'How long before the Polyjuice Potion is ready for use?'
'Around three more weeks, maybe even two.'
'And your 'partners'? They are competent, to say the least?'
'Don't worry, father. I have the best working with me to create the potion. It'll all be ready, soon enough.'
Theodore closed the diary firmly as he tucked it away into his schoolbag, away from prying eyes. The library was much less fuller than what it would've usually been, due to the tremendous panic that Theodore had caused secretly. Places that seemed too 'obvious for an attack' were kept well away from the other students, leaving Theodore to study in peace. One of the many benefits of terrorising a school. Of course, Harry, Ron and Hermione were the least afraid and would cautiously enter the deserted rooms that Hogwarts had to offer. This time, the four were spread across the library, still trying to find anything about the Chamber of Secrets without the constant barrage of the other students.
"I give up," said Theodore as he returned to their base table. "There's literally nothing. It's a dead end."
"Same here." Harry said defeatedly. Ron nodded too as Hermione was desperate for them to carry on searching. "Hermione, we've done all that we could in here. Let's just wait for the potion to get ready and then we will find out if it really is Malfoy."
"Fine. I was just so sure that it would be here somewhere but… let's just go."
"Thank god!" The boys said in unison as Hermione shot them dirty looks. Everything was running so smoothly. Nobody even batted an eye at the Gryffindors, let alone Theodore and it seemed like some pressure was pressed upon the Slytherins as people began to suspect them. Most would blame Draco in secret, but were too afraid to say it aloud. Theodore even overheard a conversation between Snape and McGonagall, about Aurors looking into the attacks soon enough. He didn't know if he was old enough to go to Azkaban but if he ever slipped up in the slightest way…
The quartet returned to the common room and relaxed on the free sofa. The rest of the Gryffindors were hushed, probably still coming to terms with Colin being attacked. Everyone would be lying if they said that they missed the constant clicking of his camera around Harry, but couldn't help feeling terrible for him. At the end of the day, he was still an eleven year old boy. Irritating, persistent, but an innocent one. His attacker didn't even feel any sentimental emotions towards Colin. He was just a dirty Muggle-born; nothing more.
"Guys, guys! I've got something to tell you!" Seamus came leaping over to the four, crashing into Neville in the process. He picked himself back up and ignored the winded boy to pass on his desperate news. "Guys!"
"Yes, Seamus, we heard you from all the way over there." Ron said.
"Guess what? Forget it, there's going to be a Duelling Club tomorrow evening! Isn't that cool?"
"A Duelling Club," said the Parselmouth curiously. "Why would they want to start a Duelling Club?"
"Maybe the Beast of Slytherin is a massive half-snake, half-wizard, troll thing that has a massive club-like wand, which it uses to-"
"Relax, Seamus. Where is it going to be? And who's leading it, anyways?" Seamus shrugged and turned around to help Neville, who was still sprawled along the ground. The four turned back to each other, wondering if the club was such a good idea. Theodore thought that it was absolutely foolish, seeing as nobody in his year had the courage and power to face a Basilisk. Whoever started this club was preparing everyone else for their awaiting death sentence.
Night time rolled around pretty quickly as the snow began to build rapidly outside. White, fluffy sheets laid upon the roofing and the school grounds, sending a brilliant sheen inside of the castle when the moonlight was reflected. All but Theodore was asleep in the dorms as the scribbles of a worn quill rapidly pressing against the worn diary, could be heard from the common room. The more the days came and went, the greater the obsession Theodore had for the diary as he couldn't draw himself away from it. It was a necessity to write everyday, pouring all of himself into it and gaining something else in return. Every time Tom would write back to him, any sense of compassion for others dwindled over time, replaced by anger and ruthlessness. But the boy knew better than to act on these newfound traits. Eyes will always be peering into his direction, especially Dumbledore's.
Theodore closed the diary and tucked it underneath his armpit as he left towards the boys' dorm. His time being secluded from everyone else was precious amongst other things but could not be squandered by anyone nosy enough to expose him of his suspicious actions. Had he stayed a minute longer, Harry could've caught him, then and there.
"What's got you awake," asked the Boy Who Lived, yawning while rubbing his lazy eyes in the corner. Harry's hair was even more messier than it usually was, and his glasses were nowhere to be seen. To Theodore, he looked several years younger, for some odd reason. Theodore was the eldest one of the two, after all.
"You know me. Can't ever sleep properly in this place. Maybe it's because of everything that's happening right now. What about you?" Harry scratched his belly and yawned again before answering his cousin's question.
"If I told you, then you'd think that I would've gone mad."
"I think we're beyond the brink of madness anyways. Tell me." Theodore had time to spare and wasn't in a rush to go to bed. He and Harry walked over and sat on the sofa, in front of the fireplace that burned brightly. Harry rubbed his eyes until they were fully open, and stared into the fire that licked the everlasting wood gently. Theodore could see trouble and fear in his green eyes but did not say anything.
"I've been hearing these… voices recently. I don't know who, what or where they are, but they all sound so real, so similar. Like, the first time I heard it, was upstairs in the dorm room. It sounded familiar but I couldn't… get a hold on it. And on Nick's Deathday party, we left to go back to the Great Hall when I heard it again, in the walls. Something wanted to… rip something… kill somebody. Right before we found Filch on the second floor. Not only that, but when I was in the hospital wing after the match, I heard them again. It was different from the last one though. One was human-like, and the other… wasn't. And that was when Colin was found as well."
"And you think…"
"I think whatever that… 'thing' is, is the one attacking the students. And call me crazy but, it sounded almost snakelike… You think I'm crazy, don't you?" Theodore shook his head as the diary shuddered a little in his armpit. This revelation was confusing, to say the least. How did Harry understand the exact words that the Basilisk said, when he set her on Filch? Theodore remembered her bloodlust clearly, but it made no sense as to how Harry knew anything. He was definitely no Heir of Slytherin, nor Parselmouth.
"This is probably all in your head," theorised Theodore. "Remember when you had nightmares last year?"
"Yeah, but that was when Voldemort was near the castle. Unless he's prowling around, hiding right under our noses, I seriously doubt it. Hermione and Ron couldn't hear it, so why could I?"
"I don't know."
"Figures… You still write in your dad's diary?" Theodore squeezed the diary as his nostrils flared.
"What?! What diary?"
"The one that's under your armpit?" Harry replied. He looked at Theodore, confused for a second. It was only a simple question. Theodore took the diary out and gazed at it, forgetting to answer Harry's question. "Theo. Theo? Theo!"
"Yes," said the Parselmouth softly, "I still do. It's like I'm talking to him, for real. Like he's really there. You feel that too, right? When it's like your mum or dad are almost… alive." Theodore felt Harry place a hand on his shoulder as he carried on staring at the diary.
"You feeling okay?" Theodore got up to his feet and tucked the diary away once again.
"More than okay, Harry. I feel amazing. We should go to sleep now. I can't wait to start at the Duelling Club. Come on, then!" Theodore led the way to the dorm as Harry followed slowly. His eyes were probably deceiving him, a trick of the fire maybe, but Theodore's eyes were scarlet. For almost three seconds. Theodore's face looked hollow and his cheeks were gaunt, like he hadn't been eating anything. Maybe everything was really all in his head and that he was just imagining things. But those eyes, he's seen those eyes before. But from where?
"Vigilance is the key! You must all be at your best, at all times or it will be your downfall! A quote from 'Dastardly Duel Tips', available now in all bookstores. I live by this every time that I encounter the unlucky wizard or witch in a duel and I-"
"-don't seem to be able to shut the hell up." Ron muttered under his breath. Hermione told him to shut up and just like all the other girls, gawped at Lockhart walking up and down the large golden stage in the Great Hall. The Duelling Club had attracted the attention of multiple students from each House as they were all eager to learn from the very 'best' that was Gilderoy Lockhart. Theodore, along with Harry and Ron, however were downhearted to see the celebrity use the club as an opportunity to parade himself. Dumbledore seriously couldn't find a better teacher than this?
"Now! Before we start, Professor Snape and I will demonstrate the correct way on how your stance must be like. Look at- yes, Mr Riddle?"
"Sir, what if the person you're trying to duel wants to kill you?" Theodore asked aloud.
"I do not understand your question, dear boy."
"I mean, if it's not a friendly duel exactly, then wouldn't trying to find the correct stance be a waste of time?"
"Well, that depends. Your muscle memory must be-"
"What if you had one leg, or one arm," interrupted Seamus. "Isn't that like an unfair advantage?"
"Mr Finnigan, I-"
"Or is it a fair advantage? I heard this witch that had like no legs and arms, and she would duel with her wand in her mouth. She killed like, a million wizards in her prime!"
"That's bullshit, Seamus!"
"I'll prove it to you, Ron!" Everyone broke into a large chatter as they began to discuss their exaggerated stories about legendary duels from the past that their parents had told when they were younger. Ron and Seamus spiralled into an argument and almost a fistfight when Snape hushed everyone with a quick motion of a hand. Theodore could still hear the other two elbowing each other behind his back but ignored them.
"Thank you, Severus. Now that we got the questions out of the way- no Seamus, enough questions! Now that they're out of the way, we shall now demonstrate for you! When you're ready, Severus!" Lockhart braced himself stylishly by spinning around like a ballet dancer. The girls swooned and were entranced by the celebrity's movements. Snape however simply mimicked an ancient swordsman, his legs slightly bent and his wand held like a sword. Opposed to Lockhart's perfect smile, Snape was on the verge of growling viciously. The air became tense as nobody moved. Wisps of cold air rhythmically escaped from the noses of the children, hanging on to every twitch from the professors.
"This is going to be amazing! I feel so bad for Professor Snape!" Hermione whispered to Theodore.
"For Snape?!" Theodore whispered back.
"Did you even read his book? He once-"
"Forget the books, look at Snape's face! He wants to see blood!"
"I seriously doubt that."
Lockhart flicked his wand quickly as he tried to mutter a spell but Snape was even quicker. The greasy-haired professor aimed his wand straight to his opponent and bellowed, "Expelliarmus!", sending a brilliant stream of red to Lockhart, blasting him all the way over to the other side of the stage. The Slytherins applauded Snape as he curled his lip slightly at the sight of Lockhart being completely dazed. Some of the girls screamed while the Gryffindor boys snickered.
"Stop laughing! He could be hurt!" Hermione said shrilly as she tried to tiptoe above the crowding girls to see if Lockhart was okay. Theodore, Harry and Ron retained their laughter just slightly so that they could talk to the overly-anxious girl.
"He'll be- haha- fine, Hermione," said Theodore in between laughs.
"Yeah," added Ron while he wiped his tears. "It's not like he's an amateur. Look, he's getting up right now." Hermione spun on her heels and clasped her hands together when she saw the knocked down Professor return to his feet, albeit wonkily.
"I-I'm alright, children. Oh, my wand! Thank you, Miss Brown… yes, yes, you all had your fun now let's simmer down, children. Thank you." Lockhart brushed the dust off his exquisite robes and fixed his hair quickly with a twirl of a wand. An unnecessary use of magic in Theodore's eyes. After a dragging speech of self-denial that he wanted Snape to attack him, Lockhart had decided to partner people up so that he could draw the embarrassment away from himself, as well as to let the children have some fun. And of course, that could easily be ruined in a blink of an eye.
"No. No. Definitely no! Weasley, get away from Riddle and pair up with Finnigan. It wouldn't be a fair duel, anyway." Snape had ignored the offended expression of the red head and continued to ruin all the wanted partnerships of Gryffindor specifically.
"Could I go with Hermione?" Theodore asked quietly.
"No." Snape replied with a dead tone. Hermione sulked when she was told to partner up with Millicent and Theodore was still being dragged around by Snape to find somebody else that wasn't in Gryffindor. "Here we go… Riddle!"
"I'm right here, Professor."
"Don't give me lip, boy! You will partner up with Finch-Fletchley, and don't you dare try and swap partners!" Snape started to glide away before he turned around to add one more thing. "And make sure you don't hurt him too much eh, Riddle?" Justin looked worried by Snape's words and was reassured by Theodore that he was only joking.
"So, Theodore. What do you think about the recent attacks?" Justin asked while he ruffled everywhere through his robes to find his wand.
"Why do you ask," replied the Parselmouth as he was already in his stance. Justin was the last person Theodore would think that would suspect him as the person behind the attacks, so there was no reason to feel paranoid. Most likely an awkward attempt of small talk.
"Well, it is quite scary knowing that there's a monster in the castle. I mean, don't you think that Dumbledore or the Ministry of Magic ought to do something?"
"They're doing the best they can. If they couldn't find the Chamber of Secrets all those years ago, then nobody would expect them to find it now. The Heir of Slytherin is probably too scared to show his face again anyways."
"I guess. But isn't it obvious that the Heir is right here? Why haven't they interrogated all of the Slytherins to find the arsehole," asked Justin as he finally found his wand. Theodore shrugged and the two were prepared for the practice duel.
"Three… two… one!" Lockhart shouted. Justin attempted to hit Theodore with the same spell as Snape but Theodore narrowly ducked his head. He heard something hit the ground with a thud behind him, positive that Justin had hit someone else. Theodore wasted no time and pointed his wand to Justin, thinking of any spell to use.
'The Disarming Charm! No, Justin already used that. Maybe the Tickling Charm? Nah. How about…'
"Wingardium Leviosa!" Theodore cried. An unfortunate mistake had occurred as Theodore actually wanted Justin's wand to float in the air, not the other way round. At least ten feet in the air, Justin was flailing wildly as he screamed to be let down. Everyone else stopped their own duels to watch the floating boy, some laughing at the boy's tears.
"Disarm only, Mr Riddle! What part of that do you not understand?" Lockhart said as he rushed to the scene, alongside with Snape.
"I tried to make his wand fly up but instead it must've hit him by mistake," justified Theodore. Snape shoved him to the side and swished his wand to bring Justin down to the ground. The frightened boy was clinging onto Lockhart as his eyes almost popped out from their sockets. He looked severely traumatised. "Justin, I'm-"
"Get away from me!" Justin cried as he hid behind Lockhart. The rest of the club pointed fingers to Justin as they cackled uncontrollably, the Slytherins especially. Theodore could see the embarrassment crawl upon Justin's face, desperately trying to wipe away the tears that he shed from being so high up. The young Heir attempted once more to reconcile with Justin but was a futile attempt on its own as the embarrassed boy zipped away to his friends around the corner.
"Well. That escalated rather quickly. Anyways, we should…"
"That was bloody brilliant, Theo!"
"Calm it down, Ron. I didn't mean to do that," said Theodore as he rejoined his friends in the crowd. Several of the Slytherins whistled and clapped for him as he walked past.
"Maybe you should be more careful next time. Justin isn't really the bravest sort of fellow around." Hermione said after rubbing her sides. Theodore was curious to know what happened to her, as well as Harry and Ron. "Millicent tried to suplex me and it half-worked. Sort of landed on my side." Theodore glared at Millicent who was busy chatting away with Pansy Parkinson, another Slytherin girl who's mouth was as foul as her husky friend. Saying her name was like poison in Theodore's mouth as he still remembered what she had said about him a few months ago.
"You should report her. Or give her a nice good hex. I know a few good ones that will really shut her up." Hermione waved her hands madly at the thought of her attacking Millicent. Not only was she not about to break school rules(because she wasn't doing that in the first place), but she had no intentions of confronting Millicent again. "Alright, alright. Let's just-"
"Potter and Riddle!" The two boys turned their heads at the calling of their names, and were beckoned to come onto the stage by Lockhart and Snape. Theodore looked to Harry with confusion as they had no idea as to why they were called up. They walked around to the little stairs on the sides and nervously walked side by side to the professors, who both had an odd amount of glee upon their faces. The boy's were especially creeped out by Snape's face and did their best to turn away from it. Lockhart patted both boys on their shoulders roughly and smiled to the crowds like they were his protégées.
"Now! Let us witness these two brilliant boys against each other, and see how they would act under the pressure of a crowd. I myself, have duelled thousands of times in front of many crowds, so I know how you're feeling, boys. It's okay to shake a little, Mr Riddle."
"I'm not scared."
"Sure you aren't. Now, proceed to go to your corners, children!" Theodore swallowed as he watched Harry and Lockhart walk across to the other side of the stage, while Snape loomed behind him. Everyone was whispering in excitement as they were about to watch a school highlight, one that they would never forget. As Lockhart gave Harry a pep talk, Theodore turned around to the shady professor.
"Um, Professor? Did you choose me to duel Harry?" Theodore asked as he rubbed his elbow.
"I'm sure that you're more than capable of taking on the 'Boy Who Lived'. Or are you afraid?" Theodore shook his head. "Good. Do not disappoint me out there, Riddle. Go on!"
The Parselmouth turned back around as Harry was all alone on the other side. He heard Snape hop off the stage as he left the boy to duel his cousin alone. His wand was firmly gripped between his pale fingers, his arm was still and not shaking, but his eyes were all over the place. He darted his eyes to Harry, Lockhart, Malfoy, Harry again, Hermione, then Lavender, back to to Lockhart, then to Harry once more. Theodore kept his eyes on his friend and made sure to not pull them away on the off chance that Harry would beat him in an instant.
"Alright, lets go! Three!" Lockhart shouted.
"Scared, Potter," muttered Theodore with a smirk.
"Oh, you wish, Riddle." Harry replied as he returned the smirk.
"One…" Theodore and Harry kept both wands at the ready, doing their best to imitate the professors. Theodore cycled through his known spells and tried to think of any until he found the perfect one.
"Ebublio!" Theodore cried. A giant bubble formed around Harry as it lifted him up in the air. Harry didn't look at all terrified by the sudden change in altitude but was distressed that he couldn't pop it at all. Lockhart was scolding Theodore about sending another student flying in the air but was simply ignored. Theodore was having way too much fun with this. Harry used his wand to jab the bubble one last time and fell to the stage with such grace that Lockhart couldn't deny how majestic it was.
"You've got to try harder than that, Theo. I'm a little disappointed to be honest." Harry stated as he mockingly brushed his shoulders.
"Well if you're done doing ballet, hit me with your best shot." Harry immediately stuck out his wand and shouted, 'Rictusempra', hitting Theodore square on the chest. Theodore could feel multiple hands tickle his sides as he bent over, trying to keep his laughter from expelling out. He heaved in every amount of air that he could take in until the tickling subsided. Harry was smirking proudly as he ignored Lockhart's warnings of not using any disarming spells. "Phew! Mark me impressed, Harry. But we're just getting started!"
"No, no, no," yelled Lockhart as he walked upon the stage, "you are not getting started at all! I said disarm only!" The two boys groaned and rolled their eyes. They nodded their heads reluctantly so that they could continue their duel without anymore interruptions from anybody else. But the second Lockhart had touched the stone floors of the Great Hall, Theodore went against the rules once more and conjured a snake as large as himself, in the middle of the stage. Several people screamed as they scurried backwards to hide behind each other.
The snake, which was an enlarged cobra, flicked its forked tongue out slowly, eyeing the terrified crowd with its black, beady eyes. After a hilarious attempt to get rid of it by Lockhart, the cobra became even more violent, baring its giant fangs to the professor. It slithered slowly towards him as he crawled quickly over the side, landing painfully on his back. Justin was underneath the coward as he tried to hide under the stage, away from the threatening snake. Justin was afraid of a few things: heights, fireworks, snakes. And today was just not his lucky one. The snake poised its head towards the two wizards on the floor, ready to jab its deadly fangs inside of the two when Theodore heard it.
"Leave him!" Harry cried to the cobra. The snake obediently pulled away from Lockhart and Justin, and remained still as it fixed its eyes on Harry. Harry looked relieved that he stopped anything terrible from happening and smiled to everyone, only to receive shocked faces. Everyone looked at Harry with disgust and fear while it was only his three friends who gazed at him differently. All but Theodore couldn't understand what had just happened. He was so sure of it. The way Harry was speaking was like it was English but had a twist to it, like an accent. And Theodore understood every single word.
"Y-you're a… Parselmouth?" Theodore stammered.
"Wh-what? What's a…" He turned to Justin and hopped down towards him. "Justin, I-"
"This… this a sick joke! You made the snake and you forced it to attack me because I'm a Muggle-born didn't you?!" Justin accused. Theodore couldn't say anything as he was still frozen from the staggering revelation. He wasn't the only Parselmouth in the school. There were two of them. Not one, but two. This couldn't be possible, not a chance. He was supposed to be the only one here, nobody else was supposed to speak Parseltongue!
"We didn't… this isn't a joke, Justin." Theodore insisted as he hopped down from the stage as well. "I was just-"
"You're both sick! The pair of you! Get away from me! Leave me alone!" Justin sprinted away from the two boys as he left the Hall, along with his friends. Theodore looked at Harry with anxiety poking in his stomach. This was bad. This was very bad. Justin would surely tell on them both, which would buy the two multiple detentions that would last all the way until their last year. Theodore wouldn't be able to open the Chamber ever again. He couldn't frame Malfoy as the Heir of Slytherin and… A horrible thought crossed his mind. What if everyone thought that Harry and Theodore were in fact, the Heirs of Slytherin? What if Harry… really was an Heir of Slytherin?
Hermione tugged Theodore by his arm while Ron pulled Harry by his robes. The two didn't say anything as they dragged the Parselmouths to their 'supposed' common room, not giving a single chance of an explanation as to what happened. They reached the common room and threw the two boys onto the sofa. Ron had stern expression that was similar to his mothers and Hermione looked worried.
"Since when have you two been Parselmouths?" Ron asked harshly.
"I'm not a Parselmouth!" Theodore lied. "I didn't even say anything remotely close to Parseltongue down there!"
"Alright then, since when have YOU been a Parselmouth?" The question was directed towards Harry as he looked confused by the term. "Somebody who can talk to snakes?"
"Oh. I know that. I've been speaking to snakes for ages. Is that a bad thing?" Ron fainted into the armchair and quickly woke back up.
"'Is it a bad thing', he says… 'is it a bad thing', he asks…"
"Harry, this is a really, really bad thing." Hermione whispered. Harry was frustrated with cryptic atmosphere in the air and demanded the answer that would haunt him forever.
"Being a Parselmouth… could mean that you're related to Salazar Slytherin." Theodore said. For all he knew, it could be true. Maybe, in the weirdest of ways, his father's and mother's bloodline diverged greatly throughout history only to rejoin once more to create Theodore. It was quite sickening to know that he could be a product of inbreeding but knew that it was common for some pure-bloods to marry their cousins, all for the sake of keeping their bloodline 'clean'. Theodore still thought that it was disgusting.
"What? B-but how?" Harry stuttered as he gripped his robes tightly.
"There's a reason why the snake is the symbol for his House, Harry," explained Theodore. "Slytherin was a Parselmouth, he could talk to snakes. And now…"
"And now what?"
"And now people are going to think that you're the Heir of Slytherin."
"But I'm not!" Harry snapped, then fell into anxiety once again. "I can't be." Theodore wanted to say something to reassure that he wasn't the Heir of Slytherin when he caught Hermione's eyes again. That same look from when she was cautious of Theodore's actions had returned again. Theodore pretended to ignore her and said nothing to the others. This slip up from the Duelling Club might've severely thwarted his plan to frame Draco for the attacks, all because he lost focus in a stupid duel. What could he do now, when the whole school will point fingers in the right direction, and find the true Heir? What could he do?
"Theo… Theo… wake up, it's me!" Theodore turned to his side slowly as the blurry figure of a scar-bearing boy came into focus. He groaned quietly as he lifted himself up from the bed while he rubbed his semi-open eyes. The true Heir was having a dream about something vaguely familiar, something about the Chamber and a filthy Mudblood. Someone like Jus…
"Theo, could you come downstairs with me? I need someone to talk to." Harry asked quietly.
"What about Ron?" Harry turned to the sleeping red head and shook his head. Theodore followed the black-haired boy down the spiral staircase and into the common room where he slumped upon the sofa. Harry decided to pace up and down in front of the fire while he rubbed his temples roughly. Theodore's eyes followed him left and right until he couldn't take it anymore. "Aren't you going to say anything?"
"I… I think I really am the Heir of Slytherin." Theodore held in the scoff and narrowed his eyes. "You don't believe me?"
"Well it's kind of hard to believe you when you're in Gryffindor."
"The Sorting Hat originally wanted me in Slytherin." Harry blurted out. He stood there, frozen by what he told Theodore. He never revealed it to anyone, so why to Theodore? Recently, Harry always felt closer to Theodore than the other two, unable to explain why. Something about him was just familiar.
"… okay. Okay." It could not be a coincidence that both Theodore and Harry, cousins, orphans, Parselmouths and were initially chosen to be inside the feared House of Hogwarts. There was no way that it couldn't come down to Harry being an Heir of Slytherin. And Theodore thought that he had already so much in common with the Boy Who Lived.
"Okay? Wait… do you have anything to say?" Harry asked as he blocked Theodore from heat of the fire. Theodore wanted to reveal himself so bad but he knew the consequences for he had foreseen everything. The disappearances, the friendship with Draco and the fact that he was a Parselmouth would all lead to him, and he couldn't have that. Harry may have been his cousin but to him, Theodore was just his best friend.
"We should get on it tomorrow, find out if you're really the related to Slytherin."
"But… but…" Harry sighed then gave up. It was too deep in the night to think about this, no matter how large it was. He was holding Theodore up for unnecessary time and needed to think through this himself before asking others. The two returned to their beds, both unable to sleep for they were the two Parselmouths of Gryffindor. How odd was that?
'I have to kill him?'
'It's the only way, Theodore. He must pay for what he did, nobody can know of our plan.'
'But if I kill him, won't everyone suspect me and Harry?'
'Harry? Harry who?'
'Why would he be a suspect?'
'Harry's a Parselmouth, like us. He spoke it yesterday when I conjured a snake in our duel.'
'And does everyone believe that Harry is the Heir of Slytherin?'
'Tell me more about this Harry. What does he look like? What is his blood status? What makes him so special? And how do you know him?'
'He looks very little like me, he's a half-blood like me, he defeated Voldemort when he was a baby and he is my best friend. Why do-' Theodore's written words were completely absorbed as his father's resurfaced.
'He defeated Lord Voldemort? How? When? How?!'
'I don't know how but I know when. He was around one years old at the time. Why are you so interested, father?'
'All will be revealed in good time, my son.'
'What does that mean?' The page turned empty but no ink emerged from the pages themselves as Tom gave no reply. Almost everything that Tom had said after he mentioned Harry was out of character, well to him. He couldn't have possibly known who Voldemort was, as well as Harry. They were well after his time, decades in fact. For a second there, Theodore could feel an obsession for Harry brew from the diary. He tried to write again to Tom but the diary remained blank.
The young Heir sighed as he placed the diary in his bag, and carefully manoeuvred his way down the marble head of his ancestor, cautious of how fatal the impact would be, had he fell. He splashed onto the large flooded puddle and flicked his shoes to rid any slime or half-decayed rat skin. Salazar could build an entire chamber under the school without anyone batting an eye, but couldn't afford decent plumbing? Theodore cared no more for his soaked trousers as he called the Basilisk to his side, after keeping his eyes firmly shut. A hiss, then a thud followed as he could feel the serpent wind her massive body around him.
"Master… we kill tonight?"
"We kill today. Right now. There's a Mudblood who I can't afford to keep alive. Do not disappoint me this time." Theodore hissed. He needed this death so that his father could truly see him as an equal. Petrified Mudbloods meant nothing compared to dead ones.
'Where shall we go?"
"Meet me on the fifth floor. Stay hidden in the walls and do not come out when I tell you to. Now go." As the behemoth of a snake slithered away obediently, Theodore waited until he could not feel the movement of the snake along the stone wet floor. He opened his scarlet eyes and paced towards the entrance of the Chamber, hatred and malice all riled up in the most abominable ways possible in the boy's infected heart.
The familiar stench of the girls' bathroom filled Theodore's nose as he climbed out of the entrance with much more difficulty than the previous times. The Basilisk would always carry him up there, saving him the trouble of slipping continuously down the deathly steep pipe, and possibly trapping himself down there forever. Fortunately, the Parselmouth managed to pull through as he threw off his robes and cleared away any cobwebs or slime that hung off him.
"He is so insufferable! How can somebody be so bigheaded over a game of chess? It's… it's- Theo? What are you doing here?" The second the central sinks had assumed their usual position, Hermione had flung the door open in annoyance, completely unaware of Theodore's presence till now.
"Me? Don't you remember? We're brewing the Polyjuice Potion. I just came in to check on it but some toilet water backed up and splashed all over me. Look." Hermione scrunched her face up when she saw strings of slime hanging from his cheeks and arms, and was reluctant to help him clean it off.
"Maybe you should go back to the common room to get yourself clean again. We have a free period so it'll be fine."
"Maybe I should. See you later then!" Theodore said as he rushed to the door, until Hermione held him back by his arm. 'What does she want now?!'
"Aren't you going to stay and watch the Potion?" Hermione asked bossily.
"Why can't you do it, you're already here! And look at the state of me, I'm a mess!"
"It's supposed to be the both of us making the-" Theodore was already halfway out the door as he waved goodbye. "Theo! Come back here! Theo!"
The hallways were frightfully dark, spewing an ominous spirit which forebode the terrible act that would spill onto the castle's very floors. The 'victimless' Heir strutted along the empty corridors, ignoring the lessons that once interested him passing by. Nothing mattered now, only Justin. Justin with his ruined corpse being sent back to his family. Justin, another Mudblood that had fell under the wrath of Salazar Slytherin. Justin who was… right in front of him.
The Muggle-born froze in his steps as he was struck by fear for who he saw. Theodore was only an inch or two shorter than him, had a frame which didn't even whisper danger, and a face which would make you think that he was drowning in vanity. What made him so terrifying then? So horrifically fearsome that a boy like Justin, would dread to even have him cross his mind. Justin was no coward but he wasn't fearless either. Whether it was fear or bravery that forced him to do it, Justin stood in the same position, unwavering from his spot.
"Justin! Just the guy I wanted to see." Theodore exclaimed as he neared forwards to the frightened boy. Justin was ready to scurry away but still remained in his place.
"Why? So that you can surprise me with something else? Got an even bigger snake around the corner?" Theodore smirked when he said that. He loved it when people were right about him, even when they had no clue about it.
"You have no idea," muttered the Parselmouth under his breath. Justin stiffened as his face began to turn pale. His legs seemed to not work at all.
"I heard that. I heard that!"
"I was just joking, Justin."
"No you weren't. I can see it clearly, in your eyes. You're not normal like everyone else. I remember when you were almost put into Slytherin last year, how you were obsessed with why you were picked for Gryffindor instead. I know everything." Theodore twitched his right eye as he wanted to end the Mudblood with his own hands. How dare he try insert himself into his business!
"You might want to choose your words carefully, Justin."
"I'm not afraid of you, Theodore. Everyone else doesn't see it but I do. You're a monster, hiding and waiting until it's your time to strike. Hell, you're probably the one behind the attacks as well."
"Justin? Is that you? What did I tell you, you should be in the- what's going on? Why are talking with Justin?" Ernie stuck an arm out in front of Justin in a protective manner as he too began to draw sharp breaths.
"Aren't we allowed to talk with each other? I only wanted to apologise." Theodore said softly, though it came out more creepy than anything.
"Bullshit," hissed Ernie. "It's always like that with you Gryffindors. Always bullying the other Houses, going around and thinking that you're celebrities. It's good that we done you proper and reported you to Professor McGonagall."
"What?!" Theodore screamed. The two boys flinched and turned around to escape from the livid boy. Theodore was fuming beyond anger as he heard the hisses of Basilisk crawl beside him. He didn't care if Ernie was pureblood. It was a waste of a status anyways. Without a seconds hesitation, Theodore snarled then spoke in the cursed language:
Theodore felt the Basilisk hurtle through the stone walls at such dangerous speeds, rattling the hanging photos that were vacant of any inhabitants. Anger still pulsated through his veins as Theodore wanted to see his work. He wanted to see the dead Hufflepuffs lie under his feet, correct in life but unheard in death. He wanted to see it so bad but he knew what it would cost him. Theodore ran back to the second floor bathroom, trying to shake off the rage that he had experienced right there. In that moment, it felt so… wrong. Like it never came from him but from somewhere else. From the past attacks, Theodore never had this sensation sit in his stomach like a painful, indigestible stone.
He pushed the bathroom door open and walked over to the central sinks, twisting the taps instantly to wash his face with cold water. No water escaped for he realised that it was the special tap that allowed him to enter the Chamber as he pleased. Theodore switched to a different one and splashed his face thoroughly, cooling himself so that he could think better. Inhale, exhale, he gripped the sides of the sink while breathing heavily.
'What was that? I-I didn't want to… I mean I did but… I was so angry! Angry… for what? And the Basilisk… she probably killed them, for real this time... ARGGHH! Why can't I think straight?! And why… are my eyes red…'
Theodore retreated quickly as he stared into his reflection that bore scarlet irises with snakelike slits inside of them. He continued to scurry backwards until he crashed into somebody from behind. Hermione groaned as she kneel down in pain.
"Hermione! What the hell is wrong with me, I'm so stupid!" Hermione didn't respond as she silently held her face in pain. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry…" The sounds of Hermione's tears pierced him with regret as he wiped his wet hair to the side to clear his vision.
"Hermione, please get up! Please! I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you, I was… please, say something!" Silence. "Hermione? Hermione I- ARGGHHHHH!"
The pain had returned again. It had returned, and it punished the boy for feeling any regret towards harming Hermione. It tore through his mind and soul as it dragged him into the hellish depths of suffering and anguish itself. Every inch of skin, sliced and scorched till he couldn't take it anymore. 'I didn't kill anyone! I didn't kill anyone! I didn't… oh god.'
Hermione came to his side and tried to console him while attempting to fight off her own pain which resulted in a bloodied nose, but all of that had been for nothing. The Parselmouth's screams were silenced as he slumped to the ground like a dead man, unresponsive to Hermione's screams of horror…
"Theodore, are you awake? Please wake up, you're scaring me!"
"H-Hermione… I… I'm... sorry…"
"It's alright, it's just a bloody- Why is that 'thing' here?"
"Huh? What… what thing?" Theodore turned his groggy eyes to where the Muggle-born was facing towards and saw the diary opened halfway on the floor, as it had mysteriously left Theodore's bag. The boy also looked at it with unease as he knew what had happened to him. The diary caused him to scream in agony as it realised who Hermione was. His father tried to punish him for caring about the enemy, being attached to a Muggle-born as he secretly plotted to slay others that were of the same status. Hermione carried on staring at it like it was the most foulest creature that had ever walked the Earth, until she turned back to Theodore.
"What is that diary doing to you?" Hermione questioned forcefully. Theodore wiped his sweaty brow tiredly as he could barely choke out his response.
"Nothing. It's just a normal diary."
"Stop lying to me! I see you with that thing everywhere, obsessing over it like it was… like…"
"I told you…," said the boy gravelly, "it's… nothing. Just a normal diary."
"Then you won't mind if I take a look." The girl snapped as she reached for Tom's diary. An unexplainable urge and power to move, gushed into Theodore's muscles as he leapt to snatch the diary before Hermione could take it. "Theodore, give me the diary."
"I said give me the diary."
"And I said no!"
"Give me the-"
Theodore panted as the energy vanished in a near instant. The sounds of running taps only filled the second floor bathroom as the two stood in silence. Theodore was in trouble, Hermione was sure of it. The way his face looked paler than before, his cheeks had sunken into his skull a little and his eyes. His eyes didn't have any of Theodore left inside. This was a whole new person, anybody else but Theodore. Hermione swallowed painfully to stop herself from losing it. She didn't know if she would cry for him, curse at him, she didn't know what she'd do if she hadn't kept her composure. The Muggle-born walked up to the boy as Theodore took a few steps back until he came into contact with the central sinks. The diary was still clasped in his hand tightly as he was afraid that Hermione would try to steal it from him.
"Theo, I'm your friend. Please, tell me why you always have that diary with you, because I worry about you. I'm scared that you're…" Theodore looked at her intently, waiting for the words that he had hoped would come out. "You can't carry on like this. Leaving and disappearing before the attacks happen, it's-"
"So you think it's me behind the attacks," said the Parselmouth darkly.
"No! I just-" The hazel shade faded from her vision as they were replaced by solid scarlet. The pupils were slits and revealed everything to the Muggle-born. The disappearances, the Parseltongue, the secret diary, now the snakelike eyes. She slashed at the sudden realisation as it was too painful to bear. 'No… no! Not him, not Theo! He'll never-' Hermione rubbed her misty eyes to once again see Theodore's usual hazel. Theodore suddenly remembered that Hermione's nose was dripping with blood and offered to help her clean it.
"Don't try and change the subject, Theo."
"I'm not," protested the deceiving boy. "Look at your shirt, it's full of blood and I feel bad about it. Let me just help you with it. Please?"
"Tell me why you always have that diary."
"If you tell me, then I won't ask anymore. Tell me." He looked down to the diary and felt something spread into his body through his arm. It wasn't that warmth that he had usually felt from before. This felt like an infection that crawled and clogged his blood vessels, slowly creeping to his heart to cease its beating. He couldn't tell her that her father was really in this book. He couldn't.
"It was my father's, from when he was at Hogwarts. I found it in the library the week we came back. I didn't know what to think when I saw something that really belonged to one of my parents. All I ever had was a single note that had my name in my mother's handwriting. And this… I feel so much more closer to my father than I have ever been in my entire life… this… is all that I have left of him…" The bathroom remained silent as the boy hoped that his 'sob-story' would draw the Muggle-born away from him.
So much hesitation, the need to tell him that he was lying to her, tried to unhinge from Hermione as she gazed at the boy emotionlessly. He was lying to the brim of his teeth, but she didn't say anything. He was probably the real Heir of Slytherin but she didn't say anything. He was probably already thinking of her as his next victim, but she didn't say a damn thing. Why was she holding back? She could stop all the horror from happening within the castle right now, saving all the potential Muggle-born victims as well as herself.
"Just come back to-" A scream coming from the floors above echoed through the hallways and bathroom, wrenching Theodore's stomach by what he had caused. Hermione quickly closed the cubicle with the Polyjuice Potion and motioned Theodore to follow her up the stairs to where the scream came from. The two ran past the concerned portraits, soon joining the equally interested crowd to the fifth floor, where Theodore had set the Basilisk onto Ernie and Justin. And the sight was even more horrendous than what he had thought.
Three bodies and a frozen ghost, all stiff upon the cold stone floor without any sign of movement. The two boys were easily recognisable as Ernie and Justin, mirrored from their bodies to their fear-ridden faces. Theodore had no clue how they survived, knowing that there was nothing to stop the Basilisk from tearing their heads off. He rubbed his temples as he continued to observe the rest of his unfortunate victims over the overbearing chatter of the crowd around him. Nick's body remained still in the air, almost unrecognisable from his newly darkened shade. He hung in the air like he was held by a noose, fear etched onto his face as well. 'That fucking snake… what was she thinking, trying to kill Nick?!'
But possibly the most detrimental to his being was not Justin, Ernie, or even Nick. The last body on the ground was hard to remember from a first glance, requiring Theodore to watch them even closer until it hit him. It was that same girl from the train, the blonde girl who oddly knew that Harry and Ron were flying the car to school. Out of all the others, she was the most out of place. Apart from the excessively large spectacles that obscured her face, the blond girl had a look of confusion rather than fear.
"Luna…" Theodore whispered before being barged from behind. The crowd began to panic as everyone frantically darted their heads around to see if the monster was lurking in the shadows, ready to devour the swarm of children. McGonagall arrived to the scene promptly, hushing the entire crowd with a swift swipe of a wand and ordered everyone to return to their classes. As he walked back to the common room with guilt stabbing at his heart, Theodore hung his head low in fear of what his father would say to him. Tom had delivered pain beyond horror from just a mere diary. What else was he capable of? The young Heir started to feel dizzy, trying to keep his balance to avoid crashing into floor for everyone else to see. Justin's and Ernie's mangled bodies painted horrific images in his mind, snapping his sanity, piece by piece, by piece…
"Jesus, Theo! I've been calling your name for so long!" Theodore bent over as Ginny and Hermione came to his aid. He held his chest as it became harder to breath again, his lungs unable to absorb the sufficient oxygen needed to stay awake. Theodore wheezed loudly, unable to keep focused for so long. Everything was spiralling, blurred and smudged. He felt like… he felt like…
"Sleep, Mr Riddle! I won't tell you again!" Madam Pomfrey ordered as she tidied the boy's bedside table.
"I need to find my diary," said Theodore weakly while trying to get out of bed. Madam Pomfrey simply held him down and tightened the bedsheets to stop him from escaping. Theodore had only been awake for two minutes and he was already demanding for the diary. His father was nowhere to be found beside him and it was causing him overwhelming stress to his consternation. He remembered keeping the diary firmly inside of his hand before he passed out unexpectedly. Unless somebody took it, somebody who had already known about the diary's existence…
"Mr Riddle, I said sleep! Get back to your bed at once or I will call the headmaster myself!"
"I need it… I need it! I need the diary! Hermione has it and I need it! Please… I need it…" Madam Pomfrey watched the boy fall back into slumber as he remained still. He looked deathly ill, like he neglected anything edible for the past three weeks, and his skeleton was slightly starting to appear under his pale skin. A gash from when he fainted was covered by a bandage on his forehead, and a small cut beneath his eye was reddening the skin around it. Looking at him made her jerk on the inside. Something or someone in the castle was the cause of this and she could feel it, somewhere close. She quickly threw the thoughts away and tended to the Hufflepuff boys that where placed in the corner. Terrible, terrible things were brewing in the castle. Terrible things…
In the Gryffindor common room…
Hermione dug her nails into the armrest of the sofa, unable to look away from the fire that seemed so cold. She would never usually stay awake at these times but the day had given her too much to sleep on. It had to be true. She didn't want it to be, she never did. But it had to. She tried to find alternatives to her suspicions, trying to find an outcome where she was proved wrong but it was no use. The Muggle-born knew.
The diary was lost out of sight when Theodore had passed out. It wasn't her main objective to take it for herself but it would've benefitted her greatly had she collected it before it vanished. Hermione could only remember Ginny scurrying off when Snape called for her and Theodore coughing up blood onto the ground. Something else was missing, something vital. Something…
"Hermione, he'll be okay." Harry said as he sat beside her without his glasses. By the look of it, Harry was also distressed by Theodore's condition so much that he couldn't sleep either. Hermione brushed a hair away from her eye and inhaled deeply.
"But he won't be. Don't you see? Theodore is not okay, he hasn't been himself at all. There's something that has been on my mind for a long, long time and I tried to keep it buried but now I can't hide it."
"What is it?" Hermione paused then thought to herself if she really wanted to say everything. By telling Harry what she had thought and known about Theodore, could she permanently destroy their friendship with each other? Harry asked again.
"I saw something in Theo's eyes today. I thought that I was going mad, but… I could've sworn that his-"
"-eyes were red?" Hermione widened her eyes shockingly at Harry. So he knew too?
"Yes! His face was… thinner and… pale. He looked like he was dying, Harry! And it's all because of the bloody diary, I know it is!" Hermione exclaimed as she rubbed her forehead vigorously. Harry placed an arm around her shoulders and looked into the fire as well.
"I've noticed as well. I've seen him leave with the thing in his hand. He told me that he felt like he was speaking to his dad, though he looked like he really meant it. I mean, I know what it feels like to have something from your mum and dad, believe me. But the way he was looking at that diary… it wasn't right at all. He… Hermione?"
The Muggle-born's eyes streamed single-trailed tears as she silently stared into the fire. Hermione made no attempt to dry herself off as she remained still, not answering Harry's questions.
"Hermione, what's wrong? Why are you crying? Hermione?" Harry asked frantically before moving to become face to face with the silently-sobbing girl. Hermione was still looking into the fire, hypnotised by the way they danced gently before her attention fell onto Harry.
"What's wrong, Hermione?" She shook her bushy hair around as she kept quiet. Harry didn't want to force anything out of her but he would if he had to. "Hermione. If it's about Theodore…" The look in her eyes gave it away completely. "It is, isn't it?"
"Yes." She replied softly.
"Please. Please tell me…"
"I think that Theodore… is the Heir of Slytherin…"
And here... we... go. Here is that key turning point which will change the entire story so much, and will hopefully differ from the original by still being its own thing. Sorry for uploading late, I was so sick for nearly a full week. But I'm here now so all is well. I want to thank all of you who have favourited and followed PoS, and everyone else who is reading as well. Means so much, guys. I hope you liked this chapter, some of what happens here will come full circle later on, possibly in like, the Order of the Phoenix, but I'm talking too much now. Love you guys. Later.
Cloud4012: you'll just have to keep reading to know what I got planned :)
johnjohn1970: oh she's watching. You may think that I've shoved her to the side but she's watching alright. Thanks for the support :)