands, let me see them," ordered Dumbledore. Theodore stuck his palms out to the old man. He watched Dumbledore reaching into his coat and pulling out something that Theodore thought to be extraordinary. A wand, of around 15", twirled in Dumbledore's thin fingers as it pointed at Theodore's hands.
"Vulnera Sanentur." The cuts on the boy's palms gradually began to disappear as new skin stretched across. The rich red tone on his hands faded back into his usual pale. A few seconds passed and all the wounds vanished, not leaving a single trace of any injury, not even a little scar. Theodore was truly enthralled. He squeezed his hands to make sure that it wasn't an illusion. No pain was present. Any doubts Theodore had about magic was expelled from his being. He believed one hundred percent.
"I'm sorry to hear about what happened to you today. You endure that quite often, don't you?"
"You don't have to be sorry. It's them. They always hurt me… push me to my limit."
"So you retaliate by hurting them back?"
"They deserve it!" Theodore snapped. He realised his rudeness and look down to his feet again.
"Theodore, there is one thing that we wizards and witches do not condone in our world. We don't EVER use our magic to hurt others. Not our own kind, not Muggles, nobody. No matter how much they hurt you." Theodore scoffed gently.
"And I suppose that there is a wizard-jail as well, huh?"
"Actually, there is. Azkaban. A place for those who abuse their power and face the consequences of their actions."
"Oh…" He felt a bit foolish into trying to mock the professor.
"I've met people like you, Theodore. Lost and angry at the world, knowing that they grew with nothing. I've seen what that anger did to those people. It ruins the soul." Dumbledore had turned very serious in his words. The jubilant man had been buried down.
"Trust me when I say this. Let. That. Go. For your own sake. Promise me, Theodore. Promise me." Theodore nodded his head slightly. He didn't think that he could fear a strange old man. Dumbledore's usual demeanour returned as he sat up from his chair and placed his wand back into his coat pocket.
"Now, we are awfully late for what I've planned for today! We must hurry at once!" Theodore glanced at the grandfather clock in the corner.
"But it's only twenty past eleven, Professor. What could we be possibly late for at this time?"
"You'll see. But I should recommend a change of clothes. A different shirt would be nice."
"Couldn't you just make the blood disappear?"
"I'll be back then," the boy said as he walked out of the room. Dumbledore was a very odd man. Brilliant yes, but very odd. He dashed through the corridors carefully to avoid crashing into Gretchen again. She'd probably kill him on the spot if she could. He eventually found his bedroom door and shut it tightly behind him. He was glad that he didn't see anybody else as well. The possibility of him inflicting pain on another child was quite high. Theodore turned around to face his cupboard, but was caught in the embrace of somebody else.
"Theo, you're okay! You are okay, right? I swear, I'm gonna pour toilet water on Simeon's face when he sleeps-"
"Calm down Louise, I'm fine. Why are you in my room anyways? In fact, where were you today, you left me all alone!" Louise frowned at Theodore's apparent accusations.
"I was in the discussion room with Mr and Mrs Reagul! They were considering taking me in, remember? Sometimes, I think the only person you think about is yourself."
"That's not true."
"Whatever." Louise lifted her chin and sat at the desk chair, facing away from Theodore. His selfish behaviour did always get on her nerves. She flicked her hair around her eyes and spun the chair around to see what Theodore was doing. Louise noticed that his shirt was now a deep green colour with black trailings across it. She had to admit, green was a good colour on Theodore. The boy fumbled in his cupboard some more and pulled out his brown jacket from the hangers.
"Where are you going?" Louise asked.
"I don't know."
"It's the old guy, isn't it?"
"Are you going to be gone for long?"
"Louise, I don't know where I'm going."
"Just asking." Theodore zipped up his jacket and walked over to the door.
"Hey Theo, you think you could get something for me? Like sweets or something?"
"Uh… I'll see." Louise fiddled with her fingers as she smiled.
"Don't mention it. And Louise?"
"Please leave my room." Theodore shut the door behind him as the sounds of Louise blowing a raspberry were silenced.
Theodore had spent the last three minutes relaxing his stomach to ease the growing queasiness. He was just subjected to the worst possible mode of transportation, without any type of warning from Dumbledore. The professor didn't seem that worried for the boy as he was glad that he hadn't splinched in half, a term that Theodore wasn't familiar with. Theodore's stomach rested as the boy took a chance to see his surroundings. He was in a secluded area which seemed to be the back of a building. A worn out wooden sign that was laid onto the bricked floor on the side read Leaky Cauldron.
"Professor, are you sure we're in the right place? Because I can smell-*sniffs*- beer?"
"We are in the correct place, just give me a quick moment, please." Dumbledore reached for his wand once more and tapped the stone wall in a rhythmic pattern. Theodore noticed that a single brick was missing from the wall. Then two. Then four. Then eight. Then so on and so forth. The bricks shifted and moved by themselves to open up a passage for the two to walk through. Theodore was struck with awe, but hopped quickly to Dumbledore's side as he strode onwards.
The sight was just astonishing. Streams and crowds of people, all garbed in strange clothes, moved in and out of the various shops that were on the side of the wide road in the middle. He saw owls soaring above their heads, hooting and communicating with each other. He could see a shop displaying the most bizarre sweets that he had ever seen in his life. On his left, a shop specialising in robes and on his right, a shop that had a multitude of books. All of this was simply wonderful. He could also see that some people gave them, or rather Dumbledore, random stares and smiles. It wasn't until a man had rushed to the pair that Theodore realised what position Dumbledore was in around here.
"Hello there, Albus! Good to see you again! How have you been, dear friend?" The man was lanky, but had a round belly which stuck out through his orange robes. His blonde hair was balding on the top, but stuck out wildly from the sides. He honestly looked as if he escaped a mental institution five minutes ago.
"Good to see you too, Torgan! I'm just here to help one of my newest students pick out his school equipment for him. Smart boy, I'll say."
"Well, if Dumbledore himself has taken him under his wing, then I should believe so! What is your name, dear boy?" Theodore swallowed painfully and spoke.
"Theodore. Theodore Riddle."
"Riddle, ey? Not a usual name, is it? Half-blood, perhaps?" Dumbledore nodded his head.
"You know, I think I knew a person called Riddle. It was awfully a long time ago…" Both Dumbledore and Theodore listened to the wizard's rambling as he droned on about his time in Bermuda. Theodore's eyes wondered across the large alleyway and into the shop with the robes inside. Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions. The shop seemed interesting enough, but not as interesting as the wand shop that he had passed a few moments ago. That would definitely be the highlight of the day. Theodore was lost in his own thoughts for so long that he did not realise a girl was staring at him through the window. Her bushy, wild hair was difficult to miss. Her brown eyes were wide open as she refused to look anywhere else. Theodore was not sure as to why she was gawping at him like a lion hunting for meat, but he could see that her cheeks were considerably red. Surely she couldn't be looking at him.
"Let's get a move on, Theodore!" He turned back to Dumbledore and came to his side again. He saw that Torgan had disappeared into one of the other shops with another wizard. He probably went to go bore him to death as well.
"Your friend speaks too much."
"That is not untrue." The duo walked through the crowds of people, stopping for conversation every now and then before returning to their usual pacing. Theodore had wondered why they hadn't walked into a single shop so far. Dumbledore didn't bring him here for sightseeing.
"Aren't we going to buy some school stuff?"
"In time, yes. But first we need some money." At the end of the High Street, a larger marble-looking building shone brightly as the golden words, Gringotts Bank, was there for all to see. People with their children rushed in and out of the main doors, carrying large and small packages, presumably for school. They stepped onto the polished front of the building and made their way inside. The interior was grand and even more pristine than the outside had made it out to be. The gigantic chandeliers hung high and all the golden statues on the walls had faces which grimaced, almost like a…
"Are those goblins," he whispered to Dumbledore.
"Right you are. They own and operate the bank due to their expertise in metalwork. It's a known fact that if you want any of your prized possessions to be safe, you store it at Gringotts." Dumbledore had stopped at the nearest goblin on his right, who was elevated by a large desk. Dumbledore whipped out a key from his pockets and passed it on to the goblin.
"The key to Hogwarts financial savings… This way, Headmaster," the goblin spoke in a gravelly tone. His scrunched expression made it seem as if he held a lot of internal anger that was ready to explode at a moment's notice. The goblin disappeared behind the desk and hobbled around to the wizards, revealing his stature. He was barely able to reach up to Theodore's waist, let alone his chest. He scurried across the clean floors to the end of the large room and pushed through an arched doorway. Theodore passed through it just fine, but Dumbledore lowered his head to avoid being smacked straight in the face. Behind the door laid a cave-like setting full of hollowed out tunnels which led to many different ones, all of which had a set of rails entering within each tunnel. The goblin clambered into an average-sized carriage that had just appeared from nowhere instantly. Theodore climbed inside as did Dumbledore and a split second later, the carriage shot forward like a bullet. The feeling of moving at breakneck speed did not sit well with Theodore as he was prone to having a 'sissy stomach', according to Gretchen. It was just better to hold onto the rails and hope for the best that the ride wouldn't last that long. Exactly one minute later, the carriage halted to one of the rocky platforms below. Dumbledore sprung out of his seat like a child who had finished a fairground ride. Theodore could not match that energy. The goblin did not care for the boy's dizziness and hopped out of the carriage.
"Must we always take this way down here?" Theodore slurred.
"The only way in. Stops nosy wizards from stealing their stuff," the goblin replied nastily. The trio walked along the platform and encountered a large vault door. The goblin used the key that was given to him by Dumbledore and twisted it inside the keyhole. Clicks and clanks were heard until the vault door swung open. Dumbledore stepped inside which opted Theodore to do the same. The vault's contents was littered with towers of golden coins, all nearly piled up and arranged in an orderly pattern. Some were silver and some were bronze but the sheer amount of gold snatched Theodore's attention. Dumbledore scooped up a few golden coins in his brown satchel until he was satisfied.
"I think that should be enough for today. Come along!" Theodore was left without words, but followed the elderly man outside the vault and back into the carriage, ever so curious as to what he could possibly buy with all the money that was there.
In Madam Malkin's…
The clothes shop was full of adults and children who excitedly ran around, ignoring their parents' direct orders to stop where they were. Some kids stood on stools while they were being measured and sized for their school robes. Theodore wondered why they couldn't just pick a size and move on like in the Muggle world. It seemed like a waste of time to tailor each child that came through. Dumbledore had stepped out to someplace else, leaving Theodore alone in the corner of the store holding the large sack of 'Galleons' as told by Dumbledore. Stares had been earned by him as many people looked perplexed about his clothing which stood out from the majority of the occupants in the shop. He didn't give them any attention and reviewed his list again. He'd already gotten the cauldron, the telescope, scales and all the books that he needed. The pointed hat was the only part of the uniform that he had possessed and the wand was the only equipment that he was missing. He tucked the piece of paper into his trouser pocket and decided to open up one of the books to treat his boredom.
"Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. By 'Newt Scamander'. Who the hell would call their own child 'Newt'?"
"It really is odd, isn't it?" Theodore turned his head to his left. The same girl with the bushy hair sat next to him on the waiting bench, with a black robe draped over her. An emblem that was divided into four different coloured sections was stuck on the higher parts of the robe. It was most likely the Hogwarts crest. She stuck out a hand with a smile on her face. Theodore noticed that her front two teeth was larger than the rest.
"My name is Hermione Granger. I'm going to Hogwarts as well." Theodore shook her hand and replied calmly.
"Riddle? That sounds like a Muggle name. Are you a Muggle-born, like me?"
"What's a Muggle-born? Besides, I'm a half-blood."
"You don't know what that means? I thought that you would've know that." Theodore could detect a hint of snoot in her sentence. This girl could potentially be an annoyance to him.
"It means a wizard or witch born from two Muggle parents."
"How does that work?"
"I'm not sure really, but I'm sure it's in a book somewhere."
"Huh." Theodore tried to focus back onto the book, but Hermione insisted on speaking with him.
"Have you done any magic so far? I have. I once made my mother's hair grow flowers. It was a bit terrifying for her, but it all calmed down when they found out that I was a witch."
"Erm, yeah, I've done some magic."
"Like what?" Theodore flashed back to earlier in the day, him forcing Simeon to scream in anguish. Hermione would probably be disgusted if she heard what he had done.
"I turned my classroom's fish into a frog with wings when I was five." He wasn't telling an exact lie. The goldfish had sprouted green legs and bulbous eyes, that it might as well been called a frog.
"You did magic at five years old? Most people don't show any signs until they're seven. I read that in a book." Theodore attempted to kill the conversation by not saying anything, but it only led to more questions.
"Did you come with anybody today?"
"I'm really not."
"You know the famous Albus Dumbledore? That's amazing! You have to be really special if he came with you. Normally, I'd expect Harry Potter to be with him, of course-"
"Look. Hermione. I know that you're happy about all this magic stuff and everything. I am too. But don't you think that you can talk about this with your other friends?" Hermione's face dropped.
"But I don't have any other friends…"
'Gee, I wonder why.'
Theodore finally got back to his book and opened the first page. He didn't glance over to Hermione who was clearly hurt by his comment. She twiddled her fingers together and hung her head low in silence. After half a minute, 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'd rub her the wrong 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.
"Hermione, let's go. Are you crying?" A woman in casual Muggle clothing, followed by a man, called out to Hermione. She quickly rubbed her eyes and stood up from the bench.
"No, no! I'm fine, Mum. Just all this dust that's all over the place."
"Looks pretty clean to me," said Hermione's father. "Anyways, that's the last of it. We've got everything so now we can go home." Hermione stood between her parents and made their way outside the doorway. She turned around and gave a large wave to Theodore and left Madam Malkin's. A second later, Dumbledore had walked through the door, enjoying himself to the sweets that were seen in the sweet shop down the road. Theodore looked at him wondering if this man was really the great famous wizard that everyone made him out to be, or if he was a child stuck in an old man's body. The latter seemed the most plausible at the given situation.
After an hour in Madam Malkin's…
The hunt for finding the perfect robe, jumper and tie came to a finish as Theodore finally stepped out into the High Street again. The number of people had reduced slightly, but was still a large amount. The flying broomstick that was on display in the store near the Leaky Cauldron, was surrounded by boys who pressed their faces against the glass. If it could fly higher than the kites in the sky, then Theodore didn't want it. The two weaved through everyone until they reached the wand shop. Ollivander's. This was going to be interesting.
They walked into the empty shop and looked around to see if anyone was there. The vacant store look terribly old-fashioned, with antique objects hung and lain above the furniture. Theodore dare say that he even saw a large spider scale along the ceiling and into one of the cracks. Dumbledore was observing the precious objects with curiosity. Theodore, however, just wanted his wand. He slowly walked to the counter and called out for anybody.
"Hello? Is anybody here…? Hello?" No answer. "Professor there's nobody here-" An old man had popped up right in the boy's face, causing him to jump backwards.
'What is with these old men acting like children?!'
The man had snow-white hair and thick eyebrows. His eyes were almost silvery with small dots inside them. His suit was similar to Dumbledore's with a little less frill. His appearance made him seem like quite the gentleman, if he had not scared Theodore.
"Good afternoon! Terribly sorry if I had startled you, I was just arranging some things. Hello there, Albus!"
"Hello to you, Garrick! How have you been?"
"I feel fantastic, old friend. I just came back from a bit of wand wood searching. The number of children coming in here is growing ever so quickly! But I know that must mean more students for you, no?"
"Absolutely. Here's another one for you. A strong boy, no doubt." Ollivander brought his circular-rimmed glasses to his face and observed Theodore thoroughly.
"Ah, yes. Handpicked from the man himself? You must be talented. May I ask you of your name?"
"Theodore Riddle." Ollivander struggled to swallow as his eyes flashed with fear for a quick second. Theodore remembered that a similar thing happened when he told Dumbledore that he could speak to snakes. He couldn't see what caused them to act so.
"Riddle, Riddle, Riddle… A very peculiar name. Very peculiar!" It seemed that being cryptic was a trait in all old wizards.
"Why is my name peculiar to you?" Ollivander leaned inwards, closing the space between him and Theodore.
"I remembered such a name, which walked into my shop many years ago. Yes, Riddle. That was his name."
"My… father?" Ollivander nodded his head. His eyes were wide open, creeping Theodore out by just a bit.
"Yes, I remember. Yew, 13½" with a phoenix feather core. I remember it all too well… Your father had accomplished great things with his wand. Great, great things! I can only hope that you follow in his footsteps in more ways than one, but not too many." Theodore was silently locked in between eye contact with Mr Ollivander. The way he had described his father made it seem as if he was a profound wizard. But why did he say 'but not too many'? Was he evil? Was his prowess in magic too much to handle that he killed himself doing so? Whatever it was, Theodore would dig up later. For now, his wand was his top priority.
"So, do I pick out any wand I like?" Ollivander guffawed as loudly as a man who downed a good three pints of beer. Dumbledore placed a hand on the boy's shoulder.
"Theodore, the wand chooses the wizard, not the other way around," Dumbledore explained.
"But that makes no sense! Wands aren't supposed to think for themselves, are they?" Ollivander walked over to the various small boxes in the shelves behind him and traced along them all until he slid one out. He opened it up to reveal a brown wand inside a purple cushion.
"Here. Alder, 12" with dragon heartstring as a core. Smooth and springy." He handed it over to Theodore who held it in his fingers loosely. The wand was inert and did not do anything. He gave it a wave and tried to make something happen, but nothing. He handed it back to Ollivander.
"Can I try another one?"
"Of course, my boy! You shall not leave until you have one!" He reached in the back and brought another box. He took the wand out and twirled it like an expert.
"This one here is from an oak tree. 14", unicorn hair core, good for charms and simple magic." He handed it to Theodore. The second his fingertips touched the wand, it shook violently and blasted its way across the room before snapping in half. Theodore was embarrassed that a wand had rejected him by breaking itself into smaller pieces. Ollivander was not angry, but frustrated that none of these wands seemed compatible to Theodore. He tried the next one, and the next one, and the next. Most of them did nothing, some of them blew up the furniture in the shop and others proceeded to snap themselves in half. Theodore was very disheartened that this was happening to him. Even Dumbledore was surprised that none of these wands fitted the young boy.
"Ah, I'm sorry. I've never seen anything like this happen before, in my days of working here. I'm not too sure as to what I must do. Maybe if you come back another time…"
"But I have to get my wand now! What's the entire point of learning magic if I can't have a wand?" Theodore complained. His doubts were getting the better of him.
"Theodore, have some patience. School is not tomorrow, you'll have your wand," said Dumbledore. He saw the boy's face grow dark as his hazel eyes narrowed. They almost looked snakelike. Ollivander saw this as well and improvised on the spot to try and ease the tension. He brought out a large box from underneath the counter and slammed it down.
"You know, when I was a young lad and I began my career in wandlore, I created many combinations of different wand woods and cores inside. Of course, now I use only three types of cores, but maybe there is something for you inside here. Let's see, dogwood, vine, no… yes! Here it is." He brought out a sleek black wand with an odd design. From the tip to the middle, the wand's girth expanded, only to become thinner at the grip of the wand. At the bottom, a small swirl of intricate designs were too small to observe properly. It looked very dissimilar from the other wands.
"Acacia, 12¾", Thestral tail hair as a core. Very tricky wand to make. It had taken me many months to even find the Thestral for it."
"Why did you store it away?"
"The nature of the wood and core was too… opposite. The wood was unyielding to anyone but its master; the core would share its power with anyone regardless of its original owner. The combination seemed intriguing at the time, but proved to be ineffective. Perhaps you have something that no other has had before to master it." He handed the wand to Theodore. He slowly held it with his fingers in case it decided to fly off on its own. The wand did nothing for the first four seconds. Theodore was about to hand it back when he felt a surge of power propagate from his fingertips to his entire body. The wand released white sparks which whizzed around the boy's arm before fizzing away. He found it. He had found the wand. His wand. He could feel himself being able to conjure a storm, a tornado of fire from just a flick of his wand. Maybe he could. Dumbledore clapped as if he witnessed a wonder in wizarding history.
"Splendid, dear boy! Congratulations! I'm so proud!"
"I am too. I've only sold one wand in that box to somebody else and that one didn't seem, in the slightest, worthy of the poor witch. I wish of you the best with it," said Ollivander as he bowed in respect. Theodore wanted to sneer, but felt that it was unnecessary to do so. He had gotten what he wanted. He placed the wand in his pocket before remembering one thing.
"Oh, yes. Is there a price for the wand?" Theodore asked.
"Seven Galleons." The boy turned to Dumbledore who handed him seven coins to which he handed to Ollivander. The man dropped them in his little bag. Theodore could not hear any sounds of coins crashing into each other, but he ignored it. The two waved goodbye to the old man and made their way to the Leaky Cauldron. There was a lot of equipment that he needed to bring back to the orphanage, so he had hoped that Dumbledore would be merciful as to teleport him back, no matter how much he hated it. Theodore decided to not get a pet as he realised that snakes were not allowed. A frog and a cat seemed useless and the owl was alright. But what would he need it for, anyways?
Theodore and Dumbledore reached the courtyard for the Leaky Cauldron and entered through the back to fill their stomachs before departing. The air was full of alcoholic fumes, mixed with the smell of food that was ravishing to Theodore. He pulled his bags and equipment to the nearest table and plopped himself on the chair to rub his sore palms. Dumbledore had gone off to the front of the building and spoke among the other wizards who were ecstatic to speak with the older man. This had given Theodore a chance to look at his wand and books further, without interruptions.
"As I live and breathe! It's Albus Dumbledore! What could I do for you, sir?" The barkeeper asked cheerfully.
"Could you make one of your afternoon plates with an apple pie on the side and a butter beer, please?"
"It'd be my pleasure!"
"Thank you, Tom." Tom waved his wand in his fingers and just like that, the cupboards opened by themselves. Ingredients floated out above the oven and a pan, spatula and knife followed suit.
"I never known you for being such a heavy eater, sir. What's the occasion?" Dumbledore pointed at Theodore whose nose was stuck in a book, quite literally.
"Lucky boy. Relative?"
"No. But I did know his parents very well before they left him."
"The boy has no parents," asked Tom in a whisper. Dumbledore nodded. "Such a shame. It's bad enough that countless of people had lost their lives more than twelve years ago, and now these children are going around without a mother and father! Makes me wonder sometimes… Do you think You Know Who had anything to do with him?"
"Young Theodore's abandonment was the cause of You Know Who's actions. Just not in the way that you think." Dumbledore paid for the freshly prepared meal and brought the tray over to Theodore who was fiddling with his telescope.
"Careful now. You don't want to break it before the first term starts."
"I was careful." The sight and smell smacked Theodore in the face as his mouth leaked with saliva. He had never seen food this good before in his life. He didn't want to ask for any, just in case it wasn't for him, but god did he want all of it.
"This is for you, you know," Dumbledore stated as he smiled at the boy.
"R-really? For me?"
"Dig in." The boy grabbed the fork and scoffed the food straight into his mouth. The meat was so much more tastier than the fish he had at the orphanage. The roasted potatoes were scrumptious with the perfect amount of salty gravy poured over it. He smacked his teeth a few times to suck out every single taste that was left undigested. Before he knew it, the plate only held a pool of gravy and some potato skin. Luckily for him, it was only the beginning as he started on the warm apple pie that had a small cube of sweet butter on top. Each slice was better than the last. Each apple piece was sweeter. Everything about it was perfect. When that was finished, he took the strange-looking drink and sipped it first as he never tasted it before. He smacked his lips for three seconds and then took larger gulps. It was much more filling than hot chocolate. He drank and drank until there was nothing left for him to down, only the froth that laid on top of the drink before. He wiped underneath his nose and sucked his fingers. That was the greatest meal that he ever had. The food at home paled in comparison to what was served here. Louise would have loved it. She'd devour it like a food-deprived dinosaur.
"My, my! You're a hungry child, aren't you?" Dumbledore chuckled. Theodore had pigged himself out in front of Dumbledore and acted like the other barbarians in the orphanage. He felt ashamed.
"Sorry. I've never eaten anything like that before." Theodore replied in a quiet voice. Dumbledore held out his palm to show that it was alright.
"Professor, if you don't mind me asking, who was my father? Mr Ollivander said that he did great things. What things did he actually do?" Dumbledore didn't say anything for a moment, then spoke out his response.
"Your father was a man called Tom Riddle. He was a student at Hogwarts, just like you'll be in a few months. He was a brilliant student. Absolutely top class. Possibly the greatest student to ever walk the hallways of Hogwarts itself. Yes. Tom was magnificent."
"So how did he die?"
"Your father was… destroyed by dark magic. There was nothing that anyone could do. Nobody could save him."
"I think I understand… And my mother? What was her name?"
"Valerie. Valerie Potter."
"Did they not marry or…"
"I think marriage was the very least of their 'problems', when they had you." Theodore could see in the older man's eyes that he didn't want to speak any further. Theodore didn't care. He was going to find out either way.
"So how did my mother die?"
"Theodore, sometimes things can't be told to you when you want them to. Sometimes, they reveal themselves at their own accord. I know you want everything about your parents to come from me, but I won't tell them to you. Not now." Serious Dumbledore was back. Theodore turned his head to the equipment on his left. He was angry that Dumbledore was avoiding his direct questions, but chose to leave it. It wouldn't do him any good if he persisted even further. The two sat in silence until the clock struck at half past five, signalling them to leave for Theodore's orphanage.
At eight o'clock…
The orphanage was dead silent. The Madam had finished her paperwork in her office and trudged into her room, shutting the door behind her. The chirps of birds and grasshoppers alike seeped into the windows of the young wizard's room as he laid in his bed restlessly. The day had started off so badly, then it changed to the greatest day ever, only for it to end on a low note. The Madam had helped him bring his stuff to his room and ever since then, he didn't come out. The other children were curious as to where he went, but didn't ask him. Typical.
The late afternoon turned into the early night as Gretchen shouted through the hallways to tell everyone that it was bedtime. The door swung open and slammed shut as usual. The only thing that was out of place was that he didn't see Louise anywhere. She was always the first one to speak to him if he ever left the orphanage, which was rare. He didn't see a mop of unkept hair bouncing its way to him. Just a bunch of stares from a bunch of soulless children.
Theodore twisted in his bed to try and think of something else. Like Hogwarts. Or his new friend Hermione. Or maybe the delicious meal that he had at the Leaky Cauldron. He could feel himself slipping away into slumber when something warm grabbed his feet under his sheets. He pulled his feet away and sat up immediately. Louise was staring back at him, hand over her mouth to avoid her laughter from spilling out.
"Why the hell are you not in your bed?! You're going to get us both into trouble!" Theodore hissed.
"Well, I didn't see you earlier on, so why not now? Move over, will you?" She climbed onto the bed and sat next to Theodore. Louise was wearing a light grey, long sleeved pyjama shirt with pink pyjama bottoms and white socks with a small bow attached to each one.
"Louise, you really can't be here."
"I'm only here for my sweets. You didn't forget, did you?" Before Theodore had gotten his wand, he stopped at the sweet shop to buy most of the normal-looking sweets that he could find. Liquorice Wands and Apple Rings. Everything else was too strange to show to Louise. He opened up the draw in his desk and took the packets and sweet wands out. Louise looked amazed by the Apple Rings, but was confused by the other.
"Liquorice Wands? What the hell is that?"
"It's one of those new sweets. Exclusive. First come, first serve." Louise bit inside the opened Liquorice Wand and chewed until delight had spread across her face.
"I love it! It's so good! It tastes even better than the soggy liquorice in Gretchen's cabinet."
"Now that you have your sweets, go back to bed." Louise pouted.
"Two more minutes. Please!" Theodore reluctantly nodded as Louise squeezed him in a tight hug. Theodore lightly tapped her back before she released. The pair talked about Simeon crying in the first aid room, Gretchen being told off by the Madam and what happened in the room with the Reaguls. Two minutes turned into five, and five into fifteen, and fifteen into two hours. They babbled on and on regardless of the time. Just a young wizard and his Muggle best friend, without a care in the world.