"Okay… I'm done. Here."
"Thank you, Master- I mean Theodore!"
The 25th of August had arrived as the young Heir of Slytherin fixed a small plate of dead mice for his snake companion at the early morn. The sky was moderately grey with the sun rays penetrating through the thick clouds. Today was the day that he'd get his school things with Professor McGonagall and hopefully, would see his friends again. He was most eager to see Harry as he hadn't spoken to him all summer. Louise had kept her usual consistency as did Ron, but Hermione did take her time to reply. Paris was in another country after all.
"Theodore, are you okay," asked the Maibian Adder as she gulped a hairless mouse.
"Yeah, why do you ask?"
"You were talking in your sleep. A bit in English, a bit in Parseltongue. Kept going on about Stuggle's and something else."
"What was it?" Viripin flicked out her tongue as she thought for a short while. She then shook her head and resumed to eating her breakfast. Theodore wasn't going to hound her into telling what she had heard from him but he was curious, to say the least. Never in his life was he told that he spoke in Parseltongue when he was asleep. Then again, nobody was ever around when he slept.
"Probably just my stupid conscience telling me to go back to Stuggle's." Theodore said as he scratched his hair. Two days ago, Tom had cut his hair neatly, allowing his handsome features to shine.
"Will you go back?"
"I… guess so. It'd be pretty stupid to not go back anyways. If Dumbledore was telling the truth, then I have no choice, really. I just didn't know that my mother used the place as a shelter for me… makes me wonder sometimes, you know?"
"I for one, am glad that we can go back. I missed the cupboard in your room. So nice and warm. And a nice family of moths to snack on!"
"There are moths in my cupboard?!" Theodore asked in a disgusted tone.
"Well, it's not like you take the upmost care of it."
"I'm just joking. Besides, you'd obviously be distracted if Louise was on your mind every single day."
The snake hissed gently and coiled around the boy's right leg. Snarky wasn't even the word to describe Viripin. Theodore took the empty plate when she was finished and allowed her to tag along downstairs. She draped herself around his shoulders while keeping her head rested on Theodore's. There wouldn't be that many wizards and witches willing to get wasted in the morning so Viripin wouldn't attract that much attention. Theodore walked through the empty pub and into the kitchens where he quickly scrubbed the plate and left it on a rack to dry off. It was still a bit of a risk to do magic despite the fact that he was around other magical people. And it didn't help that McGonagall would be accompanying him as well.
"Theo, is that you?" A voice from the door called out.
"Viripin, hide! Quickly- uh, yes Tom! It is I!" Theodore said awkwardly as he tried to stuff the snake inside an empty barrel. He had to ignore her angry hisses for the innkeeper seemed apprehensive as to why the boy looked so unnaturally happy.
"Theodore… are you okay?"
"Ahem, yes Tom. Feeling absolutely perfect," said the boy as he gave a stiff thumbs up. Tom had suspicion flooded in his eyes but he didn't say a word to him. He probably was feeling pressured after whatever Dumbledore had told him that night ago. Tom shrugged, and casually walked out of the room, whistling the melody of 'Happy Birthday' in a jolly tune. Theodore waited until he left and opened the barrel slowly. His caution to danger was correct as he flicked his hand back just in time to avoid Viripin's jaws.
"What the hell is wrong with you?! Are you trying to kill me?!"
"Why would you stuff inside the barrel?! You could've hidden me underneath the sink over there!"
"You don't take all the time in the world when I tell you to hide! Nobody knows that you're here, or did you forget that?" Viripin flicked her tongue violently and then sulked as she trailed along the floor. Theodore picked her up from her belly and surprisingly, she did not attempt to resist. At the very back of the kitchens was a barrel room where all the butter beers and Firewhiskey were held. The room would be warm enough for her to rest and Tom rarely came in there anyways.
"What if I get hungry again?" Theodore looked around the dusty cellar and noticed multiple spiderwebs, the size of plush pillows.
"There are probably a lot of fat spiders in the corners somewhere. Hey, stop acting like a child. You love spiders."
"Yeah, I do. But if I get bored?"
"Sleep. I'll be back soon. I'll get you a… bunch of bats or something. Just stay here, okay?" Viripin nodded and lightly nudged his hand as he left her on top of a car-sized barrel. Theodore gave her a quick pet and left the room. He could feel the fumes from the Firewhiskey seep into his brain.
Theodore returned to the pub and saw the familiar faces that would regularly return almost everyday. He gave a little wave to a group of wizards and witches that chorally shouted, 'Morn, Theodore' as he walked past. He guessed living in the Cauldron for so long would naturally draw attention to oneself. Of course, he didn't mind. He'd know for a fact that if it were Harry in his shoes, the boy would've been harassed every passing day. Thank god that Theodore wasn't the one to bear the lightning scar on his forehead.
The Leaky Cauldron's clock read 12 o'clock on the dot as the little figurine inside viciously attacked the crumpled bell. Theodore had been waiting for three dragging hours for the professor to arrive and you know what boredom did to the boy. The pain was too much to bear. He just remembered that Erveris and Ms Padalin hadn't come down yet, which was unusual because they were the first ones up. Perhaps they were touring down Diagon Alley. Theodore peered around the pub with one eye open and was suddenly struck by how the same pink haired girl from before, instantly gained green long curls. He just blinked. What else could he do?
"This place just gets weirder and more wonderful the more I stay," muttered Theodore to himself. The girl must've caught the boy's awestruck expression as she winked again and gave him a flirtatious wave. Theodore waved back shyly and turned his head quickly. Maybe if he weren't so easily flustered, he could probably act like a normal human being. He rotated his head back to her direction and saw that she was talking with another bunch of girls. Theodore wasn't exactly the best at learning different languages but he was certain that they were speaking French.
"Theodore?" Tom came from around the corner as he wiped his dripping hands against his stained apron. He must've dropped a litre of Firewhiskey all over himself because his trousers were drenched as well.
"Professor McGonagall sent this to your room," said the innkeeper as he handed Theodore a blue envelope. "Got any idea what it's about?"
"Not in the slightest." Theodore muttered as he opened the envelope. The letter was a very strange one, in his opinion. Theodore had no idea on how to feel about what it said.
Dear Mr Riddle,
It seems that I too, have been called for other pressing matters that will unfortunately, not allow me to accompany you for your school shopping. I am terribly sorry for my inconvenience however, the Ministry has elected somebody to take my place today. I believe that you are familiar with a Draco Malfoy. His father was more than happy to pay for everything. Again, I am sorry.
Theodore scratched his cheek. He wasn't expecting this at all. Draco's dad was 'more than happy' to pay for all of Theodore's things, despite not meeting him in the flesh? Theodore didn't doubt that Draco told his father about him, but something felt a bit too off. Oh well. If he was willing to pay for him, then Theodore was not going to do the foolish thing and reject his 'generosity'. He folded the letter inside his grey hoodie pocket, and went to go stuff himself silly for the day ahead.
"Pleasure to finally meet you, Mr Riddle." Mr Malfoy shook Theodore's small hand with a mien of superiority yet under layers of hidden motives. There was no doubt that Draco was his father's son. He looked like the Malfoy boy at around twenty seven years older, with longer blonde hair slicked back and those grey eyes which mirrored his son's.
"Pleasure's all mine, sir." Theodore said with a slightly stern voice. He had to make a good impression at least, for that's how you gain a person's respect and he knew that Mr Malfoy had a lot for him. He just didn't show it. The two were standing outside Gringott's, waiting for Draco to pick up a few spilt Galleons. He walked out casually and stuffed a large sack under his black, pristine robes. Draco lazily looked side to side until he saw Theodore stand next to his father.
"Sorry for the wait, a stupid goblin poked my sack with his claw. Thought that I stole something." Draco sneered.
"Have a bit of respect for the goblins, Draco! They are the ones who keep our fortune safe." Draco looked in the other direction and rolled his eyes before turning back.
"So, where to Theo," asked the blonde boy. "I heard that we got a new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, plus most of our books are from a guy called Lockhart."
"Lockhart? I don't even remember getting a list." Theodore searched through his pockets and took the envelope out. Another letter decided to poke out now, instead of before, and was read quickly. "What's so special about this Lockhart guy for us to need all his books?" Draco shrugged.
"Well come along, boys! Not time to waste, now." The older Malfoy led the way as the two boys trailed behind him.
"How comes you're not at that Muggle orphanage?" Draco asked.
"I uh, left for a while. I didn't even know what I was doing."
"Maybe you did." Theodore raised an eyebrow. "Well it's quite clear that you hate it there and I can understand that. I would be furious to stay with Muggles, knowing that I'm a wizard. It's insulting, to be honest. At least a guy like you has sense. Wouldn't stand an hour in there, let alone a day."
"It's not all that bad. People stay out of my way and I like that. They're not really a nuisance, just ordinary people who don't want to talk to me." Theodore said as they all entered the Apothecary. He remembered the store from last year, containing the most foulest of smells ever combined that he had ever smelt. But this time it felt a little more tame to the nose. Mr Malfoy simply nodded, allowing the boys to dig in with whatever they wanted. Theodore had a small packet of unicorn hair and horns, a bag full of bat wings and spleens with a few beetle eyes for Viripin, and a few other things that he would go broke for, or in his case in debt.
"You really went all out, didn't you," asked Draco as he saw Theodore carry an entire bag of potion ingredients.
"I guess I did. Probably will be of some use anyways. It's always like that at Hogwarts." They exited the store and walked closer to the Leaky Cauldron. Theodore was about to step inside of Flourish and Blott's, but heard his name call out to him from further down. The Malfoys was heading down to the pub, only they didn't stop at the brick wall. Theodore recognised their positioning against the side of the Alley and instantly began to feel nervous. They seriously weren't thinking about going inside Knockturn Alley? Theodore knew that they were sketchy but not this sketchy. He grudgingly moved away from the entrance of the bookstore and advanced to the other wizards.
"Mr Malfoy? What would we possibly need here for school? Isn't this place for," he peered inside the darkened alleyway, "dark wizards?"
"Now what makes you say that, dear boy? There's nothing to be afraid of." Mr Malfoy said in very very slight mocking tone.
"I'm not scared," said Theodore as he regained his composure.
"Ah yes, I forgot. Bravery is what you are all about, no? Draco told me about your sorting last year. Quite… interesting."
'Arsehole.' Draco nudged his arm lightly while smirking.
"Come on, it'll be cool. Father will even get you something down there. Will you?"
"All depends if the boy wants to go." Theodore was in no mood to contemplate whether he should stay behind and just walked straight through the narrow alleyway. The air dipped in oxygen quality as Theodore could feel his lungs sucking in more air. There was no moisture nor was there any dryness in the air. It all just felt filthy to be around. Draco and his father quietly strode behind him, no doubt talking about Theodore. The man was probably mistrustful of Theodore as he was denied of Slytherin yet his son had an impression on him. Theodore could only smirk inside as he knew that his bloodline was much more noble and monumental than anything the Malfoy's had to offer. Draco was alright but Mr Malfoy needed to keep his distance.
They walked through the eerie yet familiar pathway, turning right and left around the tight corners until they entered Borgin and Burke's, the one place Theodore had dreaded to return to. Borgin must've known that the book was still missing and had been patiently waiting for the boy to return, just to slay him from where he stood. Theodore then thought to himself that if he was with the Malfoy's, Borgin surely couldn't try anything on him, right? Right now, he was a customer and it was imperative that the shopkeeper kept the customer in a satisfactory mood. There was nothing to worry about, hopefully.
The bell near the door rung as the three entered the store. Theodore caught a dusty black cabinet shake a little but he put that out of his mind. He just wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible.
"Do not touch anything," said Mr Malfoy to the boys, especially eyeing Draco.
"You're still getting us something, right?" Draco asked as he quickly released the snappy skull of a baby alligator.
"If you behave. And I won't allow you to take anything from here. There's nothing here for little boys." Theodore was pretending to observe pickled rats as he honed in on their conversation. Judging from which house his parents came from and their possible nobility, Theodore wondered if his father would act the same towards him if he were alive. According to Viripin, his father was quite the 'vile boy', and Dumbledore had said that he died due to 'falling' into the Dark Arts, whatever that meant. In fact, Theodore wondered how he would act if his father and mother were still alive. More bratty than Malfoy? Who knew?
"You again?! What did I tell you about coming into my shop!" Theodore stepped back quickly at the frightening sight of Borgin waddling rapidly towards him, like an enlarged spider.
"I'm buying something for real this time- let go of me, idiot!" Theodore shouted as the man attempted to drag him out the door a second time.
"Little boys are not allowed in my- oh, Mr Malfoy! How good to see you! I was just disciplining this boy over-"
"The boy is with me, Mr Borgin. I can assure you that he is no thief. Please be so kind as to release him." Theodore ripped his arm away from Borgin's bony grasp and glared at him dangerously. He walked over to Draco who was poking a floating eyeball.
"What may I interest you for today, sir? Anything 'valuable'?" Mr Malfoy walked around, twirling his black gloved hands around his sleek cane.
"Actually, I wanted to sell a few things. Ministry raids are becoming quite of a nuisance and I can't allow them to interfere with my doings. Although, I did promise young Master Riddle here, anything that he wanted." Borgin squinted his eyes at Theodore, who was still glaring at him with venomous contempt, then sighed.
"Alright then. Take whatever you need, 'Master Riddle'."
"Father, that's not fair! You said that I'd-"
"-get you something if you behave now hush," hissed Mr Malfoy. He brushed a loose strand behind his ear and nodded at Theodore to prompt him to choose anything. Theodore gave a sympathetic shrug to Draco who was sulking, and walked over to the back of the room. He steadily paced forwards, careful to not break anything. Borgin would have a fit if he so much as cracked something.
A few minutes passed and Theodore returned with a cleaner-looking potions book. He dropped it on top of the front desk and waited for Mr Malfoy and Borgin to finish their conversation about the Ministry 'invading' and 'desecrating' his beloved home. He also quickly scolded his son, causing the blonde boy to walk over to Theodore to avoid any more embarrassment.
"Let's see what you got there…'Moste Potente Potions'? Isn't this a bit complicated for people our age?" Draco asked as he studied the leathery spine of the book.
"Nothing is complicated for me. And besides, who knows what you could make up in here? Make people break out in incurable boils, turn people so old they shrivel up into dust. Of course, I'd never do that but…"
"I know who I'd like to give incurable boils," sneered Draco as he traced a lightning bolt on his forehead. Theodore felt a lightning surge of anger, but then suppressed it.
"Harry's not that bad, you know. I'm not saying you have to like him but don't you think you're taking it too far?" Theodore asked. He didn't mind being friends with Draco but there was an obvious divide between him and the others which Theodore would definitely plummet into. Being the middle man felt like he was betraying both parties, a trait which he'd hate himself for if it actually came down to it.
"Scarhead comes out of nowhere, strutting around like he's the greatest because he beat You Know Who. Even when everyone hated him, Dumbledore still gave him special treatment, like the end of last year. Points were being served for stupid feats, no offence."
"None taken." Theodore slightly gritted through his teeth.
"Everybody always puts Slytherin down because of all the Dark Wizards and Witches that came from there. Stupid stereotypes." Draco muttered as he fixed his robe around his neck. Theodore thought that he had a point. Surely, there had to be some wizards and witches from Slytherin that weren't pure-blood supremacy maniacs, that terrorised the world? His mother was probably an exception despite her obvious connection to Voldemort, but other than that, Theodore couldn't remember anyone else. Of course, Snape was in Slytherin as well but…
"I get that you don't like Harry, but you shouldn't… talk about him ALL the time. There are probably other things to focus on than to worry about him."
"Like…" He had nothing. Theodore wanted to keep Harry out of the conversation as much as he could but the younger Malfoy was being stubborn. Rivalries was a waste of time in Theodore's eyes, and only amounted to nothing at the end of the day. Luckily, Mr Malfoy swiftly came to their side alongside with Borgin, and examined the book just like Draco did.
"Hmm, quite the interest in Potions, I see. I wonder if Severus knows about-"
"He does," blurted Draco. "Theodore's the best in the class, next to that Granger girl. Professor Snape has even made him his assistant!" Theodore looked at Draco with annoyance as Mr Malfoy curled his thin lips into a 'heartwarming' smile.
"That's good to hear! I hope that Severus is teaching you well. Alas, if you were in Slytherin, maybe Draco could pick up a grade or two from you, eh?" Draco became silent once more. "Now, Mr Borgin! How much for this book?"
"Uh… Mr Malfoy, that book is not really for sale. You see, I keep a few things for myself, for little reading sessions. I'd hate to give this one away." Mr Malfoy narrowed his harsh grey eyes at the short man, making Borgin's lip tremble slightly as he swallowed. "Of course, I have read through this book multiple times so, there's no need for me to keep it! Haha… t-that'll be thirty Galleons." Mr Malfoy dropped one of his many sacks of gold coins into the man's greasy fingers and handed the book to Theodore. The young Heir had to admit, it was impressive the way Mr Malfoy didn't need to say a word to get what he wanted. Now that was true power.
The three left the store and made it back to Diagon Alley, avoiding small talk with the shady wizards and witches on the side. Theodore held the potions book underneath his right armpit while carrying the ingredients in his left hand. He was going to have the time of his life at recreating some of the things inside. The hairs on his skin became rigid from it, possibly from the cold air inside the alleyway. The life-filled, colourful street of Diagon Alley was in full vision as Theodore could smell a waft of beer drift from the Cauldron. The trip down Knockturn Alley wasn't as dragging as he expected it to be. All that was left was books from Flourish and Blott's and then he could go eat something with Viripin.
Theodore saw many familiar faces in the mid afternoon, such as the Patil twins who looked around the Apothecary, Seamus, Dean, Ernie Macmillan and Justin Finch-Fletchley were also walking up and down the alley with their parents. Dean and Seamus were about to wave and call out Theodore's name but refrained from doing so when they saw him with the Malfoys. Theodore wished that they called out his name anyways. He couldn't be stuck talking to Draco for the entire day. They headed straight for Flourish and Blott's, quickly striding along everyone else like they were royalty.
"What the hell…?" Theodore mumbled as he saw a crowd of middle-aged witches(mostly) circulate the back of the bookshop. The two boys craned their necks to see what was all the fuss about, until they saw the large banner in the back, saying:
Come here to get a live signing of his autobiography 'MAGICAL ME' today! (Only available between 12 o'clock to 5.30PM.)
"Oh yeah, him. I'm going to get a better view from further up, okay?" Theodore said to the Malfoys.
"I'll come with," said Draco eagerly as he followed the boy up the staircase on the sides of the large store. It seemed that a few other people had the same idea as the higher deck was littered with so many wizards and witches that were desperate to gain a single glance from Lockhart. The two managed to find a comfortable place near the middle and observed from above. Lockhart was a blonde man with rather perfect teeth that sparkled with a whitish gleam. Blue robes to match his blue eyes, and a matching hat to complete the entire look. For a wizard, the man was very fashionable. Maybe that was the reason why so many women flocked to him. Draco tapped Theodore on his shoulder and told him that his father needed him really quickly and that he'd be back soon. Alone, Theodore continued to watch the famed wizard as he winked and waved.
"Great guy, isn't he?" Theodore turned to his left. A squat man with long grey hair heaved past other people to talk to Theodore.
"What's so great about him?"
"What's great about Gilderoy Lockhart? You're just going to have to read up on him, kid. Guy's a flipping saint. I wouldn't be surprised if he ran for Minister of Magic and won in a landslide. The people love him!"
"Can't be that impressive if I never heard of him before." The man looked almost insulted by the boy's comment.
"What do you not get about him, kid? He's fucking famous!"
"Okay, relax! No need to get worked up, I was just being honest." The man huffed loudly.
"Hmph. 'Just being honest'," muttered the man as he leaned against the rail, causing it to creak a little bit as it bent forwards.
"Yes, that was literally what I just said. You didn't have to repeat it." The man looked livid with Theodore's sass. His nose and ears might as well bled from the rapid flush of red to his face.
"Listen here, you little prick! If you ever disrespect my Lockhart again, I'll- oh my god! It's Harry Potter!" Theodore widened his eyes as the two simultaneously leaned in to get a better look. Theodore looked at Harry being uncomfortably crushed by Gilderoy's arm, covered in soot. Knowing Harry, his explanation was probably going to be fantastically weird. Theodore turned his head over to the crowd where he saw spots of ginger hair among the clumps of people. Ron, Fred and George, Percy, Mr and Mrs Weasley and the youngest girl. They hadn't noticed Theodore upstairs but Theodore was quite happy to see them again. It had been ages since he had enjoyed a prank from the twins or a fun spat between him and Ron. Next to the Weasleys was a familiar girl with the same bushy mane from many months ago. Hermione looked unusually giddy at the sight of Gilderoy squeezing Harry's hand, ignoring the boy's pain through his pearly whites.
"Oh god, Hermione! Not you too…" The crowd clapped and cheered for the two as Gilderoy handed Harry a copy of his autobiography for free, making the scar-bearing boy even more embarrassed.
"As of this year, the post of the Defence Against the Dark Arts shall be taken up by yours truly!" Gilderoy declared in a showman's voice. All the woman screamed and clapped as Theodore could hear Harry groan internally. The man looked like a man who'd pamper himself a hundredfold before teaching a damn thing to his students.
"Great, now we have that guy?"
"I'm warning you, kid. One more time… one more fucking time." Theodore smirked. The day was still fresh, and he was allowed to have some fun, right?
"You're right, I'm sorry. Obviously, this man is to be respected and upheld in the highest honour. I mean, when your entire fan base is full of sheep-minded, simple dunces, such as yourself, one must only be humble as possible, no?" Theodore ducked and slid between the people above to escape the crazed Lockhart fan as he clawed at the boy. For Theodore, slipping through the people was easy because of his small figure but for the man? He was knocking down people right and left, all because of his obsession for a man that probably never acknowledged him. Theodore quickly ran down the steps and looked behind him to see the results of his childish antics.
Two witches were repeatedly punching him all over as he cowered in fear. As he tried to protect his face from being permanently disfigured, he flipped off a grinning Theodore until one of the witches jabbed him straight in the stomach, sending him to the floor wincing.
"That was unexpected… but I'll still give that ten out of-" Hermione had caught Theodore in a tight hug from behind as he slightly shuddered in fear. She quickly released him to allow the boy to turn around and face everybody else.
"Theo! I haven't seen you in ages, how are you?" Hermione asked cheerfully. Theodore gave a genuine smile as he replied to his friend.
"Hi Hermione. I'm great! I was just up there looking at this Lockhart guy. Can you believe that he's going to be our teacher?" Hermione rocked on her ankles as she blushed a little.
"Yeeeaaah, I can't believe it, at all… I mean, I mean-" Theodore chuckled silently at the girl. He didn't know anyone that could reduce an intelligent girl like Hermione to goggling fangirl.
"Ooh, does somebody have a 'wittle celebwity cwush'," teased Theodore. Hermione playfully slapped his arm while looking even more embarrassed.
"No! He's just an inspiration to all of us. I think that you should pick up a book from him, learn about his achievements and whatnots. You might be impressed." Hermione said.
"Seriously doubt it. And from the look at our booklist, I don't have a choice. He better be as good as people say. The last one was an idiot." Quirrell rushed in and out through his brain, wrenching his heart so suddenly.
"You worry too much, Theo. Trust me, I'm absolutely sure that he's genuine. Dumbledore wouldn't have employed him otherwise." Theodore rolled his eyes. The old man was eccentric for sure, but any headmaster, magical or Muggle, would know that hiring a celebrity for a job in a school was a bad idea.
"Whatever. I guess we'll see when school starts. Where's Ron and Harry?" Hermione pointed over her shoulder where the Weasley family were conversing with the Malfoys in a slightly confrontational matter. Mr Malfoy and Mr Weasley looked at each other with poison in their eyes as Draco and Ron mirrored their fathers. Hermione and Theodore looked at each other and sighed as they walked over to the dreaded sight. Mr Malfoy was the first to notice Theodore and broke eye contact with the elder Weasley.
"Theodore, dear boy! I was wondering where you went with the little incident upstairs. Are you alright?" Harry, the Weasley family and Hermione all looked at Theodore with a shocked expression. Theodore removed his gaze from everyone else and looked away.
"Um, yes. I'm fine, Mr Malfoy." The Malfoys smirked during the awkwardness as the Weasleys tried to ignore it. Mr Weasley was up first.
"Hello there! Arthur Weasley. You must be Theodore." Mr Weasley said as he stuck out a hand. Theodore shook it while avoiding Mr Malfoy's faintly disappointed face.
"Hello, sir. Good to meet you."
"I've heard that you are quite the smart kid in your classes. Ron had told me all about the sorting ceremony and almost everything else…"
'Is that all I'm known for? The Sorting Hat's blunder?'
"…seems pretty impressive to me." Theodore blinked to fix himself back into the conversation. He had no idea about what Mr Weasley was talking about.
"I'm sorry, could you repeat-"
"Sorry to intrude," interrupted the blonde man as he abruptly stood next to the two, "but we are not yet done here. You see, young Master Riddle is with me and Draco today."
"Is that so?" Mr Weasley asked unenthusiastically. Mr Malfoy frowned. Theodore thought that he should say something to split the two up from going at it like wild tigers but decided to say nothing.
"Have you taken all your things, Theodore? Your books for school are over there on that table. I bought them all when you went up there."
"Yes, sir. Um, thank you for buying me everything. I really appreciate it."
"Do not thank me. Just know that the Malfoy family will be your allies whenever you need us." Mr Malfoy proudly stated for everyone else to hear. Mr Weasley started to go a bit pink in the cheeks as his skin was almost about to match his receding red hair. "Come along, Draco. Say goodbye to Theodore." Draco removed himself from the outnumbering Weasleys and followed his father after saying goodbye to Theodore only. Theodore watched them leave the store as he looked down to the ground. He was waiting for them to act disgusted and to smear him with scorn, but it was quite the opposite.
"The insufferable genius is back! What's up, Theo?" Ron asked as he happily patted Theodore on the shoulder. Theodore looked at him, surprised that he wasn't badmouthing him for openly being friends with the Malfoy family. In a long time, Theodore's judgment of character was wrong and he was happy that it was the case.
"I-I'm good. Yeah." Theodore said nervously.
"What's up with the stammering, Theo?" Fred said.
"Yeah! Malfoys aren't blackmailing you for breaking into their house or something?" George retorted. The twins sniggered and Theodore couldn't help but do the same. He missed the lightheartedness of the trickster twins.
"I thought that they were actually bribing you for a second there," said Harry on Theodore's left.
"Me? Accept a bribe? Psshh! Never!" Theodore said sarcastically. "Hey Harry."
"What's up, Theo? You'd never believe-"
"Why you haven't replied to my letters? Or why you're covered in soot? I'm all ears, Potter." Theodore said as he cut him off.
"He's back." Ron whispered to the twins. The four regrouped once more as everyone walked over to Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour. Harry, being the most wealthiest person of the bunch, bought everyone a large ice cream cone each with every type of flavour that they could possibly combine. Theodore had chosen strawberry with crunchy caramel and toppings of sprinkled chocolate dust and flakes. The last time he had an ice cream as scrumptious as this one was on the last feast at Hogwarts, and that seemed like it was years ago.
When they were all finished, the group all then moved to the Leaky Cauldron like one big family, chattering among themselves, Mrs Weasley chastising her husband for constantly cursing Mr Malfoy under his breath in front of Hermione's parents as the four discussed their 'interesting' summer. Yep, it was all one big, happy family. They all settled in the Cauldron as they placed their shopping in the tables. Mr Weasley went over to the front counter to order a few drinks for himself and Hermione's parents as Theodore walked to the back-counter entrance.
"I don't think you're supposed to go there, Theodore." Mr Weasley called out as he sat on a wooden stool.
"It's okay, Arthur. The boy's allowed to go through as he pleases," said Tom as he handed Mr Weasley the drinks. The man shrugged and carried them over to the table where his family and new friends were.
Theodore opened the barrel room door against its squeaky hinges and stepped inside. He silently hissed in Parseltongue to draw Viripin out, and so that she wouldn't sneak up on him and bite him accidentally. The snake's head poked out from between the barrels and flicked her tongue to make sure that it was Theodore. Smelling the familiar scent of the young Parselmouth, Viripin slithered towards the boy's feet and winded herself up his leg and around his neck.
"You were gone for some time, Theodore." Viripin hissed in his ear gently.
"I know but look at what I got you… a whole bag of little bats and fresh frogs, just the way you like them." The snake nuzzled her nostrils against Theodore's ear affectionately. She had explained how all the spiders were deathly afraid of her and how she had to resort to feral tactics of imitating their body structure to catch them scurrying around.
"Since when could you do that?!" Theodore asked.
"It's a common trait among my species. Since I am still a child, I'm not able to do it as proficiently as a fully grown Maibian Adder."
"Wow… that's wicked. No wonder the people locked you up at Hogwarts."
"Please don't remind me."
Theodore hid Viripin inside of his hoodie by letting her wrap around him like a belt of some sorts. Viripin was a growing snake, but was not so big that she'd be a dead giveaway. Theodore zipped his hoodie up and crossed his arms to hide the unusual bulge around his body. As he quickly walked out of the kitchen and towards the stairs, he managed to slip away from everybody else, not hearing a mere mention of his name. He jogged up to his room and left Viripin under the bed with her food. He was about to leave to join the others when he noticed something on his desk. A white envelope, unopened. This surely had be from Louise.
'Huh. This took longer than I expected to come back.'
He opened the letter up and read:
I'm not too sure if I made the right choice in leaving London. It's nice here and all, but I really miss home, even if it's crappy. Should I stay or should I come back because I really don't know. Please help.
Theodore felt for a minuscule fraction of a second, overjoyed that Louise had the possibility of wanting to return to London to him, but that thought was easily snuffed out. She shouldn't come back. As much as they both wanted to, Louise was better off with the Reagul's than at Stuggle's. If it meant that he'd have to berate her, then he would. No orphan should return to the place where they were dumped, it was unnatural.
Theodore folded the letter and placed it in his bag. It was full of letters from Louise, all different colours and sizes. He would read them all over again sometimes to try and hear her voice through the words. It was becoming more and more difficult to remember. He threw the bag on his bed and said goodbye to Viripin. He went downstairs to join the others. As he sat down next to Harry, Hermione was interested as to why he was staying at the inn.
"I just felt like staying here, you know? I didn't want to stay at Stuggle's for the entire summer, it'd be so boring." Theodore said.
"But that's your home, Theo. I know that it's not the best place in the world but the people over there would care enough to want you back." Hermione replied as she opened one of Gilderoy's books.
"I'm sure that he had a good reason to leave. Right, Theo," asked Harry as he drunk a small cup of butter beer. Theodore gave no answer as he flicked a splinter in the table.
"You could always come with us. Harry's staying at ours, so can you. I'm sure Mum could fit an extra bed in my room." Theodore shook his head. He had been running away like a coward for far too long. He broke Madam Geoffrey, who was the closest women that he would get to a mother, into tears without saying a word. The same shame that was creeping on him on that night had returned as he felt sick of himself. He inhaled, then sighed deeply.
"No, Hermione's right. I have to go back. I can't live here forever. It was a mistake to run away in the first place… man, I'm so stupid." Harry elbowed him lightly.
"None of us are perfect, even you. Making mistakes is called 'being human'. At least you're going to do the right thing in the end. You are going to, right?"
"I guess so."
"Look at that! You're not being your usual stubborn self. Are you really Theodore Riddle," taunted Hermione. The three others laughed while Theodore turned away, determined to resist laughing himself. Everyone was happy and cheery, forgetting the entire Flourish and Blott's skirmish, only focusing on each other. The Grangers said goodbye as they left through the front door over to the Muggle side and soon after, the Weasleys and Harry left by Floo Powder, a method of quick transportation, to their home, leaving Theodore by himself on the central table, feeling happy and content.
"If she sends me a letter, go to Stuggle's Orphanage. I'm on the ground floor on the left window facing the street, okay? Here you go, Sawer." Theodore tucked a freshly written letter inside the owl's pouch and opened the window for him to fly off. He closed it for the last time and looked around the room. The bed was neatly done, the desk was cleared and emptied, and all his bags were neatly arranged near the door. Theodore had to use an extra bag for Viripin as there was no space for her in his book-loaded backpack. He checked to make sure that his wand was inside his most secure right hand pocket and closed his eyes. He had to think on what he was going to say to Madam when he'd come back home.
Nothing was coming to mind. Theodore thought to himself that it was good that there was nothing. He'd go to her with no excuses and would just hope that she was going to forgive him, not that it was likely. He shook his head and grabbed his new school equipment and went down the stairs. The time was 00:27AM so mostly everyone was sleeping. He slowly crept down the stairs while struggling to keep a hold onto his bags. As he reached the bottom step, Tom appeared from the kitchens and rushed to the boy's aid. They exited the Cauldron to the Muggle street area from when Theodore had arrived and placed them all onto the pavement.
"Mr Tom, I can't thank you enough. I didn't think that you would let me stay inside for so long, especially for free."
"Nonsense! In fact, most people came to see you. A rumour that a boy ran away from the Muggles to stay at the Leaky Cauldron spread faster than drinking a Fungiface Potion! I should be thanking you for making this one of my most successful summers yet."
"Oh, I forgot to ask you. Have you seen any of the Padalins anywhere? I didn't see them at all today."
"I'm sorry but the two had left two days ago. They don't usually stay that long here. Mostly, it's for three days then they vanish. But don't look so down, son. I'm absolutely certain that they'll come back next summer!" Theodore looked reluctant at that fact then shrugged. He and Erveris weren't exactly on good terms when they had last spoken. Even with Ms Padalin, Theodore thought that he could've spoken a bit more with her. If Tom was right then he could always visit the Leaky Cauldron next summer, emphasis on visit, not run away to.
"Oh well. I'd better get going. The Knight Bus should come around soon, I think," said Theodore as he stuck his wand out in the air.
"Wait… here. A Galleon for your trip." Tom handed Theodore a golden Galleon coin in his hand. "And as an extra thank you for everything that you have done, you keep Sawer as your own."
"Really? But that's your owl!" Theodore exclaimed. Tom smiled and winked at the boy.
"Not anymore. Safe travels, dear boy and good luck." The Knight Bus blasted its way in front of the the two as they shook hands. Tom returned to the inn as Theodore went over to Stan at the doors.
"What's going on, Theo? 'Ow was your stay 'ere?" The purple clad man said while chewing on a broken matchstick.
"It was good. Eleven Sickles, right?" Stan nodded as he outstretched his palm. Theodore dropped the Galleon and was given back six silver Sickle coins in change. Stan heaved the boy's things onto the bus as Theodore found an empty bed to sleep in for the remainder of his oddly long journey.
"Oi! Kid, get up! We're 'ere!" Theodore opened one eye lazily as he saw a blurry image of Stan leaning over him while poking his head continuously. He stretched his arms so far apart they could pop out of their sockets, and lifted himself from the sliding bed. He forced both of his eyes to open wide and looked out the dimly-lit orphanage that was on the other side of the bus.
"Are we really here?" Theodore asked tiredly.
"Is this Stuggle's?"
"Then we're in the righ' place!" Theodore rubbed his eyes and grabbed his belongings which were secured at the front of the Knight Bus. Stan did most of the heavy lifting while Theodore carried the light stuff. He was too tired to carry everything and he needed all the energy that he could get to face Madam and Gretchen. They hauled everything to the front door, while the strange bus whirred thunderously in the night. How nobody noticed that a purple three-decker was blaring its engine was beyond Theodore.
"Well, this is me, Theo. Bin a real pleasure ferryin' you around. 'Ope to see you again in the future. I tip my hat to you." The conductor did just that and whistled his way to the bus. The boy watched the Knight Bus rev its engine and whisk away into nothingness, before returning to face the door.
"Breathe… breathe… breathe…bre-" He couldn't breathe. He knew that it wasn't happening but he felt his ribs crawl and crush his lungs, providing him with such less oxygen. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale…
He took the key from his pocket and fitted it through the dirty-gold key lock, gripping the key so tight his fingers were beginning to grow numb. One little twist and the door popped open, swinging forward without making a single screech or squeak. Theodore pulled the key away and slipped inside, shutting the door behind so slightly to not raise any alarms from the nearby children. The only person he needed to see right now was Madam and Madam only. The familiar smell of the orphanage pervaded into his nostrils, the springy sensation of the floorboard beneath him creaked a little and the grey walls still looked the same way. Theodore stopped in his tracks to take it all in, then walked to the living room at a slow pace. Viripin hissed in his bag as she slept soundly. Theodore wanted to wake her up so that he could talk to somebody but he knew that it was bad idea. As he reached the doorway, he peered his head around the corner to see one person crouching on the sofa, looking dismal and blue.
"Elise?" The girl turned her head to the doorway and enlarged her big hazel eyes. She couldn't be imagining things. Theodore was there, he really was there. Not dead, not a ghost and not a manifestation of her imagination. Just Theodore.
"You're back… the police were about to confirm that you were gone forever tomorrow… why would you-"
"I know, okay? I already feel bad," whispered Theodore, "but I need to see Madam straight away. I have to…" Elise stood up from the couch and walked herself right in front of Theodore. She surprisingly, was able to make her presence immense despite her height. However, Theodore was not shaken in the slightest.
"Your hair's shorter. It suits you." Elise said. Theodore brushed some hair away from his eyes as he looked in the other direction. "Where did you stay?"
"At a friend's house." Theodore lied. "He's from my school."
"I'm sorry for earlier, before I left. It wasn't my place to be rude to you. I just let my emotions do everything and, well now… it's all a mess." Elise rubbed his elbow briefly then walked out of the room without saying any more. Theodore watched her leave then rubbed his face with his cold hands. They felt refreshing against his boiling skin. He waited some more inside the empty room then made his way to his bedroom that he had been away from for so long. The bed looked neater as did the desk, and his cupboard door was open. His clothes were neatly hung and his four pairs of shoes were aligned perfectly along the floor. It all looked brand new.
He took a sleeping Viripin out his bag and laid her under his bed. As he changed into his pyjamas, a hoot from the window followed by a quiet pecking on the glass, caught his attention as he saw Sawer stare into the room with his large golden orbs. Theodore had almost forgotten that Tom had given the owl to him. He opened the window and allowed Sawer to flutter in. The owl nudged his nose against the boy's chest as Theodore stroked him slowly.
"Welcome to my room. It's not nearly as big as the one at the Leaky Cauldron but I think you'll fit in just fine. All you need is a cage and some food and everything will be okay, you'll see." Sawer fluttered and perched onto the bed post near the window and took a letter from his pouch, throwing it on the bed with his orange beak. Theodore decided to read Louise's letter tomorrow as his body was almost absolutely void of energy. He placed it on his desk and flopped on his small bed, throwing the sheets above his body and instantly fell to sleep. Wonderful flashes of green and red would be all that he would remember in the morning coming…
She wasn't the only one there. Lucius, Alecto and Amycus, Avery Jr and Snr were planted all over the street, trapping Valerie in the centre without anyway to escape. Bellatrix bit the tip of her crooked wand while she smiled devilishly at the cornered woman. She was going to enjoy this, so much more than she had hoped.
"I know what he wants to do with my boy, Bella. I'm not going to let him take my boy away." Valerie said sternly.
"The Dark Lord has his orders, Val. You know we can't disobey him. We wouldn't want to end up like you." Bellatrix hissed as she slowly closed in like a snake. Valerie was backing up at the same pace, keeping a solid front to show that she was not scared. You could never show fear to Bellatrix. She'd play with you like food then would consume you whole in the end.
"No, of course you wouldn't. The Dark Lord did chose me over you to bear his child. Voldemort probably didn't want a deranged bitch to raise his child anyways." Bellatrix became furious in an instant from Valerie's tongue. The Dark Lord had favoured the Potter woman over her as she seemed 'more stable' and 'stronger' than the Lestrange. Along with that, Valerie's constant taunts and the mention of her master's name was enough to send the disturbed witch over the edge.
"You speak his name?! You disgusting blood-traitor!" Bellatrix screamed. Lucius hurried over between the two and attempted to prevent the situation from spiralling into a disaster.
"Valerie, please! Do not make this difficult for yourself. You know what the Dark Lord wants. Tell us where the boy is and no harm will come in your way."
"Fuck off, Lucius." Lucius swallowed as he furrowed his eyebrows in anger. He too hated the woman's cheek but was more tolerant to it than Bellatrix had ever appeared to be. Some would call it being a pushover, others would say that it was the smart thing to do.
"We won't ask again. Give us the boy, Valerie. Now."
"Or what?" Everyone had their wands ready in their hands, prepared to cut down the outnumbered witch the instant Bellatrix or Lucius would shout the order.
"I always wanted to kill your pretty little self. Always thinking that you were better than all of us because you opened your legs for the Dark Lord," said Bellatrix as she now twirled her wand in her thin fingers. "When he finds out that I killed you right here, he's going to love me!"
"He doesn't love anyone. Not even me." Valerie had to think this through quickly. Theodore was around four streets away from here. If she could bring the fight away from the area and if the charm really held up, then he'd be safe, regardless of what will happen to her. She turned her head to look at each of her former Death Eaters, disgusted to think that she killed and tortured to be within those ranks. She hoped that this last act, would be her final redemption. It was the end for her, she knew it.
"I'll bring the boy to Voldemort and that will be the end of it, okay?"
"Calm down, Bella! Thank you, Valerie. I'm glad that you see the bigger picture here," said Lucius as he pocketed his wand. Everyone else except Bellatrix did the same. Big mistake.
"Yes, so am I." Lucius looked confused, but the look was wiped off clean as he was sent flying into a Muggle car by a Stunning Spell. The band of Death Eaters attempted to reach for their wands but were far too late as Valerie conjured a whip connected to the tip of her wand, and ordered it to weave around their necks, choking them to submission. Valerie was probably the most skilful and powerful Death Eater, right next to Bellatrix who had managed to avoid the deadly whip attack. The two witches circled each other, wands outstretched and focused to kill. They hated each other and nothing would bring them any more pleasure than to maim and destroy the other.
"You insufferable bitch," snarled the Lestrange. "The Dark Lord is going to use your son to kill that wretched old fool and the rest of his filthy followers. Don't you understand that?"
"He… is not touching my son. He's not going anywhere near my family, you can count on it."
"Oh, but haven't you heard? The Dark Lord knows where your little baby brother is. That's right, he's going to kill him, then he's going to kill his Mudblood wife and then he's going to kill the boy, just like I'll kill you-"
White curses shot from Valerie's wand as she furiously engaged with Bellatrix. Matching her for speed, Bellatrix blocked the incoming curses and threw a few more back at her. The dark street was illuminated multiple times at the clash and mini explosions of the duel, projecting bright lights and shadows along the houses on the sides. The two threw them back and forth until Bellatrix decided to become serious.
"AVADA KEDAVRA!" Bellatrix screamed as a green jet of electricity was released from her wand. Valerie quickly aimed at the concrete ground folded the street towards her like a carpet to block the Killing Curse. She kept the stationary rubble levitating in the air and used them as ammunition to fire at Bellatrix. The witch shot spell after spell, destroying each piece of debris that flew her way. Valerie could see in her eyes that she was being overwhelmed.
"Incendio!" A gargantuan wave of flames quickly scurried in Bellatrix's direction as she waved her wand viciously to put the flames out. In between the crevasse of the broken fire, she could see Valerie hop onto a Muggle car and enchanting it to fly into the sky. Bellatrix did the same and chased the woman in the air, determined to slay her once and for all. Valerie looked over her shoulder to see Bellatrix pursue her, prompting her to send curses behind her back. It was much harder for her to fight Bella and steer the flight of the car at the same time. The evil witch had the advantage right now. If only Valerie could apparate without being seen.
"Haaahahahahaaa!" Bellatrix cackled as she sent a Killing Curse that almost hit Valerie square on the back of her head.
"Crazy bitch," muttered Valerie under her breath. A church tower was coming up ahead, gifting an idea to the Potter's head. She flicked her wand to make the car beneath her go faster, racing straight into the tower. Faster and faster, she could hear Bellatrix laugh behind her, coming closer to her ear. Valerie focused on the grey iron bell that was centred in the tower. Just a little closer…
She pointed to the bell and pulled her arm backwards. The bell ripped away from the tower like it was being tugged by an invisible rope. It soared towards her as she carefully swerved her car to the right. Bellatrix looked terrified and frozen, but jumped off her car, avoiding what would've been certain death. Valerie watched her plunge down to the streets, apparating at the last second. She wasn't dead but at least she was well away from Theodore. She sighed heavily as she carried on flying over the Muggle houses. She had to find James, regardless if she couldn't find him. She'd tell him to find some place else and…
"Vaallll…" Valerie turned her body around. Hanging on the side of the car was Bellatrix, aiming her wand straight at Valerie. She reached for her wand but she was too late. She felt her neck, chest and stomach being sliced and stabbed repeatedly. She looked down on her chest as her robes were stained with her own blood. It spilt along the car, some flying onto Bellatrix's face but she loved every drop. She watched her sway side to side, the life in her drain away as she leaned to the side and plummeted down, all the way down.
Bellatrix's vicious laugh echoed in the air as she seemed to become smaller and smaller every metre Valerie fell. It was fate that she'd die like this anyways. The prophecy spoke of two boys... The details of it slipped away as all she wanted to think about was Theodore. Her darling baby boy would grow up motherless, away from his father for only so long. If she had to die so that he could live, then so be it. All she wanted for her last thoughts was just Theodore…
"Where did he come from?"
"I found him on the front porch, Madam. He was silent and sleeping. There was note with him inside the basket that he came in, look for yourself."
"'His name is Theodore Silas Riddle'. Theodore… such an adorable name for an adorable baby. It's a shame, Gretchen. All these children, without fathers and mothers. Makes me absolutely distraught. I pity them so much." Madam rocked the baby boy in her arms as he was still wrapped in his little blanket. He was sleeping peacefully, still whistling perfect tunes from his small nose. He was definitely the most beautiful baby that had been abandoned at Stuggle's for sure. His small tuft of dark-brown hair and those hazel eyes that would occasionally flicker open before shutting again all contributed to his purity. Such an angelic child.
"Should I prepare a cot for him? And a bottle? Nappies maybe?" Gretchen asked excitedly.
"Yes, yes Gretchen! All of- what was that? Someone's at the door." The two women walked out of the office and to the front door where someone was rattling insistently against the other side. Gretchen swung the door and was ready to scrutinise without hesitation when the most unexpected occurrence had happened. A woman, in black robes dropped inside the house, spilling blood everywhere. Her beautiful face was deathly pale as she was dying quickly, her left leg and arm broken and sticking out at odd angles. She looked as if she had been stabbed and ran over by a tank. She looked that terrible. Gretchen used her muscular arms to carry the near-dead woman to the infirmary, while Madam followed.
The stranger was placed on a bed while she continued to bleed heavily. It was amazing how she was still alive considering how much blood she had lost through the hallways. Madam ordered Gretchen to clear the spilt blood while she placed Theodore on a bed next to the woman. Madam searched desperately for bandages and sterile solution to clean the lady up. She was surely going to die but the least she could do was to try and ease her into death. As she cut through her robes and exposed her wounded skin, the woman started to mumble and mutter, trying to say something.
"My dear, do not speak. Your throat has been slashed." The woman refused and carried on. She was determined to speak what was on her mind.
"M-my son… my b-baby…" Madam leaned in closer to hear what she had to say. The woman was using all the strength that she had before she was going to move on.
"Yes? What about your baby? Who is it?"
"Theo… his name… is Theodore." Madam clasped her hands to her mouth. The boy's mother was right there, dying on his side while he remained silent and unknowing. She quickly used a clean rag to hold against her neck to stop the bleeding there, trying to help her say everything that she needed. "Please… care for him… like a son… like he is… your own… please… please…" Theodore's mother wept as she was racing towards death, falling into its inevitable embrace.
"I will. I will, just… hang on for as much as you…" The mother used her right blood-stained hand to hold onto Madam, grasping her shoulder feebly before the pressure from her fingers decreased. "No, no no no, please! Stay! Stay for your son, stay for your…"
Valerie Potter had succumbed to her wounds, lifeless next to her child as he slept, still wrapped in his mother's blanket. He didn't know that she had been brutally killed by her former allies, on the orders of his own father. He didn't know that his father had slain his aunt and uncle, leaving his cousin in the same predicament at that very moment. He didn't know any of that, just the scent of his own, dead mother…
Summertime is over guys. I gave a brief overlook about how Theodore ended up in Stuggle's but not so much that everything had been revealed about the past. The prophecy and yadayada will be explained later on but now, it's CoS time! I hope that you enjoyed this chapter and make sure to look out for the next one. Later.
Guest #1: It's not a 'I'm gonna be a half-ass at writing this story', my schedule is going to switch up in so many ways before the year ends so I'll have to see if writing this one will fit in later on. Not everybody is going to drop a story if it's discontinued. Hope that you like this story anyways. (And I said that on the second chapter when I'm eleven chapters up.)
P.S. I've decided to write everything from Philosopher's Stone to Deathly Hallows, all in one story as it seems redundant to split it up. I may do spinoffs and oneshots after Deathly Hallows, so here's hoping!